Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whom readers know as Mark Twain, has written many novels including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876; The Prince and the Pauper in 1882; Puddin' Head Wilson in 1883; and Twain's masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which was completed in 1883 (Simpson 103). Throughout Mark Twain's writings, Twain had written about the lifestyle in the South the way it was in truth and detail. Mark Twain was not prejudice in his writings, instead he stripped away the veneers of class, position, religion, institutions, and the norms of society through his use of setting, language, and characters. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 and died on April 21, 1910.
He was raised in the South on a Missouri Frontier and when he was only four year of age he moved to Hannibal, a large Southern town on the banks of the Mississippi River (Simpson 104). The Mississippi River is a key element in his two novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both the characters Tom and Huck are similar to Twain in their spirit of adventure (Unger 193). Throughout his writings Twain wrote about the oppression of the rich and poor, the strong and weak, and the proud and humble (Baxter 1). In his autobiography he wrote "All negroes were friends of ours and those of our own age were in face comrades (Neider 5)." Mark Twain could not find the realistic acceptance of friendships, loyalty, and courage in the adulthood of societies, and because of this he would always use a boyhood view of the world to contrast the adult. Mark Twain was honest and knew that he could only write from a realistic perspective and could not accept these of society (Simpson 25).
Mark Twain had paid much attention to detail in his descriptions of the South. In 1876 he had been placed at the head of the best seller lists for his real ease of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Unger 199). The time period of the book exists just prior to the civil war, although it was written just after the war (Simpson 3). In this novel the reader is asked to see and judge the ante-bellum world through Huck's perception of it (Simpson 3).
It is written in a first person narrative form told by a boy growing up in the South and therefore we are able to see the life of a young boy directly (Simpson 3). The scenery and the people fit perfectly together in Pudd'n head Wilson and this is clearly recognized despite their prejudices (Boys en 1). In addition to the scenery, Twain also uses his popular river setting. The Mississippi River once again appeared in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, receiving great triumphant reviews (Unger 199). The book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn took seven years to complete.
The first sixteen chapters birthed the beginning of the book, but then he took a sudden rest, possibly writing a few chapters in 1879 and 1880 but he did not complete the book until a returned trip down the Mississippi River. The significance of the returned trip down the Mississippi River before the completion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was that it allowed him to focus his attention on his characters, folkways, speech and the setting (Simpson). The river has been written before in detail, but in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the river is an adventure all in itself full of mystery and powerful imagination (The Hartford Courant 1). Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and the runaway slave, Jim, escape the evils of society by retreating to the river, floating away on the raft (Simpson 47).
In one of the episodes in the novel, Huck says "other places do seem so cramped up and smother y, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." Here the main idea is about freedom (Simpson 33). The episodes were designed "to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves (Unger 199). The underlying theme is not just a boy's fun adventure, but a quest for freedom (Simpson 28). It is also more than just a boys view of the world without problems; it is delivered as a first-hand involvement in the novels Twain writes (Simpson 3). Mark Twain also brings out the truths about class, , racism, and slavery by showing it through the child's perspective.
Mark Twain depicts the human soul in conflict with institutions in the book A Conecticut Yankee in King Authur's Court through the church against the state (Simpson 18). In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain depicts soul in conflict through "humans against moralizing Sunday school tales (Simpson 18)."Mr. Clemens had presented the contrasts between the two social orders but could not or would not accept the tragic fact that the one he had rejected was an image of a solid reality and the other an ecstatic dream (Simpson 33)." The theme is brought to new heights because of the sharp contrasting social orders: the community Huck and Jim establish on the raft, and the actual society which exists along the Mississippi's banks (Simpson 32). Their adventures and human encounters seem to bring out the of the society, whether it be chivalry's who commit the same deeds as the lowly or whether it be the lowly who resort to trickery on each other (Simpson 47). In A Conecticut Yankee in King Authur's Court, Mark Twain describes his people as "the quaintest and trusting est race (Baxter 3)." He had also once said that what any man sees in the human race "is merely himself in the deep and private honesty of his own heart (Unger 190)." Twain had also brought out the views on slavery. "Pudd'n head Wilson...
is a carefully painted picture of life on a Mississippi town in the days of slavery... (Idler 1)." Many critics admire Twain's exposures of slavery and respond to his compassion and humility (Unger 190). Throughout the book A Connecticut Yankee in King Authur's Court, there is an underlying theme, illuminating the American ideal for freedom (Baxter 1). In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, two characters are lost in a cave and the mouth of the cave is sealed by the adults.
