Mark Twain Essay
?America: the land of the free and the home of the brave. When people think of America, they either think of fat Whites eating McDonalds or Yanks who love to invade other countries for oil. What people rarely think of when thinking of America, is the great writers that the country has produced. Throughout this year, I have read many great works written by many American writers. Over the course of America’s history, the nation has produced many great novelists. From Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution era, to F.
Scott Fitzgerald during the Roaring Twenties, many great American writers have written wonderful books and poems. When people from other countries think of great writers, they only think about Shakespeare or Homer, who aren’t even American writers. They rarely think about Henry David Thoreau or Ernest Hemmingway because they aren’t well known in foreign countries. These writers are famously known in America but one common question that people ask is, “Which American author is the greatest?
”In my opinion, out of all the American writers, Mark Twain is the greatest and most influential author because of his humor and wonderful novels. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, nearly thirty years before he took the name Mark Twain, in Florida, Missouri. It is located some 130 miles north-west of St. Louis, and 30 miles away from the Mississippi River. His father, John Marshal Clemens, was from Virginia and was a failed country farmer and lawyer. His mother, Jane Clemens, met his father in Missouri and married him in 1823.
His parents had seven children but only Twain, who was the sixth child, and three other siblings survived childhood. His surviving siblings were Orion, Henry, and Pamela Clemens. When Twain was four, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River that inspired the town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Missouri was still a slave state at the time which caused Twain to become familiar with the institution of slavery. He later explored this theme in his writings.
As a child, “Young Twain reveled in life along the Mississippi, a river busy with steamboat activity and he often traveled in makeshift rafts or cavorted in various swimming holes” (“Mark Twain Biography” par 4). When Twain was eleven years old, his father died and Twain was forced to cease formal schooling and had to help support his family. He came to work for a newspaper called the “Hannibal Journal,” a newspaper owned by his brother Orion. With no formal education like many other Americans at the time, he got his education in print shops and newspapers.
When he turned eighteen, he left Hannibal for New York and worked as a printer. Twain eventually left New York in order to travel to New Orleans down the Mississippi in a steamboat piloted by Horace E. Bixby, who inspired Twain to become a steamboat captain himself. After being rewarded with his steamboat pilot license, Twain received his pen name, Mark Twain, from “mark twain,” meaning the river is measured at two fathoms. While Twain was training for his pilot’s license, his younger brother, Henry was killed when the steamboat he was working on exploded.
Twain, having foreseen this in a dream one month earlier, joined the “Society for Psychical Research. ” Twain continued working on the Mississippi until 1861 when the American Civil War broke out and river was curtailed or blocked off in order to separate the Confederate States in half. At the start of the war, Twain volunteered briefly in a Confederate local unit before the company was disbanded by Twain and his friends two weeks after joining. In 1861, Twain joined Orion and together, the two brothers traveled west across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, visiting a Mormon community in Salt Lake City.
Their journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada where Twain became an unsuccessful miner. He eventually worked at the “Territorial Enterprise,” a newspaper in Virginia City. His experiences here gave him material for his 1965 novel, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. ” Twain then moved to San Francisco, California in 1864 where he was still a journalist and met writers such as Bret Harte and Artemus Ward. His first success was his tall tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” which brought him national attention.
In 1867, Twain toured Europe and the Middle East where he met his future brother-in-law, Charles Langdon. Langdon showed Twain a picture of his sister, Olivia Langdon, in whom Twain immediately claimed to have “fallen in love at first sight”. Twain eventually married Olivia in Elmira, New York. She came from a “wealth but liberal family,” and through her he met abolitionists, socialists, and activists for women’s rights such as Frederick Douglas and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The couple moved to Buffalo, New York where they had four children; Langdon, Susy, Clara, and Jean.
Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut in 1973 where he eventually wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). Throughout the later years of Twain’s life, he passed through a period of deep depression largely based on the Death of his daughter Susy in 1896 of meningitis, Olivia’s death in 1904, and Jean’s death on December 24, 1909. In 1909, Twain was quoted saying, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.
It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together” (Mark Twain Biography par 17). Twains prediction was strangely accurate, he died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding Connecticut, one day after Haley’s comet made its closest approach to Earth. Twain is buried in his wife’s family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. Mark Twain’s historical background influenced his perspective by making him have a negative view on society slavery.
