Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was an American humorist, writer, publisher, entrepreneur, lecturer, and publisher. He published his works with the pen name Mark Twain. He is regarded as the great humorist of the United States. He is called the father of American Literature by William Faulkner. He is known for his novel Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876. The novel also contained a sequel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and often regarded as “The Great American Novel.”
Mark Twain was brought up in Hannibal, Missouri. This place provides her with the set of two novels Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He also works with a printer serving as an apprenticeship. He contributed articles to the newspaper by working as a typesetter for his older brother Orion Clemens.
Mark Twain then became a riverboat pilot in the Mississippi River and then headed west to join Orion in Nevada. He then turned to journalism and started working for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise and humorously referred to his failure at mining.
His famous humorous story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is based on the account that he heard when he was working as a minor in California. The short story was become internationally famous and also translated into French. He earned praise from many critics, industrialists, presidents, artists, and European royalty because of his satire and wit in prose and in speech.
Mark Twain earned lots of money from his lectures and writings. However, he invested his money in ventures due to which he lost most of his money. For example, the Paige Compositor, a mechanical typesetter, failed because of the complexity and imprecision. In the wake of his financial setbacks, he also filed for bankruptcy. However, he eventually surpasses his financial problems even though his bankruptcy relieved him of doing so, he paid fully to his creditors.
A Short Biography of Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on 30th November 1835 in Missouri to John and Jane Clemens. At four years of age, he shifted to Hannibal, a small town of almost 1000 people, with his family.
Twain’s father died in 1847. The family becomes destitute and forced into an economic struggle. This struggle at an early age shaped the career of Mark Twain. Until 17, Twain lived in Hannibal.
Even though the place appears to be apparently peaceful with steamboats arriving three times a day for paid rides and decent libraries, the violence was in the routine. Twain witnessed lots of deaths. At the age of 9, Twain saw a local man murdering cattle rancher and many more such deaths.
His life inspired the setting of many of the literary works of Mark Twain at Hannibal. The town was full of cruelty, drunkenness, poverty, boredom, and loneliness. All of these things are part of the boyhood experiences of Twain.
Until the age of 12, Twain studied at school. Due to financial problems, he then employed himself in an apprenticeship as a printer in Hannibal Courier. The job paid him with the little ration of food. At the age of 15, he got a job as an occasional writer, editor, and painter at the newspaper, Hannibal Western Union, owned by his brother.
In 1857, Twain started learning to pilot a steamboat on the Mississippi. In 1859, he got a regular job at the channel and shoals of the great river. He was extremely happy with his career; however, his service was cut short with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.
In the Civil War, Twain supported the Confederate States and joined them. However, he only served for a couple of weeks, and his volunteer unit scattered.
In 1861, he lived for the next five years in Nevada and California. Initially, his prospect was good, and he became his family’s savior. However, in 1862, he again started looking for a regular job.
He started working as a reporter for Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. He published stories, sketches, and editorial with pen name Mark Twain. Mark Twain was/is steamboat slang for the 12 feels of water. Twain instantly becomes recognized for his interesting and satirical stories and distinguishing narrative style. The 1865’s story “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” proves to be a big break in his literary career.
In 1867, he went to the Mediterranean Sea and then wrote humorous stories for the American newspaper about the sight. This proves to be another great success in his newly developed literary career. All the stories were combined into a collection The Innocent Abroad and were published in 1869.
In 1870, the social status of Mark Twain was improved when he married Olivia Langdon. Olivia was the daughter of a rich coal merchant in New York.
In 1876, Twain published his most celebrated work, The Adventure of Tom Sawyer. Soon afterward, he published a sequel title The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In 1883, he published Life on the Mississippi.
With great literary success, business and writing become equally important for Mark Twain. By publishing the memoirs of President Ulysses S. Grant, Twain became a successful book publisher in 1885. He spent lots of money on publishing, hoping to earn lots of money. However, he became bankrupt.
The financial loss of Twain resembles that of his father. This results in serious mental problems. The recollections of his father’s failure resulted in increasing pessimism. He started feeling that human existence is a joke enacted by laughing God.
Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court in 1889. It is a science fiction and historical novel about ancient England. In 1894, he published The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, Twain’s next major work. It is a somber novel often described as “bitter.”
For the rest of his life, he wrote lots of stories, essays, and books. The last fifteen years of the life of Mark Twain is known to be filled with honors. In the late 19th century, he became the most famous American.
Even though his last years were full of awards, it was also full of anguish. The couple, Livy and Mark Twain lost their infant son early in their marriage. In 1896, his daughter, Susy, also dies because of spinal disease. Twain’s youngest daughter, Jean, was also suffering from epilepsy and died in 1909. The relationship with his middle daughter, Clara, was full of quarrels and distant.
