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Literature / The Innocents Abroad

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"One must travel, to learn."
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The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress is an 1869 book by Mark Twain. It is about his 1867 travels through Europe and the Holy Land aboard the Quaker City. In it, Twain describes the sights and sounds of their destinations, as well as his American traveling companions, and records his observations on the cultures, traditions, and histories of the countries.

The book was revolutionary in that unlike other travelogues, Twain observed it from an American standpoint, and used a familiar, informal tone, instead of the other breathlessly awed and respectful books of the time.


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Tropes in this book:

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: During the Holy Land leg of their journey, Twain's fellow passengers on the SS Quaker City fancied themselves as this. In real life, they were just a bunch of prototypical yuppie tourists who had a disturbing penchant for breaking off and stealing pieces of historical monuments, such as Judas' tomb and the arch that Christ walked under on Palm Sunday. As Twain put it, "Heaven protect the Sepulchre when this tribe invades Jerusalem!"
  • Covert Pervert: When Twain visited France and the Can Can Dancers, he mentioned he was shocked and covered his eyes at such a scene — but peeked through his fingers. Keep in mind, real Can Can Dancers didn't wear any underwear.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Twain refers to every tour guide he encounters on the European continent as "Ferguson". This also counts as a Running Gag.
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  • The Nicknamer: Twain himself gave nicknames to most of the Quaker City's passengers. One of these, a seventeen-year-old tourist who was nicknamed 'Interrogation Point' and was described 'young, and green, and not bright, not learned, and not wise', later became Twain's brother-in-law. He and the fellows he played cards and drank with at night, he called the "Nighthawks".
  • Self-Deprecation: One of Twain's most famous tales in the book are how a camel feasted on some of his belongings. It finally choked to death on some of the material he wrote; even the camel couldn't stomach it.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Twain divided up his fellow travelers into two groups: the pious, Bible-studying upper middle class "Pilgrims", and the hard-drinking, sabbath-ignoring, rule-breaking "Sinners". Go ahead and guess which group he identified with.
  • Take That!:
    • Against 19th Century travel guides at first; the second half is a Author Tract against American tourists and Americans in general, as well as Europeans, Arabs, and, well, everybody else he encounters. If there's a message to be found in the book, it's likely to be that people in general trust authority too much, even when the authority is bugfuck crazy. Whether he's explaining, in detail, why Abelard was a nincompoop, ranting about how the self-appointed Know-Nothing Know-It-All thought that both of the Pillars of Hercules were on the same side of the Strait of Gilbraltar, crying out in agonized confusion about how he doesn't understand why the Italians don't rob their churches, or mocking the bejeezus out of the aforementioned tour guides (one of whom takes him to four different silk stores instead of guiding him to the Louvre as he had asked in the beginning and at every stop along the way), Twain's authorial character is always attacking anyone who takes advantage of a position of authority. Oddly enough, he keeps doing it for the rest of his career, too, all the way up through The Mysterious Stranger, where he has a go at God.
    • Twain earned a few chuckles from the pious tourists who asked the ship captain if they could stop sailing on Sunday as a way to observe Sabbath.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: Twain identifies the American tourists onboard as judgmental pseudo-sophisticates who don't truly appreciate the cultures they're in.
  • What an Idiot!: In-Universe, Twain practically rolled his eyes when the "Pilgrims" asked the captain of the ship crossing the Atlantic if they could stop moving on the Sabbath to honor God. Twain, mind you, was a steamship captain.
  • World Tour: Clemens travels through Europe.
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