Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck

What is America?

In 1960, at the age of 58, John Steinbeck set out on a quixotic journey to search for America. Having lived in New York City for the last ten years, he felt that he had lost touch with what “the people” of America was like. Although he said his plan was “clear, concise, and reasonable,” naming his vehicle Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse gave a truer sense of what he thought lay ahead. The discoveries he made 54 years ago still resonate today.

One of Mr. Steinbeck’s first observations was that people were losing their accents, and that as a culture we were becoming homogenized through radio and television. “Communications must destroy localness, by a slow, inevitable process.” He longed to travel the back roads rather than the interstates, where the surrounding areas were a blur, but he could not escape the highways.

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