Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185

The central theme of English journalist Bruce Chatwin's travel book In Patagonia is the importance of retaining our nomadic nature. The ancestors of modern humans were nomadic. In fact, the current population dispersion and cultures of the modern world wouldn't be possible if ancient humans had not had a nomadic lifestyle.

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In essence, this experimental travelogue is about an actual, external journey as well as an internal one. Chatwin spent six months traveling through South America to reach the Chilean side of Patagonia. He met other nomadic people along the way, such as European immigrants who fled their homelands due to economic or political issues.

Another theme of the book is family legacies. The idea of the trip was conceived when Chatwin found a prehistoric relic that belonged to his grandmother—it was given to her by her cousin Charles Amherst Milward. The preserved mylodon skin became a "family relic" and a symbol of his family's rich history. In a sense, Chatwin was recreating his ancestor's journey, which symbolized the passage of inheritances (be they fossils or family relics), as he traversed across South America.

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