The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain: Themes & Analysis

Instructor: Crystal Hall

Crystal has a bachelor's degree in English, a certification in General Studies, and has assisted in teaching both middle and high school English.

Mark Twain wrote ''The Innocents Abroad'' as a precursor to the modern-day travel guide. His accounts of each region's attractions are both educational and enlightening, with themes typical of his writings, such as travel and humor.

Come Sail Away

With his signature style of satirical humor and his talent for accounting personal experiences, Mark Twain describes his real life journey through the Mediterranean aboard the USS Quaker City in The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress. In this novel, Mark Twain introduces what would evolve into the travel guide, using many themes in keeping with his usual writing style, with the primary theme being travel. The story takes us on a journey to many places, including Marseilles, Paris, the Papal States, Rome, Gibraltar, the Ukraine, and the Holy Lands.




Mark Twain's signature brand of humor, satire, is present throughout The Innocents Abroad, lending laughter to a subject that may otherwise have been largely technical. Satirical humor is a literary device in which exaggeration, mockery, irony or ridicule is used to create laughter at the subject's expense.


During this spectacular voyage through Europe and Africa, Twain learned much about the inner workings of each society and how to expertly navigate through every destination as a foreigner. Twain's main purpose of writing The Innocents Abroad in the style of a travel guide serves to encourage the reader to appreciate American heritage, while also celebrating all other walks of life and reflecting on the importance of experiencing new and exciting adventures.


An unusual aspect of Twain's travel guide is his honesty about his negative experiences as well as his positive ones, openly awarding praise and criticism where he feels it is deserved. Whether in the most ordinary of situations or the most extraordinary of places, Twain has the ability to reduce each to its most honest reality.

He climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa, frightened and excited at the same time, and he visited historical museums and geographical locations, writing articles for newspapers about each adventure. He also kept personal notes, which he combined with his articles to create The Innocents Abroad.

His visit to the great pyramids was one that he wrote of with candor, stating that, while the pyramids were an imposing sight to behold from a distance, they were much less impressive up close. They were made even less majestic by the long, hot walk to get to them, and the strain on the muscles to climb them.

His bathing experience in Milan was less than desirable, as the bath house attendant had planned to put Twain and two of his companions into a single bathtub. After their objections were duly noted, he also gave a negative nod to the lack of soap, marking personal hygiene as deficient in that particular area of Italy and, later, in France as well.


While on this expansive expedition, Twain wrote of his unique relationships and growing closeness with his shipmates on the USS Quaker City and the diverse cultural differences between each new region and the United States.

As a personable man, Mark Twain easily became acquainted with his traveling companions and with the residents of the cities that he visited. Never one to stifle his curiosity and ever the observant author, Twain was able to absorb cultures other than his own, personally and professionally benefiting from the experiences.


Twain also offers his unique insight into the historical impacts of the surrounding areas. He compared the modern life most Americans were accustomed to with the more archaic lifestyles that were still present in older areas of Europe. Along with the economic and historical differences of each area, Twain wrote of the various religions found throughout the world.

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