The Theme of Travel in Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer

Categories: Comedy Plot

The Notion of Travel in She Stoops to Conquer

Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer is a brilliant comedy that not only entertains but it also delivers moral messages that people lacked at the time. The play is known for the various themes it tackles, and one of its major themes is that appearance versus reality, besides the theme of travel. However, it takes place in a country where it unfolds events of only one day. Moreover, the theme of travel in She Stoops to Conquer is not about tackling or depicting the travels of the characters, as it is about how the lack of traveling influenced the characters along with their morals and behavior.

Perhaps, when the characters, Marlowe and Hastings are introduced to the audience in their first appearance of being Londoners and get tricked by a country resident, Toney, it protrudes the contrast between city and country. There is this contrast in fashion, traditions, even in behavior and that might be a reason why the country's gentleman has this persona of being an inn keeper in Marlowe's eyes.

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It is obvious how the country is rudimentary in comparison with the city.

It is not only about the journey which Marlowe and his friend take from London to the country; Goldsmith weaved Marlowe as a fashion and travel obsessed where he only speaks about fashion, and his lack of modesty is clear when mistaken the house for being an inn and that is when his true personality is revealed.

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However, being able to only communicate with women of low-class, and his overwhelming shyness when it comes to women of his own class might be a proof that travel has influenced Marlowe negatively, he is more likely to be morally blind.

On the other hand, there are these characters that have never been to any cities but instead drown themselves in fashion magazines and the desire to travel. Accordingly, they are too are influenced by the idea of travel, where its notion here works as an obstructive for their core reality, as it was the case for Mrs. Hardcastle and Miss Neville.

However, Miss Neville aims high. She wants her jewels to be able to travel. Somehow she breaks those country ties out of her mind and knows that money is essential to leave the country life behind. Tricks being played upon Mrs. Hardcastle in order for Miss. Neville to be able to take her heritage marry Hastings and travel away where she believes her happiness would be waiting. On the contrary, Mr. Hardcastle is too old-fashioned, and he is indeed influenced by the lack of travel where he is kept as his own old memories' captive and does not look forward. His behavior, the way of thinking and being antique mirrors the case of the country itself.

The notion of travel shows this huge conflict between the city and the country, and how the country in She Stoops to Conquer works as a barrier from the outer world. However, when Sir Charles Marlowe sends his son a letter from London, the influence of the city or precisely speaking; the outer world shows its influence once again, where Marlowe is no longer blind folded to the truth. Throughout the play, the country is reflected as an old-fashioned, not only concerning fashion, and the way of style, but the way of living in general. There is this lack of renewability in their lives, unlike those of the city.

The influence of travel could be seen in other literary works where it is the central theme. For example, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift tackles a succession of travels and adventures. It shows how one's horizons can be widened and be able to take in whatever it is ahead of him, to explore and discover. Aside from the novel being mostly about grotesque figures, however, it compares different lives, and outlines different manners, traditions, and cultures. Moreover, the influence could be seen upon Gulliver himself and how it affected him in many ways.

In a nut shell, traveling is influential, it could change one's character from being a saint to morally corrupt and the equation is reciprocal. One can travel and when retuning back to his home, everything seems unfamiliar and changed. However, the traveler is the one who changes, for his eyes witness a lot and his/her mind takes in new cultures, ideas, lives, etc, which affects one's soul before affecting his/her mind. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” (Augustine of Hippo).

Updated: Feb 27, 2024
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The Theme of Travel in Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. (2024, Feb 27). Retrieved from

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