Mark Twain Essay, Research Paper
Russell 1 Jami Russell Mr. Saylor English 3 HN 18 November 1999 Mark Twain had an extreme love for the Mississippi River. His dreams were of becoming a steamboat pilot. Twain inspired others as they looked to him with great knowledge. He wanted to come home in glory as a pilot more than anything. Events in Mark Twain?s life come out in his writings and they are displayed in Life on the Mississippi. Mark Twain was the first American that appeared west of the Mississippi River. He was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835. Twain lived along the Mississippi River in the town of Hannibal until the age of eighteen. After his father?s death in 1847, Twain became an apprentice at two Hannibal printers. Most of Twain?s childhood is displayed throughout his work. He recalled his past in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (De Veto 51). Twain?s career began when he was only eleven years old. He worked by editing copies. In 1861 Clemens served briefly as a volunteer soldier in the Confederate cavalry. Later that year he accompanied his brother to the newly created Nevada Territory, where he tried his hand at silver mining. After moving to San Francisco, California, in 1864, Twain met American writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him in his work. Later he found a job as a reporter at Territorial Interprise (52). Mark Twain had a life full of writing and full of dreaming. Twain had always dreamed of becoming a steamboat captain and he knew that one day he would accomplish that goal. He viewed the sight of the mighty Mississippi River as steamboats passed with all aspects of humanity. Twain?s dream of becoming a pilot never faded, although many other dreams did. Twain had a passion for the steamboats on the Russell 2 Mississippi River. A pilot was an important and popular way of living. Others thought that it was the best road to take for a career. Mark Twain was determined to become a steamboat pilot, and he would not return home until he had achieved this. He day-dreamed as a child and an adolescent about being a great pilot. Horace Bixby gave Samuel Clemens the name Mark Twain because it meant a depth of twelve feet. Twain wanted to navigate the Mississippi River. He paid Horace Bixby five hundred dollars to teach him how to achieve this (Bloom 155). Not only did Mark Twain have the ability to make others laugh, but he expressed his thoughts about life and his traumatizing realizations of the past through humor in his works. Twain?s style of humor has traveled throughout the world over the years. His broad but subtle humor was tremendously popular (165). Life on the Mississippi is more than just a book about life on the river. It is also reflections on Twain?s life. This book is a true experience of Mark Twain?s traumatizing childhood. It was also a book that was referred to as his "steamboat book." Life on the Mississippi combines an autobiographical account of Twain?s experiences as a river pilot with a visit to the Mississippi nearly two decades after he left it. The whole town got excited when a steamboat was coming down the river. The Mississippi River is seen as the genius Loci of Mark Twain?s imagination. Twain was also a realist when writing his novels. Others became jealous of Twain and his accomplishments (De Veto 52). Not only his dreams but also his fears of the past were a part of this book. In other works of Twain, there was confusion about the audience that would and should be attracted to it. Some of his books were humerous for children but also serious issues for adults. While writing the books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain was not sure if these were children?s books or those for adults. In these writings Twain stated that this was a new way of writing because the literary language was based on the slang of the American society. It took years of writing for the Russell 3 completion of these books and they were thought of as masterpieces that could not be outdone by any other works. The book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck?s adventures provide the reader with a view of American life along the Mississippi River before the Civil War. Twain?s skill in capturing the rhythms of that life help make the book one of the masterpieces of American literature (Clemens 2). Roughing It presents accounts of his less respectable past. Some have thought this book is the results of Twain marrying a wife that wanted him to live a more respectable life than he had before. His distinctly bitter The Tragedy of Pudd?nhead Wilson underscored the change in his attitude, although he continued to put forth the effort that was expected of him from others. Both of these books are a contrast of Twain?s attitude in Life on the Mississippi. He unwisely wisely invested a great deal of money in printing and publishing ventures. In 1893, he found himself deep in debt. He wearily lectured his way around different parts of the world while making people laugh at any cost. He recorded all of his experiences. His life was shadowed by the deaths of his two daughters and the long illness and death in 1904 of his wife. Whatever the reason may have been, he totally abandoned his idealistic tone of Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. Instead he wrote The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, What Is Man?, and The Mysterious Stranger. The obvious contradiction between the professional humorist and the declared hatred toward mankind has intrigued commentators. The quarrels about influences upon him and reflections of American intellect in his writings seem sometimes to have blurred his ultimate importance as an artist and as American (4). Although Twain?s popularity was constant, his life was full of financial and professional disappointment. His life was full of these disappointments because of his personal tragedies through out his life in the past. After years of success in his writings, Twain became bankrupt because of the panic of 1893. As Twain grew older, he became a bitter man. Life on the Mississippi turned Mark twain?s thoughts to his Russell 4 past and to recollections before the war. He was much happier when reflecting back on his younger days of his adventures as a pilot on a steamboat (Twain 67).His best work is characterized by broad, often irreverent humor or social satire. Twain?s writing is also known for realism of place and language, memorable characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression. Twain’s work during the 1890s and the 1900s is marked by growing pessimism and bitterness. Significant works of this period are Pudd’nhead Wilson , a novel set in the South before the Civil War that criticizes racism by focusing on mistaken racial identities and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, a sentimental biography. The Mysterious Stranger, was an uncompleted piece that was published posthumously in 1916. Twain’s work was inspired by the unconventional West, and the popularity of his work marked the end of the domination of American literature by New England writers. He is justly renowned as a humorist but was not always appreciated by the writers of his time as anything more than that (65). Successive generations of writers, however, recognized the role that Twain played in creating a truly American literature. He portrayed uniquely American subjects in a productive language. His success in creating this plain but productive language precipitated the end of American reverence for British and European culture and for the more formal language associated with those traditions. His adherence to American themes, settings, and language set him apart from many other novelists of the day and had a powerful effect on such later American writers as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, both of whom pointed to Twain as an inspiration for their own writing. In Twain’s later years he wrote less, but he became a celebrity, frequently speaking out on public issues. He also came to be known for the white linen suit he always wore when making public appearances. Twain received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1907. When he died he left an uncompleted autobiography, which was eventually edited by his secretary, Albert Bigelow Paine, and published in 1924. In 1990 the first half of a handwritten manuscript of Huckleberry Finn was discovered in Hollywood, California. After a series of legal battles over ownership, the portion, which included previously unpublished material, was reunited with its second Russell 5 half (Geismai 35). Mark Twain?s extreme love and passion for the Mississippi River and the magnificent steamboats that plied through its waters are displayed throughout all of his writings. Life on the Mississippi is a book that is not only an expression of Twain?s past but also of life in times of destruction.
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