This was done not to capture the murderer, but instead it is to prevent Tom from taking another adventure (Unger 200). The actions of both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn prove the notion that no adult actions to solving the problems had ever succeed (Unger 200). This shows that the innocent, child-like view, which sees through class and color, succeeds in the end. Huckleberry Finn had surpassed Tom Sawyer and had interpreted human nature and had shown life the way it truly was (The Hartford Courant 1). Mark Twain also show the loyalty of his characters through the interaction of Huck and Jim. Huck, at one point acts on his human feelings to not turn Jim in for robert.
In doing so he opposes the norm of the southern society which has formed his conscience (Simpson 44). "Mr. De Voto insists that if the book makes a statement through Negro Jim, that human life is tragic, it also assents through Huck that human life is noble... enough for the likes of us... It is not a book of despair but rather of realistic e acceptance (Simpson 24)." One important fact about the language of his books is that there are seven distinct dialects in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Simpson 19). Mark Twain had studied the dialects of the South to show the readers not to think that all the characters were trying to talk alike (Simpson 19).
He was familiar with their books, speech, and habits and because of this was able to write about the people of his time. Using colloquialism, combining immaturity and shrewdness he was able to express the language of the people (Simpson 3). In the book Mark Twain's Ethical Racism, Joe B. Fulton writes, "Twain goes out of his way in his writing to get the dialects right. Twain's desire for an artistic authenticity is itself an ethically oriented endeavor (Fulton 5)." He crafted characters in all his works to speak as people of their status would. It would have been unethical and unbecoming for Twain to make his characters talk more eloquent than they should have just for the sake of promoting the idea that blacks were intelligent.
To Fulton, Twain is seen as more realistic than romantic. Through his preciseness in his use of language, he clearly defines the characters' individuality and realistic state of being (Baxter 2). Mark Twain clearly defines his characters in his writings. "It was as difficult to convince people of his time as it was to convince people of ours that Mark Twain never really existed except as a character, costumed and carefully rehearsed, cannily a crowd-please (Unger 191)." There are three vivid imaginations from three different characters in his books: Tom's is artificial and of a fantasy world; Jim's is superstitious; and Huck's is very strong, vivid and realistic (Unger 19). The character Huck continues to grow and many new qualities of Jim throughout the novel (Simpson 23). When Huck interacts with Jim, he reflects on his identity with humanity (Simpson 28).
Huck also includes himself when he says the Jim "Get up and hump yourself Jim! ... There aint a minute to loose. They " re after us (Simpson 28)." No American of Northern birth or breeding could have imagined the spiritual struggle of Huck in deciding to help the negro Jim to his freedom, even though he should be forever despised as a negro thief in his nature town (Simpson 103)... In 1907, Mark Twain wrote in a passage: Every man is in his own person the whole human race, with not a detail lacking.
I am the whole human race with out a detail lacking; I have studied the human race with diligence and strong interest all these years in my own person; in myself I find big or little proportion every quality and every defect that is findable in the mass of the human race (Simpson 16). Mark Twain had never lost his love for the common people, no matter where he was, whether it had been in his mansion in Boston, or with royal blood, he had never forgotten the people close in his life (Unger 192). He was not a man of prejudices, instead he saw things the way they really were, and he wrote about these things in truth. Samuel Clemens had chosen his pen name wisely for "Mark Twain" was a riverboat term indicating twelve fathoms or "safe water" (Twain v) and perhaps his name alone has a deeper meaning: that he did not just see the surface, but instead he saw the deeper meaning in life that society on the Mississippi River and beyond could not see. Throughout his many writings, he had stripped away the veneers of class, position, religion, institutions, and norms of society through his use of setting, language, and characters.
Works Cited Baxter, Sylvester. "Baxter Reviews Yankee Yankee." Boston Sunday Herald. 16 February 2000 < web H. H... "Cosmopolitan Reviews Puddin " head." Cosmopolitan. 16 February 2000 < web 'n head&query = prejudice>.
Neider, Charles. ed. The Autobiography of Mark Twain. New York: Harper Collins, 1959. Fulton, Joe B.
Mark Twain's Ethical Realism - The Aesthetics of Race, Class, and Gender. Columbia: University of Missouri P, 1997. Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. United Stated of America: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. , 1988.
Unger, Leonard. ed. American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies. Vol.
IV. New York: Charles Scribner's Son's, 1974." Courant Reviews Huck." The Hartford Courant. 16 February 2000 < web "Idler Reviews Pudd'n head" Idler. 16 February 2000 < web 'n head&query = slavery>.