Mark Twain suffered from the nasty bout of paranoia and volcanic rages. He also experienced depression and spent most of the time, smoking, reading, and playing cards.
Mark Twain died on 21st April 1910 at the age of 74.
Mark Twain’s Writing Style
Mark Twain is one of the most important American writers of the 19th century. The style of Mark Twain is widely appreciated and influenced by numerous writers. Mark Twain started his literary career at “The Hannibal Journal.” Twain’s life at Hannibal and work as a riverboat pilot that assisted him developed his voice as a writer that is known to many people in the modern world.
The writing style of Mark Twain is categorized as Southwestern humor. This is the regional style of humor that characterizes common language and also implied unpolished humor along with the dosses of cruelty. He employed characters and situations in which the tricksters achieved victory.
Twain has taken the majority of his characters from his real-life; particularly, he introduced characters as models of people he encountered at Hannibal. For instance, the characters such as riverboat, slave dealers, gamblers, and travelers are taken from Hannibal. In Huckleberry Finn, the character of Jim is a very famous Hannibal model.
The Divided Nature of Twain’s Work
Perhaps, the writing style of Mark Twain is inimitable. The salient characteristic of his work is the accomplished use of dialect. However, he employed certain other techniques that are different from the other writers and give a unique touch to his works. For example, the satire of other writers appears to be lighter and less subtle than the social commentary of Twain. Without realizing the cynicism towards the society, the readers enjoyed the narration of apparently artless narrators. For example, in Connecticut Yankee, a simple line shows his divided nature of works and himself:
“The old abbot’s joy to see me was pathetic.”
The comedy of his narratives is weakened by the depth of seriousness and darkness work provides inconsistency to his works. This inconsistency and divided nature of his works show his own divided nature.
For example, in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in the descriptions of the adventures of the King and the Duke, the readers observe Twain’s criticism while showing the predatory nature of a man who exploits the people in their most vulnerable conditions. By using the artless narrator, Twain describes how Wilks’ family falls prey to two scoundrels after the death of their father. The slaves are immediately sold by the king. Huck observes the grief of the family at the loss of their servants as:
“I thought them poor girls and them n–s would break their hearts for grief; they cried around each other and took on, so it most made me down sick to see it. The girls said they hadn’t ever dreamed of seeing the family separated or sold away from the town. I couldn’t stand it all…if I hadn’t known the sale wasn’t no account and the n–s would be back home in a week or two.”
Readers who are familiar with the works of Mark Twain observe the profound satire that is present in most of his novels. Even though satire is one of the common elements employed in Mark twain’s works, his style is unique. The careful choice of words/dictions and clear description employed in his novel provide elements of realism in his adventurous novels. The repeated employment of satire and vernacular dialogues, the carefree writing style, child heroes and imagery, and his famous novels are the distinguishing characteristics of Mark Twain.
Besides the employment of vernacular dialogues, the setting of Twain’s novels is nearly intense through the use of imagery. The combination of imagery and dialogue creates a sense of realism to the settings and characters. Thus it permits the readers to allow a better understanding of the story and develops an interesting relationship between characters and readers.
Through descriptive language and imagery, Mark Twain establishes a typical feel of Southern St. Petersburg and determined and luxurious elements. Twain often uses figurative devices such as metaphors and similes, to create a scene. This imagery serves to carry the readers from one scene to another. For example, the night that follows when Tom Sawyer witnesses the murder in Doctor Robinson in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:
“The ticking of the clock began to bring itself into notice. Old beams began to crack mysteriously. The stairs creaked faintly.”
The imagery creates a sense of dread and fear and also provides the ominous and dark tone to the scene. The readers love Twain’s novels because of the elements of realism in adventurous and fictional elements.
Social commentary and emotional satire play an important role in many of the works of Mark Twain. Twain is known for his satire on society of America both in his literary works and personal life. The way Twain communicates his views does not appear to be excessively obvious through the eyes of his characters and the personal development they experience throughout the plot.
The adventures and progression in the lives of Edward Tudor and Tom Canty emphasis on Twain’s detest for the differences between social classes that are highly based on money. While moral maturation of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer – the famous protagonists of Twains – shows the criticism of Twain in the greed in society, racial discrimination, corruption of adults that cause loss of childhood innocence.
In the literary collection of Mark Twain, satire is a powerful weapon. Twain coupled satires with the apt. Vernacular and descriptive imagery and carefree diction. Through satire, Twain can communicate the deeper meaning and implicit themes effectively through apparently simple stories.