Samuel Clemens Works Essay Research Paper

Samuel Clemens Works Essay, Research Paper "Heaven and Hell and sunset and rainbows and the aurora all fused into on divine harmony . . . " It is by the goodness of God that in out country we

Samuel Clemens Works Essay, Research Paper

"Heaven and Hell and sunset and rainbows and the aurora all fused into on

divine harmony . . . " It is by the goodness of God that in out country we

have those three unspeakable precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of

conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them. Samuel Clemens’

profound response to beauty was immediately and untrammeled-the beauty of

nature, for which no special training is necessary for appreciation. The quote

above supports the idea that Samuel Clemens was a literary artist, possibly

America’s greatest. Yet, he was definitely not just a writer. He wrote many

novels that became American classics. Many of Clemens’ greatest works were based

on his own personal experiences as a young man on the Mississippi River, and

through theses writing he established a place for himself in the classics of

American literature. To this day, Samuel Langhorne Clemens is, without a doubt,

America’s most picturesque literary figure. Perhaps a part of his appeal to the

mass imagination lies in the fact that he himself became the embodiment of

literature throughout his and the rest of time. The mastery of his literary

oeuvres has surpassed the conventional cascade of literature since the 1800’s.

Samuel Clemens will be, forevermore, the epitome of the literary world.

Throughout his life, Samuel Clemens maintained an engaging and infectiously

boyish enthusiasm that led his wife to nickname him "Youth." Unlike

most men, Samuel Clemens never did renounce his boyhood; he carried with him

into maturity miraculously preserved and vibrant memories of his early and

middle adolescence, and it was through these memories that he filtered his adult

experience. At the age of fifty-five, he wrote to an unknown correspondent:

"And yet I can’t go away from the boyhood period and write novels because

capital is not sufficient by itself and I lack the other essential: interest in

handling the men and experiences of later times," (Bellamy, Mark Twain as a

Literary Artist, 16). On this circumstance, he founded an enviable fame and

fortune and an enduring artistic achievement. (Bellamy, 17) Although the

splendid moment of his fame is still prolonged and extends immeasurably far into

the future, that fame was only a small part of his power. There was something

about him that moves people who knew nothing of his renown, who did not even

know who he was. Samuel Clemens’ personality was of a sort that compelled those

about him so strongly that wherever he went, he seemed a being from another

planet, a visitant from some remote star. Biography Born in Florida, Missouri,

on November 30, 1835, "Little Sam" was "a wild-headed, impetuous

child of sudden ecstasies," who was constantly running away in the

direction of the river and, as he later wrote, was "drowned nine times in

Bear Creek and was suspected of being a cat in disguise"; a vividly

imaginative child, who loved the companionship of the good-natured slave and

visited the Negro quarters beyond the orchard as a place of ineffable

enchantment; a child whose sympathy included all inanimate things; a child who

"pitied the dead leaf and the murmuring dried weed of

November"(Bellamy, 4-7). In many, if not all, of his novels, short stories,

and other works, Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ personal life experiences reflect

heavily on his writing plots. Stories such as The Notorious Jumping From of

Calaveras County, Roughing It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Life on the

Mississippi, AConnecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Adventures of

Huckleberry Finnhave all been closely related to some of the adventurous,

dangerous, and childish experiences in Clemens’ own life. As a young man, he

developed a troublesome cussedness that distinguished his as a child from his

elder and younger brother, Orion and Henry. His mischievousness led to a series

of escapades: several times nearly drowning, purposefully contracting measles,

smoking, rolling rocks down a hill before church-bound carriages, and running

away from home. Clemens and his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a port on

the Mississippi River, when Samuel was four years old. There, he received a

pubic school education. After the death of his father in 1847, Clemens was

apprenticed to two Hannibal printers, and in 1851 he began setting type for and

contributing sketches to his brother Orion’s Hannibal Journal. He contributed

reports, poems, and humorous sketches to the Journal for several years. (Baldanza,

