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Elizabeth Bisland's Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman | Review

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Journalism
Wordcount: 881 words Published: 4th Nov 2020

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Matthew Goodman, in his essay Elizabeth Bisland's Race Around the World gave an account of Elizabeth Bisland’s journey (race) around the world and her life in general. Bisland is a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan Magazine competing with Nellie Bly, another young female reported from Joseph Pulitzer’s World Newspaper. On November 14, 1898, the two reporters left New York City, but in opposite directions in a race to break the Jules Vern’s fictional record of circling the globe in not more than 66 days. Bisland’s story in the race and its aftermath is the heart of a groundbreaking adventure novel, but Goodman significantly deviated from the thrills of the race in his flat narrative characterized by an out of context title.

Common Expectations of the Piece

In the essay, Goodman does not brings out Bisland’s life as she makes her journey around the world, as the reader would have expected based on the essay’s title. The element of competition or race is missing, as the author focuses on narrating Bisland’s life rather than the race, which would be the reader’s common expectation. For example, the author narrates how Bisland was an established poet, and how in the trip (rather than the race) she wrote on her experiences in impressionist, and lyrical, as she paid special attention to the changing terrain of sea and land ( par 7). As the readers go through the essay they would expect to find what Bisland did in an attempt to win the race around the world as, but this does not come until towards the end of the essay where the author makes a summary by noting: “Bisland hurtled by train and ferry through France, England, Wales, and Ireland to catch the steamship that was her last chance to beat Bly” (par 10).

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The readers would also expect the author to give a reflection of Bisland’s journey after that race including how the race affected her career as a journalist. However, the author drifts to giving Bisland’s account of her travel to Britain and how she collaborated with other authors to write a book that had nothing to do with the race. It would also be a common expectation for the author to elaborate on how the race affected The Cosmopolitan Magazine, as the main sponsor of the race, but the author is silent in this area. 

The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Work

Goodman did an excellent job of bringing out Bisland’s passion for journalism while filling the background with exotic Victorian attitudes, as she makes her journey around the world. The author tactically and indirectly explored the history of women in journalism, particularly, in the remarkable adventure, thus introducing the readers to a fearless woman that could cover politics and social issues in a time that was hostile to women involvement in public roles. Consequently, Goodman played an instrumental role in tracing the development of the role of women in journalism as well as their inclusion in normal day-to-day activities and equal rights. Goodman was able to express the social gender problem in America, which still reflects on how people feel today. For instance, it is evident in the essay that Bisland was aware of her beauty, but knew that women had no power in society (par. 6). 

The essay particularly the title sets the reader to an interesting description of a journey around the world, but fails to narrate on the ambition that led to the escapade; therefore, the author’s failure to set the purpose of the essay is the main weakness. Goodman concludes by stating that Bisland should be remembered for her social contribution and her rejection of celebrity status thereafter (par 19). However, the reason behind the author’s stand on Bisland's need for remembrance is lacking because many other artists can fall into her category; therefore, a better explanation is needed.

Author Use of Language

While the actual purpose of the essay is lacking from the authors’ perspective; however, by the end of the essay, it can be deduced that the author’s purpose was an exploration of Bisland’s life while setting the story as an inspiration to the reader. To achieve the purpose of uplifting Bisland’s personal on how the readers can connect with her, the author incorporated loaded terms in asserting the point. For instance, the description of Bisland uses words like beautiful, creative, elegant, and charming (par. 3). Such a description creates a liking towards the character in a way the readers can look up to; a connection with a source of inspiration to the readers.


Although the title of the essay is misleading, Goodman goes beyond the readers’ expectation in the way the essay serves as a purpose. Mathew Goodman was able to tale Elizbeth's legacy while presenting her in a way that the readers can connect with her work. Although the connection may not have been the initial intention, the created purpose was well executed. 

Work Cited

  • “Elizabeth Bisland's Race Around the World.” The Public Domain Review, 29 Feb. 2020, https://publicdomainreview.org/essay/elizabeth-bislands-race-around-the-world


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