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Mark Twain Critical Essays

Mark Twain American Literature Analysis

❶While I have not completed reading collection, but from the first, I was reminded clearly why I love Mark Twain's works.

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Yet that revelation gives the book a credibility which helps to keep it from becoming a tedious listing of constant complaint. It often breaks out into first-class description, particularly if Twain is moved by a scene, but its main line is that of slippery comic comment upon the discomfort of travel.

The Holy Land, in particular, fires the greatest enthusiasm in Twain and some of the most pungent complaint, caused in part by the difficulties of travel in the barren landscape. The Christian history of that area is most interesting to Twain and his fellow travelers, but Twain, who usually maintains a pose of amused indifference, is enraged by the commercialization of the biblical sites. From early in the tour there is a line of anticlerical comment which can become sharply splenetic, particularly if the Roman Catholic Church is involved.

He could be sharply disdainful of how his fellows flashed their money, their fractured French, and, particularly, their hammers, chipping away at any monument, however sacred, that might come under their hands. Much of this is funny, and that was expected of Twain, but it can involve a strong satiric bite; Twain can be irascible.

He is often very good at showing what the foreign landscape looks like, but what really interests him is how human beings live and what the political, social, and physical implications are of the long histories of great civilizations, now less powerful and somewhat tattered and torn. Most to the point, he is fascinated by how people respond to tourists, how the experience seems to bring out the worst in both parties.

He plays fair here, revealing that if the natives are often on the cheat, the Americans, acting thoughtlessly and sometimes stupidly, just as often deserved to be fleeced.

Its simplicity, lack of psychological density, and single-minded celebration of the joys of childhood are the reasons for its attraction and the affection with which it is remembered by adults who have not read it for years and never intend to read it again. It is the American dream of ideal childhood written with unmitigated joy. Much of its success lies with Tom, a child of lively curiosity with a mildly anarchic personality and an imagination fueled by reading and often misreading everything from fairy tales to the classics.

He is also a boy capable of disarming affection. His relationship with Aunt Polly, swinging as it does between angry frustration and tears of loving joy, is one of the memorable child-adult confrontations in literature. For all of his strutting imitations of maleness, he has no inhibitions in his courting of Becky Thatcher.

Twain has a rather crude way with feelings, but in Tom he found a character who acts out his emotions with a comic bravado that often saves the book from falling into sentimental excess. The Tom Sawyer confidence tricks are part of the folklore of American life. The famous fence-painting game has developed a life of its own that goes beyond the novel.

Beyond the individual incidents of comic chicanery, however, the novel has a strength which is often not noticed because it is carried on with such ease: It has a complicated plot that comes seemingly out of nowhere and increases in dramatic energy from its inception until the very end.

Terrified by possessing a secret which they do not want, they vow to keep quiet, even after Muff Potter, a stupid, drunken companion of Injun Joe, is accused of the murder.

The tale becomes complicated further as Tom and his friends return to their own funeral and Tom manages to get away with his nonsense, but the murder still hangs fire.

At this stage in his career, Twain was most interested in telling the tale and in turning the simplicities of universal childhood play-acting into a tale of intrigue and heroism. Everything that happens is probable if unlikely to happen.

More to the point, Tom is not a morally perfect character. He is hardly the ideal child: He does, eventually, do the right thing, however, even in the face of the fact that he is still terrified of Injun Joe. Do not count on him being changed forever, however; one suspects that Tom is still susceptible to getting in and out of trouble for a long time to come. The careful reader of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will be able to watch the structure—the way Twain pulls the threads together; the way he puts on the dramatic pressure, then releases it, and puts it on again; the way seemingly separate occurrences come together in surprising ways and lead to the marvelous and dangerous discovery in the caves.

Tom and Huck become rich boys, but they are not yet tamed, as Huck will prove in his own novel in which Tom once again spins a marvelous yarn of sheer comic trickery.

In The Prince and the Pauper , Twain brought together several of his literary interests. His interest in old European civilization, which had been so successfully employed in his travel book The Innocents Abroad and had been essayed again in A Tramp Abroad , is here focused on England, with emphasis upon life in London. Twain also had wider ambitions for the novel, and he makes use of it to comment upon politics, social problems, and the relations between children and parents or, as often is the case in his books, surrogate parents.