Mark Twain, Intro. & Interpretation, 2) In 1857, at 22 years old, Clemens

made plans to travel to South America, and in April of that year, he started

down the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. In a change of plans, instead of

traveling to South America, he persuaded a riverboat pilot named Horace Bixby to

teach him the skills of piloting. With a burning determination for adventure, by

April of that year, Samuel had become a licensed riverboat pilot. But, the

beginning of the Civil War abruptly closed commercial traffic of the Mississippi

River. After serving for two weeks with a Confederate volunteer company, Clemens

decided not to become involved in the war. With this decision, he travels west

to Carson City, Nevada, with his brother Orion. Later, "Roughing It"

humorously described his unsuccessful attempts at prospecting for gold and

silver during this time and his eventual conclusions that he must support

himself by newspaper journalism (Bellamy, 19-21). He joined the staff of the

Virginia City, Nev., Territorial Enterprise in the summer of 1862 and in 1863,

he began signing his articles with the pseudonym Mark Twain, a Mississippi River

phrase meaning "two fathoms deep." (Encarta 97, Mark Twain) After

gaining national recognition for the creation of The CelebratedJumping Frog of

Calaveras County, Twain was lecturing in New York City as well as traveling to

Europe and the Holy Land. In his return, in 1870, his married to the love of his

life, Olivia Langdon. In contribution of his happiness Twain characterizes love

and marriage in a simple statement: Love seems the swiftest, but it is the

slowest of all growths. In August of 1870, Jervis Langdon dies of cancer, only

three months prior to the birth of his new brother, Langdon. Soon after Langdon

was born, the Clemens family moves to Hartford, Connecticut. Through the next

ten years, many births and deaths occur within the Clemens family. In June of

1874, Clara Clemens, a second daughter, is born to Samuel and Olivia. And, in

July of 1880, Jean Clemens is born – Twain’s fourth and last child. After the

publishing of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Twain’s mother, Jane,

dies at the age of ninety. Shortly after, The Clemens family closes their house

in Hartford and moves to Europe hoping to economize, in which they live for the

next nine years. But, alone in England in August of 1896, Twain learns that his

daughter Susy had died of meningitis in Hartford. After he is able to pay off

his debts in full, he returns to the States at the turn of the century. Just

four years later, his wife, Olivia died of heart disease. And in the winter of

1910, Twain’s health begins to fall rapidly and dies of angina pectoris on April

21. Analysis A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Twain prefaced A

Connecticut Yankee with "A Word of Explanation" designed to account

for the tale that he has yet to unfold. He tells us that, while touring Warwick

Castle, he met a "curious stranger" who later gave to him a manuscript

"yellow with age." The reader learns that the stranger’s name is Hank

Morgan, and the forty-four chapters that follow are presented as if they came

directly from the manuscript he left with Twain. The superintendent of a great

arms factory in nineteenth-century Connecticut, Hank is hit over the head with a

crowbar during a quarrel with one of the men under him. When he comes to, he

finds himself transported back to sixth-century England, on the outskirts of

Camelot. At first he thinks that he has stumbled into a lunatic asylum, but it

gradually dawns on him that he may indeed have been magically transported into

the past. He quickly determines upon a course of action, telling the reader,

"if it was still the nineteenth century and I was among lunatics and

couldn’t get away, I would presently boss that asylum or know the reason why;

and if on the other hand it was really the sixth-century… I would boss the

whole country inside of three months; for I judged I would have the start of the

best-educated man in the kingdom by a matter of thirteen hundred years and

upwards." Captured by one of the knights of the Round Table, Morgan is

condemned as a "man-devouring ogre" and sentenced to be burned at the

stake. But thanks to an "encyclopedic knowledge" (uncharacteristic of

factory foremen), Hank recalls that an eclipse of the sun is close at hand. He

proclaims himself a magician and announces that he will blot out the sun

forevermore if he is harmed. Just as he is being chained to the stake, the

eclipse conveniently begins, and the court is duly terrified. The king entreats

Morgan to restore the sun, and Hank agrees on condition that the king appoint

him "perpetual minister and executive" entitled to "one percent

of such actual increases of revenue over and above its present amount" that

he expects to create for the state. The king agrees to these terms; the eclipse

comes to a timely end, and Morgan becomes "The Boss"- second in power

only to King Arthur. Determined to "civilized" Camelot by introducing

modern industrial technology, Morgan establishes various factories in the

countryside, allowing no one near them except by special permit. He fears the

power of the Church and believes that he may be overthrown if he brings about

change too quickly: "The people could not have stood it; and moreover I

should have had the Established Roman Catholic Church on my back in a

minute." For the next four years, he prepares "the nuclei of future

vast factories, the iron and steel missionaries of my future civilization,"

but he does so in secret, consolidating his position as a great magician.

