Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"My giant goes with me wherever I go"

Today in class while we were talking about Loyal Blood as he traveled away from his family farm I couldn't help but remember back to this quote by Emerson . . .

"When we're being men, we feel a call to duty. The soul is no traveler; the wise man stays at home. When his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he's still at home, and lets people know by the expression on his face that he goes as the missionary of wisdom and virtue, visiting cities and people like a sovereign, not like an intruder or a valet.

I have no cranky objection to world travel for the purposes of art, of study, and goodwill, as long as the individual is first domesticated, or doesn't go abroad with the hope of finding something greater than what he knows. He who travels to be amused, or to get something he doesn't have within, travels away from himself, and gets old among old things while he's still young. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become as old and run-down as they have. He carries ruins to ruins.

Traveling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys show us how little difference places make. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my bags, hug my friends, get on the plane, and wake up in Naples, and there next to me is the cruel fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I look for the Vatican and the palaces. I pretend to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson "Self-Reliance"

I feel as though Emerson would judge Loyal as a fool for thinking that he could escape from himself and the murder he committed by mere change of place. It will be interesting as we read further into the novel to see if Loyal's "giant" really does go with him wherever he goes. In the first portion we read, the scenes with Loyal's odd sexual encounters might as some suggested in class, be a sign that he feels guilty for what he did to Billy. So it would seem that one of the critical questions of the novel is does Loyal carry around his "giant" when he leaves? And if so how does he learn to live with the "giant"?

I'm also curious about whether or not the rest of you agree with Emerson's assessment on travel. Do you feel there's any truth to his claim that those who travel to escape will only be disappointed to find that they cannot?


  1. I definitely agree. I dont think that running away from your problems will solve anything. No matter what you are running from it always seems to be with you in the end. I still haven't read the end of the book, but I think Loyal is going to find that out. We have already seen it to a certain degree. Yes, he left the farm and the place where he killed Billy, but he still thinks about her all the time. So, yes, Emerson was totally on to something.

  2. Mer Klein,

    You are right on with this post! I meant to reference it in class this morning, but I forgot. For shame!

    Please do not let me forget to reference Emerson on Tuesday. And class, think eyeballs.

  3. I think it depends on what function traveling fulfills- if it is to escape something, then it is simply an attempt at forgetting. But if you are in the right mindset (meaning you are traveling to create new experiences rather than cover up old ones), it can be a truly enjoyable experience.

    That being said, I don't think Loyal is traveling to enjoy the scenery...