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New World Travelers: Similar Themes But Different Purposes In Travel Writing

1485 words - 6 pages

Travel writers or adventurers all write pieces that deal with the same premise: the discovery and experience of the New World. However, in their writing, it is evident that there is an ulterior motive in mind. These motives or purposes can be classified in two broad categories: to persuade people to come to the new world and to warn people of the dangers they may encounter in the new world. It is easy to explore these themes by paying particular attention a couple of notorious writers: Christopher Columbus, Bartolome De Las Casas, and John Smith.

When reading pieces by writers involved in the exploration and settlement on the new world, it is important to keep in mind the audience they were targeting. These pieces were not published in America, but rather were transmitted in Europe, published and read by a widespread European audience. Additionally, these travelers were paid by the government to propagandize the new world and entice readers to want to visit or settle there. With that in place, it is easy to understand how a major purpose for travel writers would be to advertise the new world.

Christopher Columbus's letters were considered one of the first reports of the New World. Columbus landed in the West Indies but thought that he was in India. He portrays his surroundings with a conquistador mentality, in that he says the people are savages, and he has taken command of them and they admire him greatly. In "Letter to Luis de Santagel Regarding the First Voyage", he talks about the richness and beauty of the New World using very descriptive imagery and planting the picture of natural abundance in the readers mind. He describes the land, the mountains, the terrain, the animals, birds, and people in such a manner that it appears to be a type of Eden – where there is plenty for all, and anything is possible. With this visual marketing in his writing, Columbus is selling the new land to his audience back in cold crowded Europe: "Espanola is a marvel" (Columbus, 36)

Similarly, John Smith was also a travel writer. He was a self-educated man who was could truly be considered one of America's first success stories. In "Description of New England", Smith takes his knowledge of his audience and propagates the opportunities available in coming to America. He does this using a variety of stylistic methods such as using hyperboles, imagery, and asking rhetorical questions. He exaggerates the hope and opportunity available in the new world and at the same time diminishes the risks that may be associated with such an immense move. His imagery of the abundance of work for all types of jobs (farmers, hunters, merchants, etc) is vividly descriptive and presents a wealth of prospects. And his rhetorical questions make the reader desire to live his exciting novel life.

John Smith's audience, like Columbus, consists primarily of potential immigrants; and Smith knowing this tells his adventure stories in a way where the new...

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