Twain grew up during America’s period of slavery and he witnessed first-hand how cruel people could be to minorities and how little Whites cared for them. An example of this is when Huck says Now I struck an idea, and fetched it out: “It warn’t the grounding –that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinderhead. ” “Good gracious! anybody hurt? ” “No’m. Killed a nigger” (Twain 315). These few lines of dialogue say all there is to say about how blacks are viewed at that time by the Whites: that they are “nobody”, less than human, with lives that are of little or no value to anyone.
Twain also felt that the difference between the rich and the poor is unfair because the rich only think about themselves leaving the poor to live their own miserable lives. During Twain’s time, America was practically owned by a hand few of men such as John D. Rockefeller and George Pullman, both wealthy business men who made their money off of cheating their workers by giving them low pay. All the people cared about was making money no matter how they make it. For example, Huck’s father said in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, “I’ve been in town two days, and O hain’t heard nothing but about you bein’ rich.
I heard about it away down the river, too. That’s why I come. You git me that money-tomorrow-I want it,”(Twain 333). Pap is only interested in Huck’s money and was willing to beat Huck, his own son, for the money until he passes out. Once Pap gets the money, he just uses it to go buy alcohol. In these lines, Twain is satirizing how the rich are willing to take money from the poor then use the money on useless possessions. Major social issues of Twain’s time were the issue of slavery and gap between the lower class and the higher class.
Twain believed that the Whites were foolish for thinking themselves better then every other race, “There are many humorous things in this world, among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages” (Mark Twain Biography par 73). This quote provides good historical context in that it shows us how Twain feels about Whites being racist to minorities. He witnessed racism first-hand while growing up in the south. The Whites view other races as savages when in reality, the Whites are the true savages for enslaving a race of people just because they have a different skin color.
Mark Twain’s works makes him a realist and a regionalist. Regionalism is when an author implements words and ideas into their work in order to make it sound like the region of the country the story takes place. Realism is when an author writes about life as it currently is. Most of Twain’s works take place in the south and he gives his characters dialogue to match the region in which they came. This is shown when Huck says, “How is servants treated in England? Do they treat ’em better ‘n we treat our niggers? No! A servant ain’t nobody there.
They treat them worse than dogs,”(Twain 345). In these lines, we see Twain using dialogue to show how southerners talk during the time showing his regionalism. These lines are also realist in that they talk about social issues during the time which in this case is slavery and the serf system in England. Mark Twain wrote many great works when he was alive. From the tall tale of the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County to the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain has managed to capture the attention of readers across the country with his amazing works.
Out of all of the novels that Twain has written, I would say that there are three that have made the largest impact in America. The first important text that Mark Twain wrote is The Prince and the Pauper. In this work, Twain attempts to inform us about the differences between the upper class and the lower class. The main conflict of the story is about Tom Canty and Prince Edward IV switching roles so that Tom is the prince and the Prince becomes Tom who lives in poverty and their attempts of switching back to their normal lives.
The book takes place in England and main plot is about two identical boys , one a prince and one a pauper, switching lives so they can see how the other lives. A few complications are when the real prince gets kicked out of the castle, Tom suddenly becoming King after the previous king dies when Prince Edward was supposed to be king, Prince Edward trying to get back to the castle, Tom’s abusive father beating Tom and Edward, Edward getting arrested, and The Great Seal of England goes missing. The climax of the story is when everybody finds out that Tom is really a pauper and that Edward is the true King.
The story resolves with Tom becoming the official ward of the new king of England, King Edward and getting to live in the castle. The most important quote of the novel is said when Edward discovers how bad his citizens live, “When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books; for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved . . . “(Twain 154). Edward says these lines because he wants to help out his citizens after discovering how poorly they live. In these lines, Twain is satirizing the wide gap between the rich and the poor in the U.
S. Most rich people in the U. S. at the time had no idea that the people living in poverty had terrible living conditions. Twain is also saying that instead of the government just giving us shelter and food, it should also give us education. This text is an important work of Twain’s because it shows the wide gap between the rich and the poor. It is a realist work of literature because it talks about social issues of the time. This text is still relevant today in that there is still a wide gap between the rich and the poor in the U. S.
and that the government doesn’t do enough for education because of all the budget cuts and laying off of teachers. The next important text by Mark Twain is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In this novel, Twain attempts to entertain us about a boy’s life during the early 1800’s. He also informs us about racism towards Indians during this time. The book is about the childhood adventures of Tom Sawyer. The book takes place the fictional town of St. Louis and the main conflict is Tom trying to find treasure Injun Joe hid while avoiding Joe at the same time.
