A Traveler from Altruria by William Dean Howells: Book Analysis

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A Traveler From Altruria
Many people believe America to be the land of the free and the home of the brave; a place where we all have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The novel, A Traveler from Altruria¸ written by author William Dean Howells, presents many of the ideals present in the culture of the late nineteenth century. The author uses the characters such as the lawyer, the minister, the professor, the banker and the novelist in the story to illustrate what is wrong the American society. The traveler from Altruria, Mr. Homos, comes to America to experience the everyday life in a country that promotes and prides itself on democracy and equality and has the foundation that all men are created equal. He is instead exposed to a world of greed and an egocentric culture.

The novelist, or the host of the Altrurian, is responsible for aiding in the Altrurian’s understanding of the fundamentals of America and also for attempting to learn more about the Altrurian culture. There is a definite distinction between the modern cultures of both regions. The first lesson that the novelist teaches the Altrurian is that a man of upper class should not help someone of a lower class after Mr. Homos attempts to aid the serving staff around him at the hotel. The novelist responds to these actions by saying, “It is my duty to you, as my guest, to tell you that this thing of doing for other is not such a simple matter here, as your particular training leads to you think…America is a republic where every man is for himself, and you cannot help others as you do at home,” (Howells 63). The definite class distinction seems to bother the Altrurian because he believed America to have abandoned such a system when the Revolution began. He believes that all are equal as in Altruria.

Another difference that the novelist discovers between Altruria and America is that Altruria has no monetary system. There, every person works a certain number of hours daily and...
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