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    Mark Twain’s Love for the Mississippi River

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    Mark Twain had an extreme love for the Mississippi River.

    His dreams were ofbecoming a steamboat pilot. Twain inspired others as they looked to him with greatknowledge. He wanted to come home in glory as a pilot more than anything. Events inMark Twains life come out in his writings and they are displayed in Life on theMark Twain was the first American that appeared west of the Mississippi River. He was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835.

    Twain lived along theMississippi River in the town of Hannibal until the age of eighteen. After his fathersdeath in 1847, Twain became an apprentice at two Hannibal printers. Most of Twainschildhood is displayed throughout his work. He recalled his past in The Adventures ofTom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (De Veto 51).

    Twains careerbegan when he was only eleven years old. He worked by editing copies. In 1861Clemens served briefly as a volunteer soldier in the Confederate cavalry. Later that yearhe accompanied his brother to the newly created Nevada Territory, where he tried hishand at silver mining.

    After moving to San Francisco, California, in 1864, Twain metAmerican writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him in his work. Laterhe found a job as a reporter at Territorial Interprise (52). Mark Twain had a life full of writing and full of dreaming. Twain had alwaysdreamed of becoming a steamboat captain and he knew that one day he wouldaccomplish that goal.

    He viewed the sight of the mighty Mississippi River as steamboatspassed with all aspects of humanity. Twains dream of becoming a pilot never faded,although many other dreams did. Twain had a passion for the steamboats on the Mississippi River. A pilot was an important and popular way of living.

    Others thoughtthat it was the best road to take for a career. Mark Twain was determined to become asteamboat pilot, and he would not return home until he had achieved this. Heday-dreamed as a child and an adolescent about being a great pilot. Horace Bixby gaveSamuel Clemens the name Mark Twain because it meant a depth of twelve feet. Twainwanted to navigate the Mississippi River.

    He paid Horace Bixby five hundred dollars toteach him how to achieve this (Bloom 155). Not only did Mark Twain have the ability to make others laugh, but he expressedhis thoughts about life and his traumatizing realizations of the past through humor in hisworks. Twains style of humor has traveled throughout the world over the years. Hisbroad but subtle humor was tremendously popular (165).

    Life on the Mississippi is more than just a book about life on the river. It is alsoreflections on Twains life. This book is a true experience of Mark Twains traumatizingchildhood. It was also a book that was referred to as his steamboat book.

    Life on theMississippi combines an autobiographical account of Twains experiences as a river pilotwith a visit to the Mississippi nearly two decades after he left it. The whole town gotexcited when a steamboat was coming down the river. The Mississippi River is seen asthe genius Loci of Mark Twains imagination. Twain was also a realist when writing hisnovels.

    Others became jealous of Twain and his accomplishments (De Veto 52). Not only his dreams but also his fears of the past were a part of this book. Inother works of Twain, there was confusion about the audience that would and should beattracted to it. Some of his books were humerous for children but also serious issues foradults. While writing the books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn, Twain was not sure if these were childrens books or those for adults. In these writings Twain stated that this was a new way of writing because the literarylanguage was based on the slang of the American society.

    It took years of writing for the completion of these books and they were thought of as masterpieces that could not beoutdone by any other works. The book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hucksadventures provide the reader with a view of American life along the Mississippi Riverbefore the Civil War. Twains skill in capturing the rhythms of that life help make thebook one of the masterpieces of American literature (Clemens 2). Roughing It presents accounts of his less respectable past.

    Some have thoughtthis book is the results of Twain marrying a wife that wanted him to live a morerespectable life than he had before. His distinctly bitter The Tragedy of PuddnheadWilson underscored the change in his attitude, although he continued to put forth theeffort that was expected of him from others. Both of these books are a contrast ofTwains attitude in Life on the Mississippi. He unwisely wisely invested a great deal ofmoney in printing and publishing ventures.

    In 1893, he found himself deep in debt. Hewearily lectured his way around different parts of the world while making people laugh atany cost. He recorded all of his experiences. His life was shadowed by the deaths of histwo daughters and the long illness and death in 1904 of his wife.

    Whatever the reasonmay have been, he totally abandoned his idealistic tone of Personal Recollections of Joanof Arc. Instead he wrote The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, What Is Man?, and TheMysterious Stranger. The obvious contradiction between the professional humorist andthe declared hatred toward mankind has intrigued commentators. The quarrels aboutinfluences upon him and reflections of American intellect in his writings seemsometimes to have blurred his ultimate importance as an artist and as American (4).

    Although Twains popularity was constant, his life was full of financial and professional disappointment. His life was full of these disappointments because of his personal tragedies through out his life in the past. After years of success in his writings, Twain became bankrupt because of the panic of 1893. As Twain grew older, he became a bitter man. Life on the Mississippi turned Mark twains thoughts to his past and to recollections before the war.

    He was much happier when reflecting back on his younger days of his adventures as a pilot on a steamboat (Twain 67). His best work is characterized by broad, often irreverent humor or social satire. Twains writing is also known for realism of place and language, memorable characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression. Twain’s work during the 1890s and the 1900s is marked by growing pessimism and bitterness.

    Significant works of this period are Pudd’nhead Wilson , a novel set in the South before the Civil War that criticizes racism by focusing on mistaken racial identities and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, a sentimental biography. The Mysterious Stranger, was an uncompleted piece that was published posthumously in 1916. Twain’s work was inspired by the unconventional West, and the popularity of his work marked the end of the domination of American literature by New England writers. He is justly renowned as a humorist but was not always appreciated by the writers of his time as anything more than that (65). Successive generations of writers, however, recognized the role that Twain played in creating a truly American literature. He portrayed uniquely American subjects in a productive language.

    His success in creating this plain but productive language precipitated the end of American reverence for British and European culture and for the more formal language associated with those traditions. His adherence to American themes, settings, and language set him apart from many other novelists of the day and had a powerful effect on such later American writers as Ernest Hemingway andWilliam Faulkner, both of whom pointed to Twain as an inspiration for their own writing. In Twain’s later years he wrote less, but he became a celebrity, frequently speaking out on public issues. He also came to be known for the white linen suit he always wore when making public appearances.

    Twain received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1907. When he died he left an uncompleted autobiography, which was eventually edited by his secretary, Albert Bigelow Paine, and published in 1924. In 1990 the first half of a handwritten manuscript of Huckleberry Finn was discovered in Hollywood, California. After a series of legal battles over ownership, theportion, which included previously unpublished material, was reunited with its second Mark Twains extreme love and passion for the Mississippi River and the magnificent steamboats that plied through its waters are displayed throughout all of his writings. Life on the Mississippi is a book that is not only an expression of Twains past but also of life in times of destruction.

    Bibliography:Russell 6Works CitedBloom, Harold. Mark Twain. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Clemens, Samuel L. A Connecticut Yankee in King Aurthurs Court.

    New York: Meadand Company Inc. , 1960. Clemens/Twain, Mark. The Tragedy of Puddnhead Wilson.

    New York: Harper andRow Publishers, 1964. De Veto, Bernard. The Portable Mark Twain. New York: the Viking Press, 1946.

    Geismai, Maxwell. Mark Twain and the Three Rs. Indianapolis/New York: TheBobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. ; 1947. Twain, Mark.

    Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. New York: Harper and BrothersPublishers, 1896. Twain, Mark. Mississippi Writings; Life on the Mississippi. New York: The Regents ofthe University of California, 1982.

    Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. ,1876. Twain, Mark.

    The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories. Pleasantville, New York: The Readers Digest Association, Inc; 1992. Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad.

    New York: Evanston: London: Harper and RowPublishers; 1869.

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