The Unfortunate Traveler

The Unfortunate Traveler

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Introduction to The Unfortunate Traveler

“The Unfortunate Traveler” by Thomas Nash is a picaresque novel published in 1594. It is a tale of the adventures of Jack Wilton, a soldier of fortune, and a rogue set against the backdrop of the European wars of the sixteenth century. The novel is notable for its vivid and realistic descriptions of the horrors of war and its psychological insight into the mind of its anti-hero. In this book review, we will analyze the novel’s plot, themes, and writing style.

Plot of The Unfortunate Traveler

The novel “The Unfortunate Traveler” is divide into eight chapters, each describing a different episode in Jack Wilton’s life. The story begins with Jack Wilton’s childhood in a small English town, where he becomes an apprentice to a grocer. Dissatisfied with his mundane life, Jack runs away to London, where he becomes a servant to a wealthy gentleman. He is then sent to France, where he becomes a soldier and participates in the siege of Rouen.

Jack’s adventures take him to various parts of Europe, including Italy, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. He becomes embroiled in various wars and political intrigues, and his fortunes rise and fall with the changing political climate. Throughout his travels, Jack remains a cunning and resourceful character, always looking for opportunities to advance his own interests.

The novel ends with Jack’s return to England, where he is eventually capture and execute for his crimes. The final chapter is a poignant reflection on Jack’s life and his legacy.


The novel “The Unfortunate Traveler” explores several themes, including the nature of war, the corruption of power, and the morality of individual actions. One of the novel’s central themes is the destructive nature of war. Nash provides vivid descriptions of the horrors of battle, including the brutal killing of innocent civilians, the destruction of cities, and the devastation of the natural environment.

Another theme is the corrupting influence of power. Jack Wilton is a character who is constantly seeking power and influence, and he is willing to betray his friends and allies to achieve his goals. Nash shows how power can corrupt even the most virtuous individuals and turn them into ruthless and amoral agents.

Finally, the novel “The Unfortunate Traveler” explores the morality of individual actions. Jack Wilton is a complex character who is neither wholly good nor evil. He is capable of both great kindness and great cruelty, and his actions are often motivate by self-interest. Nash challenges the reader to question the moral implications of Jack’s actions and to consider the consequences of individual choices.

Writing Style

Nash’s writing style is lively and engaging, full of colorful descriptions and vivid imagery. He has a keen eye for detail, and his descriptions of the natural world and the human psyche are both insightful and evocative. The novel is written in a first-person narrative, which allows the reader to experience Jack’s adventures through his own eyes.

Nash’s prose is characterize by its wit and humor. He frequently employs puns, allusions, and wordplay, and his use of language is both inventive and entertaining. The novel is also notable for its use of vernacular English, which adds to its realism and authenticity.


One of the novel’s strengths is its psychological insight into the mind of its anti-hero. Nash portrays Jack Wilton as a complex and multifaceted character, capable of both great heroism and great villainy. He shows how Jack’s experiences shape his personality and how his actions are motivate by his desires and ambitions.


“The Unfortunate Traveller” is a fascinating and thought-provoking novel that explores themes that are still relevant today. Nash’s lively prose style and vivid descriptions make the novel an engaging and entertaining read, while its complex characters and moral dilemmas challenge the reader to think deeply.