A few complications are when Tom and Becky are lost in the cave, Huck was running from Injun Joe, and Tom trying to avoid Joe in the caves. The climax of the story is when Tom discovers that Injun Joe was in the cave with Tom and Becky while they were lost. The story resolves with Tom and Becky being found, Tom and Huck finding Injun Joe’s treasure, and Injun Joe discovered dead. This text is an important work of Twain’s because it is known as one of the greatest American novels alongside The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This book lead to Huck Finn being written because of its success.
The novel is a regionalist work of literature because it uses dialogue from Mississippi. This book shows racism towards Indians when Twain rights, ”[They] confessed that they had had almost as satisfactory a time at the funeral as they could have had at the hanging” (Twain 294). In these lines, we see Twain satirizing how a bunch of white people from around the county went see the funeral of an Indian that was a murderer and they treated it like it was a show. This reveals how truly racist the White were if they were willing to travel far to treat the funeral of an Indian as entertainment.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is still relevant today because of the fact that the social issues, such as racism towards minorities, that Twain wrote about still exist today. The book is also still relevant today because people talk about it being the prequel to the greatest American novel of all time: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The last important text by Mark Twain is no doubt The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it is considered the greatest American novel written and the most controversial American novel because of the time it uses the word “nigger.
” In this novel, Twain is trying to inform us about racism during the early 1800s. The book is about Huckleberry Finn and Jim, an escaped slave, trying to escape from the people who try and own them. The book takes place in Mississippi and the main conflict is Huck trying to help Jim escape slavery. A few complications are when the Duke and the King tag along with Huck and Finn, Huck’s dad trying to take Huck’s money, Huck and Jim getting separated, and Jim getting recaptured with Huck trying to save him.
The climax of the story is when Huck pretends he is Tom Sawyer, and Tom pretends that he is Sid Sawyer, Tom’s brother. The story resolves with Jim getting his freedom and Huck being finally free from his father after learning that Pap is dead. This text is an important work of Twain’s because it is widely considered to be the greatest American novel ever written. It correctly explains the main social issue of that time and keeps a reader reading until the very end. The most important quote of this book is when Huck decides not to write a letter to Jim’s owners explaining where Jim is and says, “All right then, I’ll go to hell (Twain 2410).
Huck says these lines when Jim gets captured and he has to contemplate whether to tell his owner or help Jim and go to hell. Huck decides to rip and the letter and help Jim even if it means going to Hell. He knows that he is going against the teachings of the church, the teachings of his elders, basically going against the full of society that he has been immersed in. The statement is heartfelt, as Huck sees his betrayal to hold serious consequences. This quote also reflects Twain’s belief in that you should help other people no matter the consequences.
This book is still relevant today because the social issues brought up in this book are still around today. Mark Twain is still relevant today in many ways. There are schools, parks, and streets named after him. Recently, there was an article saying that the city of Elmira will put up signs explaining about Twains life. The article says,” A project is under way in Elmira to place signs at three sites to provide historical background and explain their significance in the life of Mark Twain. ” In these lines, we still see that Mark Twain is still important today even 100 years after his death.
These signs will tell the new generation of people who Mark Twain is and hopefully get them interested enough about him in order to read his novels. I think that Mark Twain is the greatest American writer because of the books that he wrote and the time period that he wrote them. He lived during the time of slavery and wrote his books based on denouncing slavery and racism. The most important thing I learned about Mark Twain is that he was one of the few non-racist Whites in America during that time.
He was willing to help minorities which is something most people didn’t do, “To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble” (Mark Twain Biography par 16). This quote gives us the message that we should help other people in order to truly be a good person. Mark Twain lived by this rule and wrote his books based on it. The main reason why I think Twain is still important today is that he was the father of American literature. His two greatest books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, are considered by many as the greatest American novels ever written.
His books can relate to people who read them because they can find similarities between themselves and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The main reason why I think that Mark Twain is the greatest American writer is because his works are about satirizing the common belief at the time that the White man is better than the Black man and any other minorities. His works reflect his belief that minorities should be treated equally. In order for one to be great, one must have the will to help others that aren’t as fortunate as them and treat them the way you want yourself to be treated.
Works Cited Finger, Ray. Signs Will Tell Mark Twain’s Story in Elmira. The Star Gazette. 7 May 2013 Web. 1 June 2013 http://www. stargazette. com/apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=/20130507/NEWS01/305070051/1113/ Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. New York: New American Library. 1961 Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: New American Library. 1979 Twain, Mark. The Prince and the Pauper. New York: New American Library 1979 Mark Twain Biography. The New York Times. Web. 6 June 2013 http://people. brandeis. edu/~teuber/twainbio. html
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