In Search of America

John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”,  is his 1960 road trip with his poodle Charley, to write about America and how Americans act today. Steinbeck’s trip roughly encompasses the outer border of the United States starting in New York, going towards the pacific northwest, and the Salinas Valley through the deep south and back to New York.  Thomas Steinbeck, John’s son says that the real reason for the trip was because his father knew he was dying and wanted to see his country one last time. Steinbeck’s journey to see american’s as they really are ended only in disappointment. He wrote: 

“American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash–all of them–surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered in rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.”   

However despite his overall disappointment with America we also a get a portrait of modern America, both regionally and in the country as a whole.  He also says that:

“I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.”  

Steinbeck’s book has come to idealize the classical American road trip, almost all Americans take some form of road trip at some point in their life’s, though very few have adventures as long as Steinbeck and his dogs.

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  1. Well, there is a great deal of Steinbeck (why is the 2nd quote NOT cited?), but not enough Lucas. So what, Tim? Why is Steinbeck’s great adventure worth writing about? You did not analyze what he said!@ (Also, you did not tell the story of the farmer who painted an orange sign “COW” on his cow so it would not get shot. It was shot anyway.


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