The book is directly related to the fairy tale genre, and it starts simply enough with the unusual, but not impossible, idea that a London street urchin, who looks surprisingly like Prince Edward, is taken into the palace by the prince. They innocently change clothes, and the prince goes off to chide the guard who mistreated his new friend, only to be thrown out on to the street despite his claim that he is the prince.

Then the real trouble starts, both for him and for Tom Canty, the beggar boy, for whom the danger is less physically obvious but potentially serious if he is discovered to be an imposter. Twain then begins an interleaved narrative of the adventures of the two boys, both determined to get back their identities.

However much they protest, they fail to impress and are considered mad. Tom, sensing how precarious his situation is in the palace, goes about accumulating as much knowledge as he can about how he ought to act, hoping to wait out the absence of the prince. His task is complicated by the death of the king and the subsequent need for the prince to take a serious role in governing the country even before he is crowned.

Pleased in part by the comforts of his position, he brings his native intelligence and his guile to bear on the problem, but he is determined eventually to clear up the matter. The prince is always less flexible than Tom, and he never admits to anyone that he is not the royal child; indeed, he is determined to play the ruler even in rags.

Only the chance help of Miles Hendon, a gentleman-soldier home from the wars, protects him, and even Hendon has difficulty keeping the prince out of trouble. Hendon thinks he is mad, but he likes the boy and is prepared to be patient with him, hoping that in time, he will be drawn out of his madness by kindness. Both boys, caught in radically different situations quite beyond their former experience, respond admirably, if the prince is always somewhat less agile in dealing with problems than Tom.

All the obvious problems of rags and riches are displayed, sometimes with comic intent but often with serious concern. Twain uses the switched identities for purposes beyond the study of character or comic confusion. The parallels between the two, then, go beyond their physical resemblance.

They are lively, strong-willed, imaginative boys who at the beginning of the novel are captives. Tom is terrorized by his criminal father.

Edward, if in an obviously comfortable position, lives a sequestered life in the palace, dominated by the dying Henry VIII. Tom dreams of a life of royal power and plays that game with his mates in the slums, then he is given his chance.

Edward is also given his chance to meet his subjects, sunk in the squalor of poverty, class privilege, and legal savagery. Both are freed of their fathers, one dying, the other disappearing into the criminal world forever, possibly also dead.

What they do with their chances is central to the most serious themes in the book. What could have been simply a charming fairy tale becomes, as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is to become later, a study of boys becoming men. A loosely organized, partly autobiographical story of Mississippi steamboat life before and after the Civil War. Written early in his career, before the difficulties of his personal life had a chance to color his perception, and filled with reminiscent celebration of his time as a boy and man, as an apprentice and as a Mississippi steamboat pilot, it is a lively, affectionate tribute hardly muted by the fact that the world of the romantic pilots of the Mississippi had disappeared forever during the Civil War and the development of the railroads.

It is a great grab-bag of a book. It starts formally enough, with a sonorous history of the river that reveals how much Twain feels for the phenomenon of the Mississippi which will appear again in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , but swiftly falls into rambling anecdotes, comic turns, and tall tales.

It has, as is often the case in early Twain, a weakness for elephantine humor of the unsophisticated, midwestern rural stripe, but the obvious happiness that marks the tonality of the book manages to keep it going despite its regular habit of floundering in bathos. The book could well have descended into an amusing shambles had it not been used to tell the very long, detailed, and sometimes hilarious story of the steamboat pilots and of how Twain as a young boy wheedles his way onto the Paul Jones , where Mr.

Bixby, the pilot, agrees to teach him the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis for five hundred dollars, which Twain is to pay him out of his first wages as a pilot. These passages are some of the best action writing done by Twain, and they anticipate the kind of exciting river narrative that is so important in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain obviously fell in love with the river and with piloting, and the whole book is a joyful exercise in telling it once and for all, since it had, at the time of printing, been lost forever. Mindful of this, Twain was determined to get it down in all its detail, and he follows the trade from its height, when the pilots were kings, through the battles to unionize as a defense against the owners, to the eventual falling away of the trade during the war period.

