It was not easy for John Steinbeck to write his book Travels with Charley. The writer reread his road records, letters to his wife, recalled conversations and meetings, and tried to include everything he saw and heard. The success of Travels with Charley surprised Steinbeck a lot. In 1962, John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Moreover, the Nobel Committee emphasized that Steinbeck was awarded for his “realistic and full of artistic works, that were full of kindness, humor and social understanding … His sympathies are always on the side of the oppressed, the downtrodden and poor people. He likes to contrast the simple pleasures of life and cruel, cynical pursuit of greed.”
Steinbeck pretends that he has written travel notes, but in fact, it is more than just a novel. Of course, we have a possibility to see America with its beautiful scenery and landfills, good and bad people, bustling cities and villages, achievements and problems. However, the author’s main point was to not only to describe what he sees, but to turn the reader’s attention to almost everything in the world: the men and women, politics, human nature, loneliness, mysticism and creativity. By the way, wonderful and inimitable poodle Charley is not of less importance in the story. Steinbeck’s eye notices a lot of interesting things, which are described in his book.
When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’ whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage (Steinbeck 4).
The idea of the book is simple, but this simplicity is precisely what has made the work successful. The famous writer John Steinbeck went for a trip together with his friend, a funny poodle. In order to make this journey quite comfortable, he bought a pickup car with capacity of three quarters of a ton, fully equipped for an independent travel. The car has been given a resounding name Rosinante.
Travels with Charley in Search of America describes this journey in details. The book is written by the person who is able to think see, understand, and make far-reaching conclusions from the past.
I prefer to draw a curtain over my visit to Eaglebrook school. It can be imagined what effect Rocinante had on two hundred teen-age prisoners of education just settling down to serve their winter sentence. They visited my truck in droves, as many as fifteen at a time in the little cabin. And they looked courteous curses at me because I could go and they could not. My own son will probably never forgive me. Soon after I drove off, I stopped to make sure there were no stowaways (Steinbeck.27).
In such a way Steinbeck writes about his visit to the school, where his son is studying.
“…a beard is the one thing a woman cannot do better than a man, or if she can her success is assured only in a circus.” (Steinbeck.40) Does point to feminists in this phrase?
He spoke of hell as an expert, not the mush-mush hell of these soft days, but a well-stoked, white-hot hell served by technicians of the first order. This reverend brought it to a point where we could understand it, a good hard coal fire, plenty of draft, and a squad of open-hearth devils who put their hearts into their work, and their work was me. I began to feel good all over (Steinbeck 79)..
Steinbeck shows an amazing strength and precision towards people he meets on his way. Here is a description of the priest, whom Steinbeck saw during the service.
Charley had a dream so violent that he awakened me. His legs jerked in the motions of running and he made little yipping cries. Perhaps he dreamed he chased some gigantic rabbit and couldn’t quite catch it. Or maybe in his dream something chased him. On the second supposition I put out my hand and awakened him, but the dream must have been strong. He muttered to himself and complained and drank a half a bowl of water before he went back to sleep (Steinbeck 113).
Steinbeck often describes his dog while traveling. He treats him with a great love, respect and understanding, as his real companion in this journey.
The episode with a visit to the author’s homeland is really touching:
The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me…
…My town had grown and changed and my friend along with it. Now returning, as changed to my friend as my town was to me, I distorted his picture, muddied his memory. When I went away I had died, and so became fixed and unchangeable. My return caused only confusion and uneasiness. Although they could not say it, my old friends wanted me gone so that I could take my proper place in the pattern of remembrance—and I wanted to go for the same reason. Tom Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory (Steinbeck.208).
Steinbeck as one of the most beloved writers travels to the rural and urban America, opening it for himself as well as for the readers. Steinbeck was not young, he was 58, when he became a recognized writer and a famous citizen. However, it was not enough for Steinbeck, and he decided to discover his own country and went in search of America with his dog Charlie.
In his exclusive, amazing style, Steinbeck tells the story of small pleasures and small tragedies of ordinary Americans, moving from one remote place to another. He was talking to people about politics, economy, and a real life. There is so much wisdom and romance in these traveling notes. Steinbeck tells about himself honestly and openly accepting himself for what he is:
I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.