Travels with Charley - Short Answer Questions

Part 1:

  •  How was Charley used in Steinbeck's dealings with people during his journey?  Would you say that Charley was an important part of how Steinbeck met people?  Why or why not?

    In Part One of Travels with Charley, Steinbeck calls Charley a "born diplomat" (7). What are some other ways that Steinbeck creates Charley as a major character in the story?

  • Steinbeck packs Rocinante very carefully before his departure.  What are some items of importance that he takes and why?  What did he actually find useful on the journey?  What do the things he packs indicate about his attitude towards his trip?

Part 2:

  • How does Steinbeck's remark, "if this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway. I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage," apply to the theme of growing American discontent and restlessness found in the story (18)?

  • When Steinbeck refers to the map of the United States as a projection of "monster America" what do you think he means (20)? 

    In the White Mountains, Steinbeck talks with a farmer about America's growing disinterest in politics.  Even thoughTravels with Charley took place in the 1960's, do you feel that Steinbeck's observation is applicable to current American society?  Why or why not?  Use examples from the text and current events to explain your answer.

  • How is racism explored in the text?  Does Steinbeck embrace racial equality in American society or not?  Explain.

  • Considering his surroundings at the time, how is Steinbeck's statement "a sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker than a germ" ironic (37)?

  • Steinbeck addresses religion by saying, "It is our practice, now, at least in the large cities, to find from our psychiatric priesthood that our sins aren't really sins at all but accidents that are set in motion by forces beyond our control" (60-61).  In context of the setting, was Steinbeck agreeing or disagreeing with this approach to religion?

  • When Steinbeck tries to take Charley into Canada but is turned back because of a rule, he says that he "found himself hating the rule and all governments that made rules" (67). What seems to be Steinbeck's overall attitude in the text towards rules and governmental law? 

Part 3:

  • If  the clash between the young man who wants to be a hairdresser and his father can be interpreted as a clash between emerging and traditional values, what values do the father and son represent?  How are their opposing value systems representative of larger changes occurring in America during the time period?

  • What new "principal" did Steinbeck find difficult to adopt to while staying at a hotel in Washington?  What did he not like about it?

  • Why did Steinbeck see the mobile home owners getting out of property taxes as stealing from their neighbors?  What did he think would happen if it continued? 

    Steinbeck emphasizes the idea that there really are no strangers in America.  What do you think he means?

  • Steinbeck stops to visit a grove of redwoods in his native California.  Describe his response to the trees.  What does that response reveal about his overall attitude toward America's natural landscape?

Part 4:

  • In part four of the story, Steinbeck writes that "the South, being a limb of the nation, its pain spreads out to all America" (186).  What is the "pain" and how does it spread?

  • What do you think Steinbeck meant when he wrote that "this was not the big show. The crowd was waiting for the white man who dared to bring his white child to school?" (195) Explain.

  • Who were the "Cheerleaders" in the story?  Describe Steinbeck's attitude toward them.