Because he finds it politically expedient to seem as if he shares the values of

the people around him, Morgan eventually is forced to leave the court on a

knightly quest. He travels into the country with the Demoiselle Alisande la

Carteloise- whom he promptly nicknames "Sandy"- in order to liberate

forty-five "princesses" held captive in "a castle" by

"three ogres." Safely back in Camelot, Hank decides that the time has

now come to impose upon Britain the technology he had been nurturing over the

years. He determines "to destroy knight-errantry or be its victim"-

which hardly seems generous of him, since he now owes his life to the fidelity

of te same knights he has vowed to destroy. He enters a tournament and shoots

his knightly foe dead with a revolver. He thereupon dares "the chivalry of

England to come against him- not by individual, but in mass!" Hundreds of

knights promptly accept this challenge, but they break ranks and flee after Hank

quickly shoots nine more men dead. Since this is many centuries before firearms

were known in Europe, it looks as if Hank has triumphed through black magic.

Believing that he has "broke the back of knight-errantry," Hank

exposes his hidden schools and factories to public view, establish railroads and

telephones, sets steamboats running on the Thames, and converts the Round Table

into a stock board. For three full years, medieval England seems to flourish,

thanks to the benefits of modern technology. By this time in the novel, Hank and

Sandy have married and produced a daughter. When the child falls ill, doctors

urge that she be taken to the French coast to recover. And while Hanks is

abroad, his new civilization crumbles. A civil war erupts, and the Church

imposes a banishment order. Upon his return to England, Hank finds that all of

England is marching against him- all but fifty-two boys, who were the product of

his special schools, and his chief lieutenant Clarence. Hank leads this small

band to a fortified cave. Protected by an electrified fence and armed with

torpedoes and machine guns, Hank prepares to fight. When the enemy approaches,

he throws a switch and electrifies some eleven thousand men. His machine guns

"vomit death" into the ranks of those who make it past the fence, and

within minutes, "armed resistance was totally annihilated, the campaign was

ended… Twenty-five thousand men lay dead around us." After the battle is

over, Hank leaves his fortress in order to aid his wounded. As he bends over a

crippled knight, he is stabbed by the man he sought to help. His comrades bring

him back to the cave, where they soon realize that they are trapped. They can

defend themselves only from their cave, and it is surrounded by the putrefying

flesh of twenty-five thousand corpses. Gradually, they all fall ill. Then Merlin

makes his way into the cave, where he casts a spell over Hank Morgan so that he

will sleep for thirteen centuries, enabling Hank to meek Mark Twain in late

nineteenth- century England. Critiques Robert Keith Miller Our reading of this

tale is to a large extent dependent upon how we feel about Hank Morgan. Is he

"a good and trustworthy narrator… who usually carries the burden of

authorial attitudes," or is he the imaginary forerunner of a modern fascist

dictator, leading his people to genocide from the confines of a sixth-century

fuehrer-bunker? One of the best descriptions of Hank Morgan is that which he

himself provides: I am an American. I was born and reared in Hartford, in the

State of Connecticut-anyway, just over the river, in the country. So I am a

Yankee of the Yankees- and practical; yes, and nearly barren of sentiment, I

suppose- or poetry, in other words, My father was a blacksmith, my uncle was a

horse doctor, and I was both, along at first. Then I went over to the great arms

factory and earned my real trade; learned to make everthing; guns, revolvers,

cannons, boilers, engines, all sorts of labor-saving machinery. Why I could make

anything a body wanted- anything in the world… Set within an idyllic

countryside, Hank sees no value in anything about him. The land about him is

undeveloped; it would appeal to him only if filled with the signs of industry

and commerce. Here is a man who can gaze upon the fruited plain and envision an

asphalt parking lot. (Robert Keith Miller, Mark Twain, 115) Hank’s inability to

appreciate beauty is revealed even more clearly when, after establishing himself

as the second most powerful man in Britain, he finds himself installed in

"the choicest suite of apartments in the castle, after the king’s."

Like a tourist who goes dismayed that Camelot is so little like East Hartford.

