40 pages 1 hour read

John Steinbeck

Travels With Charley

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1962

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Fear and Acceptance of Change

Steinbeck wrote Travels With Charley at a transitional period in his life; his career as an author was winding down, and he felt the rapid advance of old age. He embarks on the trip as an attempt to delay this inevitability and to reconnect with his country as a whole after years of skipping over the American interior in favor of living in coastal areas and traveling abroad. During his travels, he finds that his country’s landscape and culture have changed even more than he expected: The huge technological and industrial advancements of the post-World War II era turned formerly small towns into bustling cities, and the growing interstate highway system bypasses the rural landscapes he loves. In every place he visits, he finds that people are always in a rush, driving quickly, moving away from their hometowns in search of better opportunities, and eating bland convenience foods. He worries about these changes, yearning for a time when life moved at a slower pace and people made time to enjoy their surroundings and build communities. He eventually decides that the changes are inevitable, though, and by the time he arrives in his unrecognizable hometown, he has accepted that the America he longs for is already well in the past.