The Mind of Steinbeck and the Eyes of Charley A dog is a man’s best friend. Man and dog have been known to complete each other. A man tells his dog all of his deepest thoughts and feeling with the knowledge that he will not be judged. He brings human-like characteristics to his dog and then treats him as an equal. However, the human-like characteristics are man’s thoughts and feelings that he has projected onto his dog. In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck often expresses his own thoughts and feeling through Charley, his dog. In the first section of the book Steinbeck uses Charley to reflect his feelings.
At this section of the book Steinbeck has met a woman that Charley had nipped. To calm her down Steinbeck offers the women a bottle of brandy, which she gladly takes. Steinbeck concludes that she is an alcoholic. Steinbeck states that Charley”… dislikes neurotics and he detest drunks” (41). Considering that Charley is a dog and probably has no idea what neurotics or drunks are these are Steinbeck’s feelings. By placing his feelings of the women on Charley Steinbeck tries to give off the idea that he is unbiased of towards her.
However, knowing that he uses Charley as his scapegoat, one can easily realize that this is the opinion of Steinbeck. Later on in the section Steinbeck is starting to become lonely and restless. He starts to talk about how dark and dismal the day has been. He then goes on to Charley and states that, “Charley was restless. He didn’t bark an alarm, but he growled and whined uneasily… ” (Steinbeck 60). At this section, Steinbeck is reflecting his feelings of loneliness and uneasiness onto Charley. He states the sentence before that he is hearing voices and then says that Charley growls and whines, as if he hears the voices as well.
Steinbeck also states that Charley”… didn’t eat his supper… ” (60), because of him being restless. However, Steinbeck says how he doesn’t think anything in his food stock looks edible. By stating his feeling and then the feeling of his dog they are the same. From these parts of the book one to conclude that Steinbeck is reflecting his own feeling onto Charley in effort to magnify his feelings. Throughout Travels with Charley the reader is presented with evidence that Steinbeck reflects his feelings and thoughts through Charley. In the second section of the book Steinbeck is explaining how Charley is a mess and how he had “… romised [himself] to keep him combed and clipped and beautiful, and [he] hadn’t done it” (Steinbeck 104).
At this point in the book Steinbeck hadn’t taken a break in a while to clean himself-up. By stating that Charley is dirty he is also saying that he feels dirty. Steinbeck feels just as ragged and messy as Charley. Steinbeck’s character is too proud to admit that he is starting to become dirty, so he gets across his idea by reflecting his condition onto Charley. He states that he hasn’t had time to clean Charley up, which means that he hasn’t had much time to clean up himself.
Another part where Steinbeck reflects his opinions on Charley is the section where Steinbeck has met the young man who tells Steinbeck that the land he is on is private property. However, the young man lets him stay for the night after Steinbeck offers him a cup of coffee. Steinbeck states that Charley let the man touch him, which is an odd thing for Charley to let a stranger touch him. Steinbeck alludes that because Charley lets the strange man pet him, he likes him. Steinbeck is reflecting his own feelings of liking the man onto Charley.
A reader can tell that Steinbeck likes the man by the length of the conversation between them and how much information about the man he learns. By Steinbeck stating that Charley liked the man he is foreshadowing that the young man is trustworthy and that Steinbeck also likes him. Later on in this section Steinbeck has stopped in Chicago to meet up with his wife for a few days. However, while there he has to put Charley in a kennel. When they are parted Charley”… cried out in rage and despair” (Steinbeck 115). Steinbeck states that he just had to not listen and walk away.
He felt the pain and agony of leaving his companion alone for a while after they had spent so much time together on this trip. Charley’s feelings and reactions are a copy of Steinbeck’s feelings. Steinbeck expresses his feeling and thoughts through Charley. This section exemplifies the idea that Steinbeck uses Charley to communicate his thoughts, feelings, and opinions. In the third section of the book Steinbeck continued to use Charley to express his thoughts and opinions. At the beginning of this sections Steinbeck is trying to compromise with his dog about staying.
