The innocents abroad
One of the most famous travel books ever written by an American, The Innocents Abroad is Mark Twain’s irreverent and incisive commentary on the New Barbarians’ encounter with the Old World. Twain’s hilarious satire is a double-edged weapon, impaling with sharp wit both the chauvinist and the cosmopolitan. His naive Westerner is a blustering pretender to sophistication who sees the ruins of antiquity appear as a shadow of their heralded glory and the scenery of Europe and the Holy Land dwarfed in contrast to the splendor of America’s West. In this way, Twain pits the Old World against the New, as any ornery traveler will, with his homeland always winning the contest. He uses these contrasts “to find out who we Americans are,” notes Leslie A. Fiedler. But this travelogue demonstrates that, in our attempt to understand ourselves, we must first find out who we are not.