What are chapter summaries for The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Preface introduces Twain's work as "travel-writing," while humorously separating it from "solemn scientific" writing, "attractive" though that might be. He explains that portions of his writing will be reproduced from letters he had written to the "Daily Alta California, of San Francisco," the "New York Tribune" and the "New York Herald," noting that all had given "the necessary permission." Chapter 1 introduces the advent of a new and unusual excursion advertised and "chatted" about across America in "newspapers" and by "firesides." It was that of taking a "royal holiday" on a "gigantic scale" on a "steamship" to explore "beyond the broad ocean in many a strange clime and in many a land renowned in history!"

Twain tells how "this brave conception" was to allow participants to "hob−nob with nobility and hold friendly converse with kings and princes, grand moguls, and the anointed lords of mighty empires!" He explains how "every household in the land" was "longing" to be one of the "one hundred and fifty" passengers on this extravaganza excursion to "the Crimea, Greece, and intermediate points of interest." To entice his readers, Twain adds the advertisement, dated 1867, in full to display to advantage the lure of the excursion. In testimony to the effectiveness of the advertisement, he tells how he hurried to the treasurer's office to deposit his 10 percent fee, being delighted that he could still acquire a stateroom. Twain's ironic wit is on display when he says that upon giving references of his character, he chose names of those who knew him least: he chose "all the people of high standing [he] could think of in the community who would be least likely to know anything about [him]."

After an announcement that the "Plymouth Collection of Hymns [a Puritan hymn book] would be used on board the ship," Twain's ironic wit is further evident: "I then paid the balance of my passage money." The simple positioning of this sentence ironically implies a causal connection between the hymn book choice and his payment. This is ironic because he implies, by suggestion of cause and effect, that no right thinking person could care about the selection of a hymn book as a reason to expend money on the excursion. He carries the irony further with a Calvinistic allusion to "being 'select.'"

   Shortly a supplementary program was issued which set forth that the Plymouth Collection of Hymns would be used on board the ship. I then paid the balance of my passage money.
   I was provided with a receipt and duly and officially accepted as an excursionist. There was happiness in that but it was tame compared to the novelty of being "select."

Twain then enumerates celebrities who were enrolled to go but who cancelled due to various urgent matters. He ends by saying that, although the excursion now traveled without celebrities, like the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and Lieutenant General Sherman, they still had the "'battery of guns' from the Navy Department" with which to salute royalty. The accompanying letter of introduction from the "Secretary of the Navy," as it was extended to "General Sherman and party," may have left them to their own devices (as Sherman was called to the American plains during "the Indian war") with the "courts and camps" of Europe, but with the "seductive" itinerary including Gibraltar, Paris, Jerusalem, and Bermuda still in tact, he and the others were nonetheless happy. As he says, "What did we care?"

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The Innocents Abroad

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