Satire Essay, Research Paper
In Mark Twain’s two major works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and it’s sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he develops and displays his humoristic abilities by concealing within them deeper meanings, ultimately producing a satire of the region in which he lived. Examined within this paper are the methods which Twain uses to conceal his satire within the above two novels. The majority of his points are made using humor, but he also takes advantage of the use of southwestern dialect and Huck Finn’s childlike innocence. Much of the content of the two novels involve the region in which Twain lived as well as certain places or events in his lifetime. The aspects of his past that lead to his writing style as well as his life on the Mississippi is discussed as far as is relevant to support the thesis. The information gathered to research the satirical aspect of Twain’s writing is primarily in the form of books. Several books as well as one critical essay were referenced and included in the Bibliography in order to write the research paper. The research revealed his novels were deeply influenced by Twain’s past. His nature causes him to write in the manner he does. In his past, people tried to stifle his creative mind, and as a result his works are have their most important meanings hidden below the surface. This tendency is almost instinctive. In conclusion, this entire paper may violate Twain’s notice in The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn, in that it attempts to find a motive, a moral, and a plot in the narrative; and itmay lead its author to be subject to prosecution, banishment, and/or shooting. However, thenovel is perhaps the best of it’s kind, and even in it’s warning it suggests a deeper meaning to theentire book. But like the warning, if one reads the book and accepts it at face value, they willmiss out on Twain’s intentions. iiTable of contentsQuote……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….ivIntroduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………1Historical Background…………………………………………………………………………………………….2The Adventures of tom sawyer……………………………………………………………………………..5the adventures of huckleberry Finn……………………………………………………………………….8conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..13endnotes…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….14bibliography………………………………………………………………………………………………………15iii”There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind – the humorous…” — Mark TwainivintroductionIn Mark Twain’s two major works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and it’s sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he develops and displays his humoristic abilities by concealing within them deeper meanings, ultimately producing a satire of the region in which he lived. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was written in 1876 and it’s sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written in 1884. The time difference between the two novels is significant. Within the eight year span, Twain’s feelings changed, and his gift for satire became more acute. The observable increase in the deeper meanings of the second novel show evidence to this fact. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is more commonly considered a book for younger readers, as opposed to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is considered one of the greatest novels in history because it conceals so well Twain’s opinions within what is seemingly child’s book. It was Time and it’s partner Age that led Twain to change his views, and these views were expressed through his characters. Huck Finn said, for example: “All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change.”It was Twain’s nature to write about where he lived, and his nature to criticize it if he felt it necessary. When the public made this task difficult, he was forced to develop different means of concealment for his satires, his main one being humor. That is one reason why Twain is widely regarded as one of the most entertaining authors of all time, he appeals to many different types of people, of all ages and backgrounds. historical backgroundDue to his regionalistic tendencies, it is necessary to describe Mark Twain’s background. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835. At the age of four he moved to a town called Hannibal, a Mississippi river port that was to become a large influence on his future writing. 1 In perhaps his greatest novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sections dealing with Huck and his father are most probably connected to this time in Clemens’ life. He and his father Marshall were never very close, and never exchanged more than a handshake before going to bed. Twain later remembers how his father left his brother Orion behind when the family moved from Florida to Hannibal. Twain could imagine the “grisly deep silence” that must have fallen upon his brother. 2His induction into the writing business came in 1851 when he started helping out working for his brother’s Hannibal Journal. Granted this job did not entail much freelance writing, but it may have helped set the roots for his career. He worked at multiple other jobs in other states doing the same types of things, until he became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. This job was interrupted by the Civil War, where he served briefly in the Confederate Cavalry. 