Traveller Essay - Critical Essays

Traveller

Some readers may find the narrative pace of this novel’s first two or three (of twenty-one) chapters slow, as they adjust to and gradually become familiar with Traveler’s backwoods Virginia idiom. Also, Adams perhaps gives Traveler too much rein to wander mentally in the field of exposition. This initial wandering is all to the readers’ benefit, however, as Traveler gives them a sure sense of the antebellum Southern pastures in which he was foaled and raised, as well as a picture of the barn in which--after April, 1865--he spends most of his life talking to Tom the Nipper, a cat belonging to Lee’s youngest daughter.

About halfway through the third chapter, Adams spurs Traveler into a “buck-trot” narrative about a brave man and brave horse uncannily sensitive to and dependent upon each other as they charge into the Civil War together. Traveler’s character and voice are totally convincing, the story he tells about himself and Lee and the Confederate Army profoundly poignant--at moments tragic--and certainly memorable. Also compelling and convincing here is the intimate portrait of “Marse” Robert E. Lee that emerges from Traveler’s equine perceptions.

Interspersed throughout with Adams’ dramatic narrative summaries of Lee’s campaigns, Traveler’s memoir extends from the Seven Days’ campaign of 1862 to the siege of Petersburg and Richmond, in 1864, to the surrender at Appomattox. Traveler is not always a reliable interpreter of events (he believes his Marse Robert won the war, for example), but his are the judgments of a very big heart.