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American Notes for General Circulation (Penguin Classics)

American Notes for General Circulation (Penguin Classics)
Author: Charles Dickens
ISBN 13: 9780140436495
ISBN 10: 140436499
Edition: Reissue
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 2001-07-01
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
List Price: $16.00

Charles Dickens entered the world of travel writing with his 1850 work, American Notes for General Circulation. Dickens' travels were part of the trend of European writers, such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Harriet Martineau, who came to America to comment on her successes and failures in the experiment of democracy. His work, reflecting his 5-month trip to America in 1842, proves to be a testing ground for his own democratic and radical ideals. Traveling mainly along the East Coast and Great Lakes regions, his writing style was that of critical observer or reporter, rather than that of a tourist. Dickens visited prisons and mental asylums and parodied local manners, including tobacco spitting and rural dialects. Slavery proved to be abhorrent to Dickens, and the continuation of the institution in America, as well as the free availability of bootlegged copies of his work, colored his more positive observations of American society. His commentary about Wall Street, the press, and the prison system, while often satiric and funny, have a thoroughly modern appeal. While originally revered and given a hero's welcome, Dickens' interactions with the American press, especially in relation to his views on America's lack of copyright law, tarnished his impressions of America and America's impressions of him. Though his travels, Dickens became sensitized to the differences between the ideals of democracy and equality and the application of those ideals in American society. It is these differences that came to be elucidated in the development of the darker, more cynical world-view of his later novels.