Though there were similar thoughts and reactions to certain aspects of what they witnessed, the exact reasons why Dickens and Tocqueville both were disillusioned with America and became so critical of its society differ in ways which were favorable to each writer's nationality and particular social upbringing.
Dickens traveled to America already well versed in the available travel literature that had been produced both to help reforms at home as well as in America as each social structure was examined and compared. Prior to his departure, Dickens had high expectations for the new country as a source of information regarding how best to fix the social ills in England at that time. Prior to his first visit to America, Dickens was active in the suffrage movement as well as the anti-slavery movement, but that he had changed his mind, at least somewhat, by the time he returned home (Dickens, Charles. American notes. 1842). In many ways, this change of heart has been linked to the type of treatment Dickens experienced while visiting and touring the prescribed route between historical or picturesque vistas and places of social reform such as schools and jails.
Dickens' unhappiness in America arose, in part, from the enthusiastic reception he received from America's public. This is a case of too much of a good thing creating something unspeakably bad. During his tour, he wrote to Thomas Mitton, "I am so exhausted with the life I am obliged to lead here If I go out in a carriage, the crowd surround it and escort me home. If I go to the Theatre, the whole house (crowded to the roof) rises as one man, and the timbers ring again. You cannot imagine what it is" (Grass, 2000). No matter where he went, Dickens was to experience the invasiveness of constant surveillance, while he slept and no matter what he did, as well as constant requests for the most personal items - locks of hair, pieces of clothing, knick knacks left behind, etc. That he recognized the damaging psychological ramifications of this type of constant surveillance can be found in his writings regarding his tours of the American prisons. Although they do not focus on this effect on the psyche of the prisoner, Dickens unmistakably writes from an informed position regarding some of what these men must endure during their years under the watchful eye of the guards (Claybaugh, 2006). The torment of the situation was not lost on him as he found it agreeable to recommend constant surveillance through such structures as the Panopticon model for Britain's new prisons. Meanwhile he criticized the relatively light treatment of prisoners who were permitted to perform useful work during their daytime hours. An examination of his writings regarding the prisons are helpful in discerning Dickens' psychological experience of America's practices.
One of his strongest criticisms regarding the American prisons had little to do with the psychological effects of constant surveillance and instead focused on the effects of constant isolation from the company of others and the dehumanizing effect this had on them. This dehumanized individual undergoes his change from prisoner at admitting to cowed subhuman after the course of several years precisely because his horrors to go to prison have haunted him through the years. Despite the changes this necessarily brings about in the