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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 19 Apr 1997 16:59:04 -0500
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Marcus W. Koechig wrote:

> Today I was speaking to a professor friend of mine who wondered whether
> Twain's portrayal of the pilgrims in Innocents Abroad could be considered
> the first portrayal of "the ugly American." Now I am wondering the same
> thing. All thoughts, comments, well-reasoned diatribes and suggestive
> innuendo, sexual or otherwise, will be welcomed.

Part of the to-do made of Twain's first book, as I recall,  was that,
unlike previous books, especially travel books, and unlike other
American writers, such as Washington Irving,  it contained a narrator
and others who were not awed by the grandeur of Europe or swayed by
pomp and circumstance there.  The unimpressed refrain, "Is he dead?,"
said of so much shown them, partly summarizes their attitude:  Europe
is old, decaying, dying, not vibrant, fresh, and exciting like the
U.S.; Europe is living on its past, not looking to the future:  Trot
out your fresh corpses; we've seen too many of the old ones.

These Americans are brash, loud and, for some tastes, rude and crude;
thus, they probably predate, in literature at least, the familiar
stereotype of the ugly American.  But Mark Twain plays a strong role
in ending the "listening too long to the voices of Europe," of which
Emerson complained.  Brash, rude, or ugly, the break--literarily, any
way--had to be made.  Basically, what Twain did was to take the
American as-is to Europe, not the American lightly stepping to avoid
European toes, as in earlier books, but the American he knew--the
American in Virginia City, in Angels' Camp, in "Journalism in
Tennessee," the American, Scotty Briggs, who came to arrange a
funeral for his friend, Buck, with the Eastern minister--and the
Americans Charles Dickens regretted meeting on a visit to the U.S.
and then satrized savagely in -Martin Chuzzlewit- a few years before
the publication of  -Innocents Abroad-.   Twain returns Dickens'
attack, though not against the British and not as hatefully, but
certainly some of the Americans on his voyage come across as the "Put
'er there, pard" types that repulsed Dickens.  Do I recall that
Dickens' novel furnished some of the motivation for Twain's book?  Is
the ugly American tourist partly a response to the uptight European

In any case, I believe that the answer to your query is probably yes.
Remember that, unimpressed by what had been touted about this
foreign scenery,  Twain, who had been up and down the Mighty
Mississippi River, says later that he'd be afraid to let a European
river out at night because a dog might lap it up.