There is a kind of broken-backed structure to the work, caused in part by the fact that earlier versions of chapters 4 to 17 originally appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in serial form. These were not sufficient to make a book, so the second half was added, with Twain, now the celebrity writer, touring the river and the cities along its banks. This later material is not all bad, but it has nothing like the dramatic focus or energy of the earlier chapters, and there is a feeling that Twain is sometimes at pains to pad it, despite the success of the anecdotes.

The twenty-two years that separate the later Twain from the early adventures of the boy Clemens take much of the immediacy out of the book, even when Twain tries to praise the improvements that engineering science has imposed on the river. Twain, the businessman, saw the profit; Clemens, the old pilot, saw the loss.

It is certainly true that this latter material best illustrates the function of the book as a travel document, as Twain catalogs the changes in the river and in the towns along its banks. The decades that had passed between the events of the first half and the second reveal how quickly the Midwest was catching up with the East and how the village and town landscape was giving way to small cities. Huckleberry Finn, tired of being beaten by his father and of well-meaning people trying to civilize him, takes to the Mississippi on a raft and discovers that he has a runaway slave along for the ride.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may at first have seemed to Twain to be an obvious and easy sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , but this book, begun in the mid s, then abandoned, then taken up again in and dropped again, was not ready to be published until It was worth the delay.

In some ways it is a simpler novel than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ; it has nothing like the complication of plot which made that earlier novel so compelling. Huck, harassed by the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, who want to give him a good home and a place in normal society, and by his brutal father, who wants to get his hands on the money that Huck and Tom found in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , decides to get away from it all, and he runs away.

This time, he does not have the tempering influence of Tom Sawyer, who was prepared to run away to a nearby island but could not resist going home for his own funeral. Tom is only an occasional renegade, eager for the romance but not the long-term reality of rebellion. Huck is of tougher stuff, and he intends to go for good. No better indication of this is to be seen than in the simple fact that Tom tries to smoke but does not have the stomach for it: Huck does not play at it.

He is a real smoker and a real rebel—or so he thinks. Kidnapped by his father and held captive by him, Huck revels at least in the freedom of the barbaric world without soap, water, or school, but he manages to get away, leaving a trail that suggests he has been murdered, and heads for an island in the Mississippi as a start on his attempt to get away from his father and from the well-meaning sisters who would turn him into a respectable citizen.

He is on his way to leave all of his troubles behind him. It is at this point that Twain adds the complication that is to be central to the ascent of this novel from juvenile fancy to the level of moral seriousness. Became famous as a writer, Mark Twain was a man of many talents. He worked as a typesetter, reporter, the pilot on the Mississippi River steamboat. He was searching for silver in Nevada and gold in California. He traveled to many countries of the world. He successfully lectured and contemporaries considered him as a gifted orator.

He was friends with many prominent people of his time and was a man of very progressive views. It is worth noting, that Mark Twain took his nickname from the time when he was working as a pilot on a steamboat. In most of his works, Twain remained a cheerful writer and remarkable humorist. Most of his works connected with the traditions of folk humor of America, which gives it a special charm to numerous stories, vivid national flavor.

Twain saw funny things in the most minor events and about the most ordinary things he wrote ingeniously and wittily. He shown the mercenary spirit of the bourgeoisie, greed and unscrupulous politicians. Twain was a very observant writer, a fine connoisseur of psychology and way of life of ordinary American people, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois environment. His grave is a monument to a height of two fathoms, as a tribute to a famous name.

But the best monuments are his books, that will remain with us forever. A brilliant comedian and prankster, Twain remains true to himself, even after the death. The last book he wrote was an autobiography. According to the wishes of the writer, the first volume of his autobiography was published in a century after his death, in November and this book instantly became a bestseller.


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An American author and humorist, Mark Twain is known for his witty works, which include books, essays, short stories, speeches, and more. While not every single piece of written work was infused with humor, many were, ranging from deadpan humor to .

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Pages in category "Essays by Mark Twain" The following 14 pages are in this category, out of 14 total. This list may not reflect recent changes ().

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Essays and criticism on Mark Twain - Critical Essays. Twain’s general reputation as one of the most admired, and possibly the most beloved, writer in America is based, in the main, upon the work. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ()/5.

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Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Samuel Clemens was an American writer and humorist who's best work is shown by broad social satire, realism of . Mark Twain is arguably one of the greatest authors of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, writing unforgettable titles such as “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” which are still read by many today.