3In 1862, he moved to Nevada where he became a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise. One year later, Samuel Clemens adopted the pseudonym “Mark Twain,” a phrase he’d picked up on the Mississippi riverboat meaning “two fathoms deep” (thus barely safe for navigation). In Nevada, Twain noted how common murders were in Virginia City, and how they were worth hardly more than one or two lines in the newspaper, it was in part this violence that eventually caused him to move out of Nevada. It is also this environment affected by the California Gold Rush of 1849 which affected Twain’s creativity:The creative mind is the most sensitive mind, the most highly individualized, the most complicated in its range of desires: consequently, in circumstances where individuality cannot register itself, it undergoes the most general and the most painful repression. The more imaginative a man was, the more he would naturally have felt himself restrained and chafed by such a life as that of the gold-seekers. 4While still situated in this restricting environment, Twain continued his writings in the newspaper and soon became very popular. The way he accomplished this popularity, was by relieving his frustrations by concealing them beneath seemingly innocuous jokes. It was in this manner that he had vented his hatred for pioneer life, while at the same time becoming immensely popular with the locals. As one man put it “Men laughed when they could no longer swear.” 5 Twain’s articles criticizing his violent surroundings had titles such as Killing of Julius Caesar “Localized,” and Cannibalism in the Cars. These sorts of articles were of course only tall tales, but they were told so vividly that other newspapers sometimes reported them as true. The miners of the town could only tolerate his criticism of their lives to a point, and it was at this point that Twain decided to move to San Francisco and escape the possibility of he being the next victim of violent crime. 6His San Francisco life was much less glorious. He immediately started doing what had served him well in the past – muckraking articles faulting local society. He wrote several severe articles dealing with institutions and officials, yet somehow only one of them found its way into the newspaper. This caused Twain to lose interest, and he began writing as a correspondent for his old Nevada paper. In this position he was now allowed to write articles as fierce as he’d always wanted to, yet not offend the readers because he was criticizing another area. It is understandable that the people of San Francisco were not happy to hear someone living there was writing such articles about them. The fact that the newspaper publishing these articles was one in the rival community of Nevada just made matters worse. 7His impulse, his desire, we see, was not that of the “humorist,” it was that of the satirist; but whether in Nevada or in California, he was prohibited, on pain of social extinction, from expressing himself directly regarding the life around him. Satire, in short, had become for him almost as impossible as murder: he was obliged to remain a humorist. 8In 1864, Mark Twain met two writers who encouraged Twain to continue his work: Artemus Ward and Bret Harte. These two authors were a big influence on Twain, and hints of Artemus Ward’s writing style can be found in Twain’s work. One of the more noticable incidents of this is in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where it ends: “Yours truly, Huck Finn” as opposed to one of Ward’s more famous closings: “Yours trooly, A. Ward.” Twain’s first major success came in 1865, when he rewrote a story that he’d heard in the California gold fields. Within months “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Caleveras County” had become popular nationwide. 9His career started to take off. In 1869 he wrote The Innocents Abroad about his travels to Europe detailing aspects of Old World culture, and criticizing tourists who learned what they should see and feel by reading guidebooks. He was married in 1870, and in 1872 we wrote Roughing It, a story about his life as a miner and a journalist. It was four years later that he wrote one of his more famous works The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. 10the adventures of tom sawyerIt has been observed that the setting of the novel as well as the title character may represent Hannibal, Mississippi and Mark Twain himself. Nearly all of Twain’s works dealt with an aspect of his region and the society in which he lived, and in this respect The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is no different. The persona that Twain decided to partake in was that of a boy in paradise. This paradise was aptly named St. Petersburg (St. Peters-burg). There is one aspect of the novel that some (including possibly Twain himself) consider a mistake: that aspect is the point of view from which the story was written, the third person. In the past, Twain had gained much success from using the first-person narrative, and it may be pointed out that in the sequel to this novel he corrected this mistake. 