He compares a tapestry to a bed quilt and complains that the walls are decorated

only with silken hangings, whereas back home "you couldn’t go into a room

but you would find an insurance chromo, or at least a three-color God-Bless-Our

Home over the door; and in the parlor we had nine." When he first

approaches Camelot, Morgan observes that the men "look like animals,"

and he later decides that they are "white Indians." He scorns the

occasional condescends to see the people as "a childlike and innocent

lot," he cannot take them seriously. Because their culture is completely

unlike his own, because it is so "un-American," it therefore follows

that the country is not civilized. Hank tells us: I saw that I was just another

Robinson Crusoe cast away on an uninhabited island, with no society but some

more or less tame animals, and if I wanted to make life bearable I must do as he

did- invent, contrive, create, reorganize things; set brain and hand to work,

and keep them busy. (Miller, 120) In short, Hank is incapable of understanding

vales that are alien to his own; a supreme egotist, he set out to remake the

world in his own image. As a nineteenth-century entrepreneur, Morgan is the

representative within the novel of a seemingly more advanced society. But it

soon becomes clear that Hank values nothing so much as making money, and his

schemes for doing so reveals a distinctly unattractive side of his character.

Hank’s language consistently reveals his true values. His is the diction of the

marketplace. He tells us, for example, that "It is no use to throw away a

good thing merely because the market isn’t ripe yet." After he has

destroyed Merlin’s Tower, he declares that "the account was square, the

books balanced." When another of his schemes fails to work out, he tells us

that he "sold it short." He mocks the knights because they all

"took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then," observing: There were

worlds of reputation in it, but no money, Why, they actually wanted me to put

in! Well, I should smile.(Miller, 122) After all, Hank is much too

"practical" to waste time on anything that is not financially

remunerative. It should not come then in any surprise that Hank wishes he could

remake man without a conscience because conscience "cannot be said to

pay." Ironically, when Hank is enslaved, he criticizes his master for

having a heart "solely for business." Hank is completely unaware that

the slave master is only a cruder version of himself; both see men in terms of

their commercial value, and neither is apt to allow sentiment to interfere with

business. That Twain himself saw a parallel between slave masters and financiers

is establishes by an illustration in the first edition of A Connecticut Yankee,

an illustration that Twain singled out for praise: The slave master was given

the features of Jay Gould, the great robber baron. And it is worth nothing, at

this point, that Hank is tied by his name to a capitalist of dubious reputation,

the great American banker, J.P. Morgan. (Miller, 122) In short, Hank Morgan

never learns. He arrives in Camelot with all the prejudices of a

nineteenth-century provincial. He encounters a civilization that is radically

different from his own- a civilization that is, without question, far from

perfect. But his understanding f that civilization never grows in either depth

or complexity. He is, in Twain’s own words, "a perfect ignoramus," and

his opinions cannot be accepted at face value. It would be a mistake, however,

to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court as a satire at Hank’s sole

expense. Twain satirizes modern industrial society through Hank, whose faith in

advertising and cost effectiveness is naive to say at least. But Twain is no

simple romantic. Throughout the nineteenth century, many writers glorified the

Middle Ages, finding withing the distant past a soothing contrast to the dark

Satanic mills they saw before them. From Sir Walter Scott- who , as we know,

Twain absolutely loathed- on a Carlyle, Ruskin, and the Pre-Raphaelites, the

Gothic Revival in architecture, and a resurgence in Arthurian scholarship that

continues to this day, post-industrial man has been fascinated by the Age of

Chivalry and Faith. But A Connecticut Yankee is not a part of this tradition

(Miller, 133). Hank’s condemnation of Camelot is excessive, and through it we

discover many of his limitations. On the other hand, it must also be

acknowledged that Twain was not trying to idealize the past. Therefore, A

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court should not be read as an attack upon

the Middle Ages per se, any more than as a satire of modern American values. It

is, as Twain himself reminded us, a contrast. The contrast between the medieval

and the modern is comic in so far as it is grotesque- neither the past nor the

present is any more ideal than human nature itself. If humor seems eventually to

disappear toward the end of the novel, it is because the apocalyptic conclusion

denies us the possibility of hope. Presented with a vision of history in which

corruption seems to triumph, a vision in which the present is but a logical

extension of the past, we are ultimately left scorched by Twain’s anger at the

perpetual stupidity of men. As Hank Morgan observes, almost certainly speaking

for Twain: "I reckon we are all fools. Born so, no doubt." (Miller,


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