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Hypocrisy on the Road

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by EmilyLeave a Comment

The story Sister of the Road: The Autobiography of Box Car Bertha by Ben Reitman tells of a woman, Bertha, who has spent the majority of her life traveling through America. As a child, Bertha’s family was poor and often moved, but rather than being resentful and upset about her situation, she seems to embrace it. Her wanderlust causes her …

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A Past That Follows

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Aroushi1 Comment

The recurring matter in “Boxcar Bertha” that really resonated with me was Bertha’s willingness to move on from her “recorded” past of being involved in gang activity and jail-life. Bertha leaves her old world and takes to the road in “Boxcars” in the pursuit of something new and different for herself. She first falls in to the hands of the …

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Racism and Gender On the Road

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by NicoleLeave a Comment

Nelson Algren’s Somebody in Boots begins with the main character Cass waking up in a wheelless coach in San Antonio. From the start, I saw some parallels between this work and Tom Kromer’s Waiting for Nothing. Both Tom and Cass are down and out, hopping trains and trying to get something to eat. The most obvious difference between the two is that Waiting for Nothing …

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Alone in the USA

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Jack1 Comment

One of the common themes in Boxcar Bertha is the idea of perceived experience being a unifier for Americans during the Great Depression.  Unity is a really odd concept in American culture.  As has been noted countless times, America is too big to have a common culture or experience, and the idea of finding some thing or some event to …

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Waste not Want not

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Lucas AcostaLeave a Comment

Nelson Algren’s “Somebody in Boots” depicts the horrid life in San Antonio. Something that I noticed right away that bothered me slightly was how Cass assumed an air of superiority through his tone. Although he was in the same situation as the other homeless, I got the impression that he felt himself above them. In the first paragraph he talks …

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California Ho! (From the Bum’s Eye View to Our Own)

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Andrew KarpanLeave a Comment

What immediately differs a text like Woody Guthrie’s “Ode to California” from Tom Kromer’s Waiting for Nothing makes itself apparent in its very title. The drifting placelessness of Kromer’s blank subdued townscapes turns toward the particular geography of the American Southwest. “Maybe the west country needs me out there. It’s so big and I’m so little,” (193) he muses. The …

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Seeing Things

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Ruben ZaccaroniLeave a Comment

Woody, like so many others we’ve read so far, travels across America, but why? Yes, like so many others he starts from his hometown, making his way West, looking for a job, but, though this might seem unfair and isn’t even a completely articulated thought, there is a sense in which his travelling is not simply dictated by a material …

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The Immediacy of Hunger, Regardless of Color

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Spencer Carle1 Comment

I couldn’t tell whether Somebody in Boots by Nelson Algren was autobiographical, fiction based on personal experience or fiction based on other depictions of the Great Depression. The piece was extremely powerful nonetheless because of how raw it was in its depiction of the struggles faced by those “out on the bum.” I found myself pulling my eyes away from …

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Chin Up

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Laura Casado1 Comment

Both Nelson Algren’s Somebody in Boots and the autobiography of Boxcar Bertha entitled Sister of the Road, as told by Dr. Ben L. Reitman, are thematically and stylistically similar in their sympathetic, but harshly realistic and literal depictions of travel in the 1930s. Narrated from personal perspectives, these novels are not ones of glamorous adventure or distant observation for journalistic …

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An uneven novel

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Frank Cheng1 Comment

When I was reading somebody in boots there was this deep despair that ran deeper into me as I kept reading. Nelson’s writing is absolutely brutal realism. He pictures the lives of that era in such way that brings the people to the worst nightmare they would ever have. I did a little research into his life. I found that …

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Lost in Wanderlust

In The Travel Habit, 4. Travel novels by Net Supatravanij1 Comment

Bertha, as portrayed by Reitman, is a character I found ambiguous to say the least, much like her wandering soul. There were times that I felt extremely empathetic towards her and times I simply could not fathom how she could have done the things she said she did. The boxcar is a symbol that is inherent throughout the piece; not …