Sophie Hannah

Postcard from a Travel Snob by Sophie Hannah

A third analysis: Postcard from a Travel Snob is an amusing poem that is told from the perspective of somebody who seemingly looks down on other travellers from their native country (Great Britain). It is humorous because of just how “stuck up” the narrator comes across, showing not a single ounce of reservation and just tearing into the people who enjoy the package holidays that the narrator has a disdain for. The poem doesn’t contain a lot of imagery and there aren’t any clever analogies on display. But it does use rhyme and enjambment lines to great effect making the poem an entertaining and enjoyable read. Under the surface though this poem could be seen to be about the class divide. It could be construed as an extreme reflection and commentary on how the upper classes view their lower counterparts.

 

Form and Tone

The poem  is separated into four separate stanzas each of four lines. There is a consistent rhyming pattern (ABAB) which give the poem a playful, almost childlike feel. In terms of the tone it acts as a scathing attack on British tourists. Though the narrator may have a point with some of comments they do come across as quite rude and judgmental and this is perhaps unsurprising given the tile of the poem.

 

Postcard from a Travel Snob Analysis

First stanza

The first line of the poem, which can be read in full here, is a reference to the way that most tourists start their postcards. To be fair the sentiment behind that line is often a little false. The narrator subverts it though instead of wishing that their friends were there with them they seem to take delight in their own solitude. This straight away gives the narrative voice a kind of “bitchy” attitude that will be prevalent throughout the poem. The snobbery of the narrator is evident as they state that where they are isn’t a normal tourist haunt. The tone suggests that they look down on such vacation spots as they “perish the thought” of being in such a location. Are they suggesting that they are above such holidays? It would certainly appear so! The language gives a clue to the writers nationality. “Perish the thought” is a very British phrase and referring to pints of beer being consumed whilst on holiday certainly points to a stereotypical British holiday maker. The type of holidays that the narrator seems to be referencing would be club 18-30 type trips which are often associated with drunken tomfoolery.

 

Second stanza

The first line of this second stanza points to the narrator as being an unreliable source. They claim that the area they are staying in is unspoiled, but how is it then that they happen to be on holiday there? After this first line they begin a diatribe against what they see as “lower class” holidays. Their words are cutting and cruel and poke fun particularly at seaside resorts. The use of the word seaside is once again a British colloquialism. The narrator comes across as condescending and elitist before talking up their own experience. They clearly think they are being very different and unique by staying in an old farmers van. However this makes them come across as all the more pretentious. The narrative voice reminds me of an uncultured college student who isn’t very worldly but thinks that they are! (I’m sure you know the type!) They clearly think their own way of holidaying is superior to everyone else’s proclaiming it as “great” Isn’t this a case of personal choice though? Some people like to have “creature comforts” whilst on holiday. People from different walks of life enjoy different things, only this narrator chooses to place their idea of vacationing on pedestal and criticise other people’s ideas of a relaxing time.

 

Third stanza

The enjambment line is cleverly used here giving the impression that nobody speaks before leaving a pause is a quirky touch. As it happens this entire stanza is one long sentence which gives it a rant like quality. What is interesting is the narrator looking down their nose at people who speak English despite it being their own language. They then feel the need to almost justify that. It’s almost as if there is an insinuation that being English is negative and speaking the language is a sin. Hannah uses alliteration cleverly in this section which gives the stanza a lovely ebb-and-flow. (sun and sangria, Package and philistine) it really feel like the narrator has a massive superiority complex but also it doesn’t seem to really be deserved. I almost think that the narrator uses the word philistine just to show off their vocabulary.

 

Fourth stanza

It’s hard not to laugh at the opening line of this stanza as the narrator once again comments in a way that seems to heap praise on themselves. They are trying to impress upon the reader their superiority. You’d have thought that being so worldly and apparently well-travelled that they would have learned to respect people and use manners! This theme continues into the next line as the narrator claims that being multi-cultural effects the type of friends a person has. It is clearly that they are not really talking about being culturally diverse but really talking about a class divide. It is interesting how alcohol is yet again mentioned. This is bought up in the first and third stanza. It would seem then that the narrator has a bit of a preoccupation with booze. Surely it doesn’t matter if it is beer or wine that is being consumed the end results are ultimately the same.

The penultimate line makes a comment once again reiterating how the narrator isn’t a typical tourist but suggests that they are doing a typically tourist-like activity and it is proceeded by a line stating that they are in fact an anthropologist. This is really interesting as somebody who studied anthropology would understand class divides and really shouldn’t be looking down their nose at people as they would have a higher comprehension about how society works and understand the social reasons behind poverty and being at the lower end of the class system and understand how often a person’s position in life is dictated as much by their environment as it is their own choices.

 

About Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is a British poet and novelist. She was born in Manchester. She followed in her mother Adele Geras’ footsteps as she was also an author. Her first poetry collection was released when she was 24 and was entitled “The hero and the girl next door” she has since gone on to produce a further eight poetry collections as well as a slew of novels. She has had some of her novels produced for TV as well adding to her reputation in the literary community.

To read the first or second analysis, please click ‘Previous’ or page 1/2.

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Elise has been analysing poetry as part of the Poem Analysis team for neary 2 years, continually providing a great insight and understanding into poetry from the past and present.
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