Reality Of A Dream (Roughing It) Essay, Research Paper
Reality of a Dream
In the book Roughing It by Mark Twain, Twain gives his account of the West he encountered on his journey across the U.S. Twain depicts many aspects of the west such as outlaws, Indians, Mormons, and miners. All of the mentioned were and still are stereotyped by people not possessing the entire truth. Because of this many of the people are misinformed on the truth of these different sections of the western culture. Twain writes about the miners in Nevada and California. All of the miners were looking for the quick dollar but, most found themselves deeper in the hole. Twain’s Roughing It as well as Vardis Fisher and Opal Holmes’s Gold Rushes and Mining Camps Of The Early American West both show how miner’s in the west were searching for the dream of making it rich and instead finding the harsh reality of chance.
To start the section on mining Twain writes of how he first hears of the fortunes being found. He tells of hearing the story the widow Brewster by saying, “The widow Brewster had struck it rich in the Golden Fleece and sold ten feet for $18,000 – she hadn’t money enough to buy a crape bonnet before.”(109). To this he replied, ” And so on – day in and day out the talk pelted our ears and the excitement waxed hotter around us.”(109). What the people were not realizing was the fact that these people finding prosperity were just a fraction of the miners who were not finding anything as Twain would later find out.
The problem of listening to these stories was further enhanced by the prospectors lack of knowledge of what they were about to do and that was mining itself. Twain himself showed his lack of reality when he said, ” I confess without shame, that I expected to find masses of silver lying all about the ground.”(115). He further showed his lack of knowledge when he brought back to camp a bag of what he thought to be gold. He was so proud of himself until the man he showed it to and asked what he thought of it replied, “I think nothing but a lot of granite rubbish and nasty glittering mica that isn’t worth ten cents an acre.”(117). Twain was showing how miners in general went out looking for the quick money but did not know exactly what that quick money was.
Not only does Twain show the lack of knowledge of the miners, Twain also depicts the miners looking for the fortune and working the land as if they know for sure their fortune is right where they are digging. Twain expressed this fact when he said, “I met men at every turn who owned from one thousand to thirty thousand feet in underdeveloped silver mines, every single foot of which they believed would shortly be worth from fifty to a thousand dollars- and as often as any they were men who had not twenty five dollars in the world.”(121). This depiction of miners has a direct resemblance to the gambling of yesterday and today in the casinos.
Gambling and mining are both ways people look for the quick dollar. People go to Vegas with the hope of winning big. More often than not a person in Las Vegas will lose rather than win. This is just like the mining in the old west, more often than not the miners would not find anything and the money they used (gambled with) to finance themselves was gone. The dreams sought out by the gamblers and miners are often realized by the actual chances of getting their fortune. They are faced with reality and are more often than not sent back to work for money that is guaranteed. Twain touched on this when he described what his partner, in their failed Wide West claim, Higbie did after they lost the claim. Twain said, ” after nine or ten years of buffeting and hard striving, he was at last in a position where he had twenty five hundred dollars, and said he meant to go into the fruit business in a modest way.”(163).
Many times when the miners or gamblers do find their quick money they get greedy. They get greedy and decide they can get more and end up squandering the money they have. The big lesson Twain found is that you can lose your fortune as fast as you can gain it. When Twain and his companions took the claim of the blind lead in the Wide West mine they talked of all the things they would do with the money they didn’t even have yet. Although they staked the claim the money wasn’t theirs unless they worked the claim within ten days. All they had to do was work the claim and they didn’t. Through their greed of finding their fortune they were blinded into a state of relaxation. Because of their relaxation they lost the millions they had just at their finger tips.
Like Twain the authors of Gold Rushes and Mining Camps of the Early American West agreed many of the miners were going into mining without the proper knowledge of what they were doing. Holmes and Fisher show how many of the stories the prospectors heard were hoaxes or just stories conjured up by a bored newspaper reporter. Holmes and Fisher also agree with Twain in the respect that the dream of the quick dollar and the greed that accompanied the dream blinded many of the miners.
With respect to the fallacies that got many of the miners going, Holmes and Fisher tell a story of two men who staked a claim in the middle of a pasture. The two men said the claim had been assayed at two thousand dollars to the ton. After a rancher read the claim hanging on a sign he told his neighbors and they told their neighbors and so it went until the largest stampede in mining history occurred. People came from all over, leaving their jobs and town and heading for the claim called Diamond Field. Then a man named Bob Womack came to the scene and couldn’t figure out why there was gold in this area. Bob was very knowledgeable in the gold business since he was the first to discover of gold in the Cripple Creek area. He knew you couldn’t find gold in a place were there was no sign of an ancient river bed. Womack decided to get some rock assayed for himself. He got it analyzed at Colorado College and found that it had almost no gold in it at all. The college said the whole area was probably the same. All this time the stampede was going the two men who staked the claim sat and watched as all the greedy people invaded the area just because they said the land was rich with gold.
This shows how greed and the dream of making it rich blinded the peoples reasoning. If the people would have been clear of mind they would have asked questions and then asked more questions before embarking on such an involved venture. Holmes and Fisher summed up the reason for the fiasco when they said, ” in every man’s mind was the thought of being late and not getting a claim and in every women’s mind was the hope their fumbling and ineffectual husband would strike it rich.”(431).
The story of the Diamond Field Gold Rush by Holmes and Fischer correlates to how Twain saw and depicts mining in Roughing It . Therefore, I think Twain representation of the miner looking for the quick buck and finding reality is accurate. It is accurate not only because a historical book shows the same thing but also because people can see the same characteristics of mining today in the gambling of today’s society in places like LasVegas.