Steinbeck states, “… Charley wanted to go… ” (152). Steinbeck goes on to say what could happen if they stayed, and it’s not positive. However, he decides to stay and none of the bad predictions he made happened. At this part, Steinbeck probably didn’t know whether he wanted to stay or not. To think through what he should do he used Charley. Charley was given the position of wanting to leave and Steinbeck took the position of staying. By doing this Steinbeck was able to better see the pros and cons of staying and leaving, helping him to decide to stay.
Another time that Steinbeck used Charley to express his feeling was when Steinbeck had to bring Charley to the doctor because he was in such pain. In this section Steinbeck states that “When a stranger addresses Charley in baby talk, Charley avoids him” (179). This statement already gives off the persona that Charley does not like the doctor. However, considering that Steinbeck later calls the man an alcoholic the reader can assume that Steinbeck is reflecting his own negative feelings towards the man on Charley.
A reader will know that Steinbeck doesn’t like alcoholics because of what he states about in the first section of the book, that he doesn’t like drunks and neurotics. There is another section that continues with the idea of Steinbeck reflecting his feelings through Charley. In this section the Steinbeck talks about how Charley knows all of the trees, stating “… Charley was… becoming a tree export of enormous background” (188). Steinbeck is reflecting his thoughts that he is becoming a tree expert through the idea the Charley is becoming similar with trees through relieving himself.
One can come to this conclusion because after Steinbeck states about Charley knowing trees he then goes on to explain how he also, has learned some information about trees. Throughout this section of the book Steinbeck continues to express his ideas through Charley. With the last section of the book, Steinbeck personifies the idea that he is expressing his thoughts and feeling through the actions and thoughts of Charley. One example of this is when nbeck is having the conversation between himself and Charley.
Giving his dog actual quoted lines. During their conversation Charley”… lopped down on the floor and put his chin down on his paws” (Steinbeck 222). This quote expresses that Charley is feeling miserable and blue. However, Steinbeck is also feeling miserable, as he states after the quote, and is reflecting his own feeling through Charley’s actions of lying down and looking sad and miserable. Another example of Steinbeck reflecting himself through Charley is when Steinbeck left New Orleans and stops at a resting place and buys a sandwich. Steinbeck states that while their Charley did not leave his side he “… sat close and pressed his shoulder against [his] knee” (260).
In this section Charley is reflecting Steinbeck’s feeling of sorrow. Steinbeck has left New Orleans where he saw the incident with the cheerleader. Homesick and disgusted of what he saw Steinbeck is filled with sorrow. Charley can feel his sorrow and begins to reflect it in his actions towards Steinbeck. Both Charley and Steinbeck are beginning to feel the need for each other more. The finial example is at the very end of the book and Steinbeck says that Charley knows that the trip is over. Steinbeck asks himself, “… how can you explain that Charley knew it was over too” (275)?
The answer to his question is that Charley knew the trip was over because Steinbeck knew it was over. Steinbeck mirrored his knowledge of the trip ending onto Charley. The fourth and final section of the book uses the idea of Steinbeck expressing his thoughts and feelings through Charley to finalize the connection and bond between the two and to get a better understanding of how much each of them rely on the other. Steinbeck was successful of answering his question of “What are Americans like today” (243)? Steinbeck learns that Americans today are self-centered and never happy with what they have.
Steinbeck states how egotistical Americans are stating, “The crowd… rushed home to see themselves on television… ” (259). Steinbeck also realizes that Americans are never happy with what they have. For example, a common theme that appeared when Steinbeck would talk to others is that they wished to travel like Steinbeck was. They wanted to see the world. An example of this is when Steinbeck is packing up Rocinante and he notices that people are coming to lo upon what is happening. “They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from Here”(Steinbeck 10).
The journey Steinbeck takes started before he left and ended before he got home. However, in that time he was able to learn so much about Americans. He learns everything from the best qualities to the worst qualities that make Steinbeck ashamed of Americans. In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck often expresses his own thoughts and feeling through Charley, his dog. Steinbeck and Charlie have a bond that is hard to break. They have the bond of a man and his dog. Steinbeck gives Charlie a human-like personality, making it easier for him to understand Charlie. They personify the idea that a dog is man’s best friend.