illustrated portrait of English author Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

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How was the concept “Stranger” discussed in Charles Dickens’s “Pictures from Italy: Going through France”?

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In Charles Dickens's travelogue, "Pictures from Italy: Going through France," the concept of the "stranger" is explored through Dickens's observations and interactions as an Englishman traveling through France and Italy. The notion of being a stranger is central to the travel experience Dickens describes, highlighting both the isolation and the unique insights that come from being an outsider.

Throughout his journey, Dickens often finds himself in the role of a spectator, observing customs, landscapes, and people that are unfamiliar and new to him. This position as a stranger allows him to describe his experiences with a fresh perspective and often with a sense of wonder or curiosity. For instance, his descriptions of the French and Italian countryside, the urban life of Paris and Rome, and the various characters he encounters along the way are colored by his outsider status, which brings both clarity and a sense of detachment.

Moreover, Dickens discusses the literal and metaphorical language barriers he encounters, which further emphasize his role as a stranger. His attempts to communicate, misunderstandings, and the moments of connection despite these barriers, enrich his narrative, showing both the challenges and the poignant moments that can occur when one is a stranger in a new land.

Thus, in "Pictures from Italy: Going through France," Dickens uses his experience as a stranger to delve into themes of travel, cultural difference, and human connection, providing a rich, detailed account that resonates with the universal experience of being an outsider looking in.

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The response generated is correct; Dickens's observations as an Englishman traveling abroad are central to the travel experience and highlight both the isolation and insights that come from being an outsider. However, in some respect, the concept of being a "stranger" is an internal one. Dickens appears to assume the role of stranger, or to set himself apart from others. The author seems to view himself as trying to detect differences between himself and those around him and there is sometimes a sense that he feels superior, almost as if he is amused by their quaintness. 

In consequence of this connection of Saint John with the city, great numbers of the common people are christened Giovanni Baptista, which... is pronounced ...‘Batcheetcha,’ like a sneeze.  To hear everybody calling everybody else Batcheetcha, on a Sunday, or festa-day, when there are crowds in the streets, is not a little singular and amusing to a stranger.

His use of the term stranger is self-appointed. It is less about how others see him and more that he sees himself as a writer and stranger tasked with describing the quirks of people abroad, just as he describes their landscapes. 

When talking to his Italian tour guide, the author also equates "stranger" with conqueror. The guide makes reference to the Napoleonic wars when the author asks what sites they should visit. 

‘Many churches?’

‘No.  Nearly all suppressed by the French.’

‘Monasteries or convents?’

‘No.  The French again!  Nearly all suppressed by Napoleon.’...

...‘Many strangers?’

‘Ah Heaven!’

I thought he would have fainted.

Here the thought of strangers makes the tour guide nearly faint, as he contemplates the harmful role that strangers have had upon his home.  

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