How do Stevenson and Bryson explore the theme of discovery through their writing,
specifically looking at the divide between race and religion?


In the Travels with a Donkey extract Stevenson focuses on the religious war, which took place between 1702-1715, due to a revolt by the Camisards (French Protestants in the Cevennes) over the destruction of their churches and schools by Catholics. Being a Protestant and in the Cevennes at the time Stevenson is extremely interested in the war, which is a much discussed topic in many places such as the cafe the landlord has taken him to. ‘The war was their chosen topic; its exploits were their own patent of nobility’, Stevenson states to illustrate how the Cevenols felt about the war; seeing it as a form of nobility that belonged to the Catholics and Protestants.  Stevenson’s tone is serious whilst writing of the religious war, as he ‘observed that Protestant and Catholic intermingled in a very easy manner’, which shows how far they’ve come since the days of the war, as they are able to converse peacefully, which Stevenson sees as an achievement from 1704 where the worst of the fighting was taking place.
At the end of the extract Stevenson comes to realise that ‘Protestant is still Protestant, Catholic still Catholic, in mutual toleration and mild amity of life’, this shows that all the fighting didn’t change anything about both religions. They are and will always be unchanged with the same values and beliefs as they had over a century ago, however both religions have evolved.  An open minded Stevenson writes, ‘We judge our ancestors from a more divine position; and the dust being laid with several centuries, we can see both sides adorned with human virtues and fighting with a show of right’,  this symbolises the unbiased view people have taken, as Stevenson suggests the narrow minded opinions are long gone. Catholics and Protestants see their ancestors in a different light; showing an understanding of what both sides were fighting for- their vision being not as cloudy, including Stevenson’s who comes to discover as a Protestant he is able to befriend Catholics such as those in  Our Lady of the Snows.  He is reminiscent of the time he spent at the monastery, Bryson is also reminiscent, as he writes of the divide between black and white, by using an anecdote to illustrate his point.
Throughout the Lost Continent Bryson uses many anecdotes, which are a large part of his narrative, to inform the reader of past experiences that have affected his views. As a boy Bryson saw a man, who had been shot in the head outside Griffith Stadium at a New York Yankees game, due to the colour of his skin. This leads him to think of black people who couldn’t eat in diners, ‘black people would place an order and then stand against the wall. When their food was ready, it would be handed to them in a paper bag and they would take it home or out to their car’. From these experiences Bryson discovered that ‘if you didn’t measure up in some critical way, people might shoot you in the head of make you take your food out to the car’.
Racism is an important issue, one which is handled by Bryson in a light hearted manner, which is very different to Stevenson’s serious tone. His humour and dislike of one of his childhood teacher’s spills through the page, as he writes ‘I imagined my fourth grade teacher, Miss Bietlebaum, who had hair on her upper lip and evil in her heart, lying on the floor beside her desk, stilled forever, while I stood over her with a smoking gun in my hand. It was an interesting concept. It made you think’.

There are many examples of archaic language in Travels with a Donkey, due to the time it was written- 1879. The language used was affected by the context; historical, social, ideological etc. An example of archaic language is ‘manse’ meaning church house, which currently isn’t said. Throughout the book archaic language is common; however diachronic variation isn’t as common because of the time it was written. Since the time of Stevenson, lexis has begun to develop creating double meanings. These double meanings are shown in The Lost Continent, which was written a century after Travels with a Donkey so contains less archaic language but more examples of diachronic variation such as ‘hustle’, which means to jostle or the slang word- to swindle someone out of something (usually money) by way of deception.
The syntax used by Stevenson is very old fashioned and at present unfamiliar to people. A seemingly joyful Stevenson writes ‘The landlord of the inn took me, after I had eaten...’, this is an unusual sentence, if written today it may have read ‘After I had eaten, the landlord of the inn took me..’
                 Both texts are seen to be of literary worth contributing to the development of travel writing. However Bryson and Stevenson’s writing may have been influenced by those authors whose texts are seen as canonical literature. The work of Charles Dickens (American Notes, 1842) and Jack Kerouac (On the Road, 1957) being examples of said literature.

Both authors effectively show their ideology through their writing.
Stevenson is Protestant so naturally sides with the Camisards, which is shown when he calls the religious war ‘the great persecution’. Persecution, in this context, means to treat a person cruelly on the basis of their religion. This suggests that Stevenson believes that Protestants were persecuted by Catholics, therefore showing a preconceived notion that Catholics were wrong and Protestants right.
However by the end of the extract Stevenson comes to discover, metaphorically, that his ideology has changed due to the company he has surrounded himself with on his journey. He ‘can see both sides adorned with human virtues’, as he realises that he is ‘accustomed to speak’ the language of the Protestants but could ‘hold converse and exchange some honest thoughts’ with Catholics such as Father Apollinaris. A reflective Stevenson states ‘In this world of imperfection we gladly welcome even partial intimacies. If we find but one to whom we can speak out of our heart freely, with whom we can walk in love and simplicity without dissimulation, we have no ground of quarrel with the world or God’, he’s expressing how, in a world full of imperfection, if we’re able to find people we can talk openly with about important aspects of life such as religion we shouldn’t take it for granted and ruin it by quarrelling.
This is extremely different to Bryon’s ideology who, as a young boy at the time, wants to understand the adult world, with racism being a big part of his lack of understanding. He cannot comprehend the extent of racism even when he discovers, literally, a man shot dead as a result of this. He confusingly says ‘I tried to understand the adult world and could not. I had always thought that once you grew up you could do anything you wanted... But now, on this one important evening of my life, I had discovered that if you didn’t measure up in some critical way, people might shoot you in the head...’
Both authors hint at the stupidity of racism and the religious divide through expressing their ideologies, however the extracts are different in the sense of the authors finding answers, Stevenson understands the reasons behind the war whereas Bryson does not understand racism.
Stevenson and Bryson have different idiolects, which are shown through the literary techniques they use for the outcomes they want to achieve; to lighten the mood or to create a momentous atmosphere.
         Stevenson uses detailed descriptions throughout Travels with a Donkey, specifically using lists shown in this extract- ‘they had all been sabreing and shooting, burning, pillaging and murdering’, this has a serious edge, as Stevenson is describing what the Catholics did to the Protestants and suggests they were all as bad as each other during the war, which is the pragmatics of the sentence. Stevenson writes in a formal tone, being very informative using words symbolising the time the book was written; ‘thus’, ‘hence’ and ‘hitherto’. His idiolect affects the meaning especially when writing about Catholics, as he details negative points about them, which shows his dislike.
This is different to Bryson who uses humour even whilst talking of worrying matters such as racism, - ‘...but which was of course the bloody that was draining out of the hole is his head’, this is a graphic image that gives the impression Bryson doesn’t take it seriously and wants to maintain a light hearted mood through his colloquial language shown especially through his descriptions and use of hyperbole.

Diachronic Variation/ context
Idiolect/ pragmatics