Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Works of Mark Twain


The Works of Mark Twain


America's Frontier Humorist

Few rags-to-riches stories in American history can equal that of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. Born in Florida, Monroe County, Missouri, and raised with little formal education in the small Missouri town of Hannibal, Twain became an internationally famous writer, creator of one of American literature's great masterpieces (Huckleberry Finn) and half a dozen more of its major books. The key to Twain's writing was his re­ discovery in later years of his boyhood in Hannibal, from which he drew his best works. Although he was well aware of the dark side of human nature, Twain's purpose in writing was "to excite the laughter of God's creatures," and thus his boyhood reminiscences were full of humor. They also provide us with vivid word pictures of the American character and society during the exciting years of this nation's awkward expansion during the late 1800s. Twain's first book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches (1867), was a humorous tall tale, remarkable for its use of American English in a completely natural, unpatronizing manner. His second book was The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrim's Progress (1869), an autobiographical account in fictional form of his travels to the Mediterranean. Roughing It (1872) was a record of his impressions of Nevada frontier life. And The Gilded Age (1873) was a political satire of the post-Civil War era, written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner. It marked the first time Twain used, as a literary source, the memories of his boyhood in Hannibal, which provided much of the material for his best work over the next 30 years. Twain reached the height of his powers between 1869 and 1889, when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), followed by life On The Missis­sippi, which recounted his apprenticeship to a Mississippi riverboat pilot, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which is perhaps the best known and loved of his works. Ernest Hemingway once said that "all Ameri­can literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." It is a romantic, rollicking story of excitement and adventure along the Mississippi in which the young hero passes through a set of experiences that mark his initiation into manhood. Twain's best-known later works include The Prince and The Pauper (1881), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1895).

Illustration: Mark Twain with his famous corncob pipe

© 1979, Panarizon Publishing Corp, USA
Illust: Mark Twain Memorial Commission
Printed in Italy
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