11Within the novel, the plotline involves a child living in two realities – the reality of the town and his family, and the reality of his imagination. The majority of the action of the novel involves Tom striving to escape from the former reality to the latter. He despises church “with his whole heart” and continually tries to escape and rebel against civilian life. In the paradise of St. Petersburg it is possible for him to run away and then return. Tom Sawyer never actually runs away for good, it is merely his imagination that he runs to. It is like he can leave whenever he wants, but he can be back so that Aunt Polly can make him dinner. Mark Twain said himself that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is “simply a hymn, put into prose form to give it worldly air.” The story relates to Twain’s past, yet it only seems like it is preparing the reader for what is to come. Twain’s remarkable use of the southwestern dialect is only hinted to the reader at this point, for Twain had planned more to come. In a letter he wrote, he stated that in the book he had resisted “the strong temptation to put Huck’s life at the widow’s into detail…” 13Despite the anticipation of what’s to come, the novel at hand possesses some interesting points in itself. After having played Robin Hood in the woods with Joe Harper, Tom walks home “grieving that there were no outlaws anymore, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss.” This disappointment surely contradicts Twain’s childhood, during which he was often in awe of the violence around him. It also helps in reinforcing the concept of paradise in St. Petersburg, a paradise that is not disrupted until the introduction of a character known as “Injun Joe.”Injun Joe is the antagonist who appears in the climax of the novel. The setting at this time ties in with Twain’s childhood – limestone caves. A doctor in Hannibal (Dr. McDowell) was rumored to be a body-snatcher, much like the character of Dr. Robinson in the novel. He had stored arms in caves, as well as the corpse of his fourteen-year-old daughter. It was this sort of local mystery surrounding caves that may have prompted Twain to include them in the story. It’s very interesting to note that the cave in the story where Injun Joe buried gold and guns was named McDougal’s cave (bearing a close resemblance to the name Dr. McDowell.) 14Constantly in the novel, Tom has flirted with two things: death, and Becky Thatcher. It is at this climax that the two flirtations come together the farther they proceed into the cave. 15 The cave is the only area in the story that Tom ever goes to that is beyond the limits of the paradise from which he came, and when he returns from the cave he is from that point on a changed person, and will be much less serious about running away then he ever was before.
It is at this point where Twain shows evidence of his changing opinions towards life. It is Huck who complains about “cussed smothery houses” and Tom who tries to get Huck to move in with the Widow Douglas and become respectable. 16 Twain’s persona is starting to shift, and he hints at this when Huck said that he has eaten meals with “a mighty good nigger,” named uncle Jake. Huck then adds: “But you needn’t tell that, a body’s got to do things when he’s awfully hungry he wouldn’t want to do as a steady thing.” When he begins The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn it will have shifted, and by writing in the first person he will be able to more easily undertone the story with his own personal views, and return to the more natural writing style that had served him so well in the past. the adventures of huckleberry FinnOne of Twain’s main purposes for writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was to express his changing attitude towards society. There are several fundamental differences between the two novels, aside from the perspective of the narrator. In Tom Sawyer the main action was in his escaping between the novel’s two realities. In Huck Finn the action takes place not only in reality, but in Huck’s mind, and his perception of each event that takes place and each person he encounters. 17 The reader can understand the naive objectivity through which Huck sees life.Another major difference is that which tells us about Twain’s change in view towards society. Tom Sawyer was a boy in paradise; he could escape reality and then return with little price to pay. Huck Finn, on the other hand, is a boy who seeks liberation from a life far from paradise. His father is taken to beating him, and escape is necessary for his survival. Huck’s views show that he has completely abandoned formal society, while Tom is still able to remain in it. This new persona for Twain allows us to see his dwindling hope for civilization, and hints at a more cynical view of mankind. Found in a letter written by Twain were these words that strongly add to the theory:Isn’t human nature the most consummate sham and lie that was ever invented? Isn’t man a creature to be ashamed of in pretty much all his aspects? Is he really fit for anything but to be stood up on a street corner as a convenience for dogs? 18This overall theme is directly shown in the later parts of the novel, when Huck Finn views Jim’s sorrow and compassion for his deaf-and-dumb