An Exploration: Observation and Perspective

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For me, packing begins on the night before the departing flight - I get myself in a state of frenzy and try to decide what to bring. Nothing beats the feeling you get when you arrive halfway across the world realising you have packed extra battery packs for your camera, but have indeed forgotten the camera itself. Since you roughly know what to expect, everything else you have seems to fit into a large backpack. In the 1800s however, a journey abroad was a long-term project and only the well off could afford to travel. It included long periods on ships and in carriages, and the baggage needed to accommodate for that. But at that time as well as today, individuals continue to view foreign places through their own eyes. The attitude towards people and places, the way of seeing and observing, and the way of writing about experiences indicate what is going on through the author’s perspective. It is that aspect of travel writing that I will explore with excerpts from American Notes by Charles Dickens and from Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. Dickens views America as a parent might view a badly behaved child. It can be seen that he is more sensitive to certain types of attention, which indicates his personality and partiality. When he is describing how people came to stare at him, it seems like he is just recounting what happened, without commenting on it. He states that ‘… those men and boys who had nothing in particular to do… fell to comparing notes on the subject of my personal appearance, with as much indifference as if I were a stuffed figure.’ (Fussell, 312). Through this quotation, he emphasises that both men and boys are acting that way, revealing that there’s little difference between them... ... middle of paper ... ... in unpredictable ways. Even Dickens, who is trying to be objective at the beginning, and critical to his own nation as well as others, takes on the role of a parent. In part he is ironically amused and in part disappointed, as if watching an unruly child, determined to only see the not-so-flattering characteristics. It is evident in the texts that the authors see the world and foreign lands through their respective eyes, emphasising what seems important to them. But it is the fact that the reader then looks at the place through two sets of spectacles; after all, what the reader gains from a text is a much, or even more a reflection of himself, than of the author. There is always the possibility that what we understand is not at all what the author is trying to say. Works Cited The Norton Book of Travel. Ed. Fussell, Paul: W W Norton & Co Inc., 1987. Print.

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