Upon reading the excerpt from Twain’s Roughing It, I believe that he definitely shares the American mentality that the road is a sacred space. As the title suggests, the narrator’s journey is not exactly ideal; somehow, though, he remains very positive about the whole thing and still appreciates and loves the entire journey.
Part of what makes travelling so exhilarating is the anticipation of the unknown. The time it takes to trek from one place to the other leaves ample room for imagining one’s destination in the most poetic and ideal way. Excitement builds with every mile and it is this child-like feeling that can deaden the many discomforts that accompany every journey. This, I believe, is what Twain’s narrative exemplifies. The situations encountered by the narrator in Roughing It aren’t exactly ideal, but he remains thrilled with the very thought of leaving behind the familiar in exchange for the new and unknown.
The narrator’s journey begins with significantly sizing down his luggage. When he and his brother discovered that their trunks were overweight, they left behind much of their belongings and only kept what was “necessary.” This appeared to be symbolic of leaving behind past experiences and ties to home in exchange for the new experiences to be had along this journey.
On page 7, Twain’s narrator declares, “There was a freshness and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation from all sorts of cares and responsibilities, that almost made us feel that the years we had spent in the close, hot city, toiling and slaving, had been wasted and thrown away.” The road seemed to make the narrator feel that any other way of spending his time was pointless unless he were journeying or discovering something new. It instilled in him a sort of “travel bug.” He wanted to see more of his country and felt that staying at home for as long as he did was a waste of time. Why stay there when one could easily spend time exploring a new place?
Throughout the story, nothing seems to faze the narrator. Even on a night of what sounds like extreme discomfort, he remains thrilled just to be on the road. He is completely enamored with the idea and sensation of travelling. On page 19, while describing a particularly bumpy night, he says, “The pistols and coin soon settled to the bottom, but the pipes, pipe stems, tobacco and canteens clattered and floundered after the Dictionary every time it made an assault on us, and aided and abetted the book by spilling tobacco in our eyes, and water down our backs. Still, all things considered, it was a very comfortable night.” This passage really brings to light how thrilling it was for the narrator to be on this journey. Although this narrative predates the interstate, it is obvious that the stigma attached to travel was alive and well then, too. The narrator shows the wide-eyed excitement through which a journey can help one to see the world.