daughter in comparison to the spectacle of the King and the Duke talking on their hands, “It was enough, to make a body ashamed of the human race.” In the first chapter of the novel, Twain gives us the first direct example of communicating his feelings through Huck Finn:After supper, [the Widow Douglas] got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him, because I don’t take no stock in dead people. As Twain grew older and his views changed concerning his surroundings, they also changed concerning the past. In another letter written by Twain, he had this to say:As to the past, there is but one good thing about it, & that is, that it is the past — we don’t have to see it again. There is nothing in it worth pickling for present or future use. Each day that is added to the past is but an old boot added to a pile of rubbish — I have no tears for my pile, no respect, no reverence, no pleasure in taking a rag-picker’s hook and exploring it. 19Twain expresses his feelings in the above paragraph by using the “…I don’t take no stock in dead people” line in the novel. In this way he can fashion a child’s narrative to convey his views of the past. This is one example of the process Twain will continue to use in this novel to conceal satirical meanings within humorous lines. By using the child’s point of view, Twain gains an enormous amount of literary freedom, as compared to the days when he worked in Nevada. It is considered that Huck is the one Twain hero who is not shut out from the pageantry of life by his fear of being taken in by it. Even though Huck recognizes the dangers of life on the Mississippi, he can still stop and appreciate the little things just as a little boy would. 20 In the scene just after Huck escaped Pap’s cabin, he still takes the time to notice (even as he’s running away) that,The river looked miles and miles across. The moon was so bright I could a counted the drift logs that went a-slipping along, black and still, hundreds of yards out from shore. Everything was dead quiet, and it looked late, and smelt late. You know what I mean — I don’t know the words to put it in. Many of the points Twain portrays are relatively obvious when taken out of context. Often times in the novel, he introduces things within the stream of the novel and the reader sometimes misses them. 21 There is an example of this concealment is combined with a bit of humor in describing Huck’s escape:So I slid out and slipped off up the road, and there warn’t anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warn’t any lock on the door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in the summer-time because it’s cool. If you notice, most folks don’t go to church only when they’ve got to; but a hog is different. Some of Huck’s most memorable lines were in reference to Pap. Like the example above, Twain uses humor and innocence to depict a generalization of society:Pap always said, take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you don’t want him yourself you can easy find somebody that does, and a good deed ain’t never forgot. I never see Pap when he didn’t want the chicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway. These types of paragraphs are used for three things simultaneously: to add a note of satire, to add to the storyline, and to continue to emphasize the child’s point of view. These three things will eventually grow to a climax, when Huck later will debate the single most important problem in the novel. Another of Twain’s means of concealment also helps contribute to the aesthetics of the novel, and that is his use of southwestern dialect. For the sake of realism, the majority of the story’s dialogue is written in a language that is meant to be read phonetically, and it expresses the accent of the speaker. Jim talks in such a manner, and in one instance he criticizes King Solomon’s decision to settle the parenthood problem by spitting the child in two:De ’spute warn’t ’bout half a chile, de ’spute was ’bout a whole chile; en de man dat think he kin settle a ’spute ’bout a whole chile wid a half a chile doan’ know enough to come in out’n de rain. Many people laugh at the stupidity of Jim, yet the biblical reference gives it a more serious tone. Mark Twain was very fond of this chapter, and enjoyed reading it aloud in public lectures. 22When Jim and Huck come across the Duke and the King, strong tendencies of regionalism become evident. The two frauds, as pathetic as they might be show us exactly how Twain wanted us to see the people of the region. When the Duke decided to advertise The Royal Nonesuch with the phrase “Ladies and Children Not Admitted,” Twain was taking a shot at the “flatheads” of Arkansas. 23Perhaps the most prominent and renowned satire of this book is on the topic of slavery. In the early nineteenth century as it were, Jim was still not considered a free man. Despite Huck Finn’s resistance to being civilized and becoming a part of society, to each boy of the time period it was common sense that blacks were not equal to whites. Continuously the novel disputes this points, often through Huck’s eyes and with his voice. With the same childlike awe that was used to describe the scene of the river in the moonlight, Huck Finn examines a deeper issue. In conclusion, Huck decides that he’ll “got to Hell with Jim,” but in one section Twain’s exceptional talent shines through as Huck mentally debates the ethics of sneaking Jim to freedom:Jim said it made him all over trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom. Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he was most free — and who was to blame for it? Why, me. I couldn’t get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn’t rest; I couldn’t stay still in one place. It hadn’t ever come home to me before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I warn’t to blame, because I didn’t run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn’t no use, conscience up and says, every time, “But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody.” That was so — I couldn’t get around that noway. That was where it pinched. Conscience says to me, “What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigg!er go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor woman do to you that you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knowed how. That’s what she done.”I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead. This section may epitomize the entire point of the novel. In vivid detail Twain describes the psychological battle that this fourteen-year-old boy was having with himself. It is his transition of values. When Huck ran away, he separated his body from society. When he formally declares that he will go to Hell with Jim, he separates his mind from society. After reading the novel to this point, Twain has allowed the reader to see the mind of a child, and when that child comes to a decision regarding equality that a better part of the adults of the time period couldn’t come to, the satire becomes that much more powerful. In Huck’s final decision, there is a slight resemblance to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in that Huck has accepted Jim as his father figure just as Eva accepted Uncle Tom as hers. Little Eva and Uncle Tom talk about a reunion in Heaven, and Huck Finn talks about going to Hell. In both instances the black adult and the white child are united against society, and in both cases it is the longing of the author that caused this to happen. 24conclusionIn conclusion, evidence points to the fact that time had a hand in changing Twain’s writing style. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was more direct and had less depth than did it’s sequel. The novel took place in the same setting as his childhood, and many places in the novel related to his life, but The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn blended the regionalist in him with the satirist in him to develop an interesting and well written novel. In order to blend those two sides, he chose humor as his medium. As Twain himself once put it:The very things [humor] preaches about, and which are novelties when it preaches about them, can cease to be novelties and become commonplaces in thirty years. Then that sermon can thenceforth interest no one.I have always preached. That is the reason I have lasted thirty years. If the humor came on its own accord and uninvited, I have allowed it a place in my sermon, but I was not writing the sermon for the sake of the humor. I should have written the sermon just the same, whether any humor applied for admission or not. 25This statement emphasizes Twain’s purpose was not to write as a humorist, but rather to teach his readers a lesson; to preach to them. He allowed the humor a place in his sermon because he felt it contributed to it, and his mind worked in such a way that he could conceal his sermon with the humor. As he grew older and wiser, it was this trait that was honed and strengthened. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the predecessor of his true masterpiece, it was getting the audience ready for what was to come. Each important section of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is like a tract from a sermon. Through the mask of a child and disguised in his language Twain preaches his sermon. It is how well he accomplished the disguise that makes him stand out from other authors, and what makes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn an all-time classic. endnotesMicrosoft Encarta. Computer Software. Microsoft Corp. 1993. ASTKenneth S. Lynn, Mark Twain and Southwestern Humor, (Boston, 1959) 210Microsoft EncartaVan Wyck Brooks, “Mark Twain’s Humor” from The Ordeal of Mark Twain, (1920) 16. Henry Nash Smith, Mark Twain, a collection of critical essaysAlbert B. Paine, Mark Twain: A Biography, (New York: 1912)Brooks, 20. Brooks, 20. Brooks, 20. Microsoft Encarta. Microsoft Encarta.Lynn, 188. Lynn, 188. Lynn, 191. Lynn, 193. Lynn, 195. Lynn, 196. David E. Sloane, Mark Twain as a Literary Comedian (LSU 1979) 132. Lynn, 202. Lynn, 199. Lynn, 221. Sloane, 131. Lynn, 214. Sloane, 134. Lynn, 241. Mark Twain in Eruptions, 202-203BibliographyMicrosoft Encarta. Computer Software. Microsoft Corp. 1993. AST. Lynn, Kenneth S. Mark Twain and Southwestern Humor, (Boston, 1959). Brooks, Van Wyck. “Mark Twain’s Humor” from The Ordeal of Mark Twain, (1920). Smith, Henry Nash . Mark Twain, a collection of critical essays. Paine, Albert B. Mark Twain: A Biography, (New York: 1912). Sloane, David E. Mark Twain as a Literary Comedian, (LSU 1979).