AI Fact-Check

In Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson, how is the concept of “stranger” discussed in the story?

AI Generated Answer

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes" by Robert Louis Stevenson, the concept of the "stranger" is explored through Stevenson's encounters and experiences as he travels through the rural Cévennes region of France with his donkey, Modestine. The narrative is as much an internal journey as it is an external one, with Stevenson often reflecting on his role as an outsider in the places he visits.

Stevenson, a Scottish traveler in a predominantly French setting, embodies the role of a stranger, not only culturally but also linguistically. His interactions with the local people, who are often wary or curious about this foreign traveler, highlight the dynamics of being an outsider. The locals' reactions range from hospitality to suspicion, and Stevenson uses these encounters to delve into broader themes of human connection and isolation.

Moreover, Stevenson's relationship with his donkey, Modestine, also reflects on the theme of the stranger. Initially, Stevenson feels a sense of alienation from Modestine, viewing her more as a burden than a companion. However, as their journey progresses, Stevenson grows closer to Modestine, understanding her quirks and developing a bond that transcends their initial strangeness to each other. This transformation from seeing each other as strangers to companions underscores a deeper narrative about overcoming differences and finding common ground.

Overall, "Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes" uses the motif of the stranger to explore themes of alienation and connection, emphasizing how travel can simultaneously reinforce and dissolve the boundaries between self and other, familiar and foreign.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The response generated is correct. The concept of "stranger" is explored through the author's encounters on his travels. He discovers both differences and similarities he shares with others, including with Modestine. As a stranger, Stevenson draws the curiosity of the local inhabitants, most of whom extend their hospitality to him because that is the right way to treat a stranger. 

I found myself a rallying-point; every one was anxious to be kind and helpful to the stranger. This was not merely from the natural hospitality of mountain people...A traveller of my sort was a thing hitherto unheard of in that district.  

Yet, he "was looked upon with contempt." It would seem that people are both intrigued by his journey and appalled at the same time. To people who have never left their small rural villages, the idea of journeying such distances is curious and unappealing. Their curiosity and "natural hospitality" usually lead to pleasant shared encounters. When he stops at an inn, 

...the people of the inn, in nine cases out of ten, show themselves friendly and considerate.  As soon as you cross the doors you cease to be a stranger...they show a tincture of kind breeding when you share their hearth. 

Yet, the story also underscores differences between people. When the author stays with the monks, who are accustomed to offering hospitality to strangers, they are astonished that he does not share their faith. They make their lack of respect for his beliefs clear.

Stevenson finds himself guilty of having similar feelings towards others whom he sees as strangers of a sort. When the "village schoolmaster dropped in to speak with the stranger," the author realizes that the fact that the schoolmaster and others "were all Protestants ... pleased me more than I should have expected..." Stevenson recognizes that we all have preconceived notions about others who are not like us in some way.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on