Samuel Clemons, also known as Mark Twain is regarded as one of the most famous writers of not only his time but present day as well. Twain was easy a writer that was easy to understand, being that he was one of the first people to write in an everyday easy to understand language verse a European type dialect. Twain paved the way for all other American writing, for any writer that came after him, owe Twain credit for examples that were given to them.
Twain was able to write fiction that related to the American people and the American experience. He spoke of rural life and the introduction of the industrial revolution. He described his characters and his settings so vividly it made them feel lifelike, making it that more relatable to the readers. Not only are Twain’s novels based on the rural lifestyle, many are based on the industrial age, mentioning the invention of the steamboat in several of his stories.
Not only was he great writer about the two themes, he was able to combine the two. Growing up in rural American while America was quickly changing around them due to the industrial revolution. Samuel Clemons. Some of Twain’s most famous works that helped pave the way for American Literature are his first short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, followed by The Innocents Abroad, Roughing it, The Glided Age, The War Prayer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was the first short story that Twain wrote about making him famous. While he was at a bar in Calaveras County, California, he overheard a story from a fellow patron about a jumping frog contest which inspired him to write it. It originally was called Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog but right before being published in the New York Saturday Press, he changed the name to what it is currently known. The story was about a man that came from a western mining town looking for an individual. When asking a stranger about the individual, the stranger told a story about a gentleman that bragged about how high his pet frog could jump. He bet that his frog could out jump any frog.
After placing a $40 bet, his competitor filled his frog full of quail shot while he was distracting. Because of this, the man from the East lost his bet while the stranger was able to leave town prior the man finding out.
The Innocents Abroad, was a compilation of travel letters and short stories that Twain wrote in 1967 while aboard the USS Quaker City. Twain was sent on this excursion to capture the day to day experiences of wealthy Americans in old exotic countries. The book had negative reviews at first, being that Twain already confirmed what most Americans had already known, that Europe was greedy and just wanted the wealthy American’s money and that Europe was run down. On the flip side, he also confirmed what Europeans already knew about America, that Americans made fools of themselves while drinking and that they could get quite vulgar. The main theme of this story is how particular incidents and history are used by people for their own gain.
Roughing It is a story about experiences and things endured while traveling west. He uses his brother’s journal, his experiences, and his imagination in order to write this. It is based from 1861-1866 and was published in 1972. The book is made to be humorous and looks at the tribulations and trials that are encountered by his brother and him. Throughout the story he talks about funerals, merchants, fire, shootings, mining, prospecting, fights, outlaws, trains, the Pony Express, Mormons, desert and mountains.
The Glided Age was not just written by Twain. Charles Dudley Warner was the co-author of this story, and was Twain’s only collaborator throughout all of his novels. Published in 1873, the book focuses on the years following the civil war and talked about the greed due to the fact the economy was growing at a very fast rate.
Big changes were taking place in America during this time and few were able to celebrate the wealth that came with it, while most others continued struggling and trying to survive by farming or being industrial workers. Hours were long and wages were low resulting in dangerous work environments. Because of this, workers came together creating strikes. All of these examples sum up to what Twain was referring to as The Glided Age.
The War Prayer is about a country going to war and was written in 1905. The beginning of the story makes the reader believe that the story is patriotic and is a country that is supporting their men going to war to fight for their beliefs. The citizens attend service at a church and say a prayer, calling for God to protect the men and show them victory.
A stranger soon walks in and says the other half of the prayer. The suffering, pain, destruction against their foes. Things Christians don’t condone. It goes to show the hypocrisy when it comes to Christians praying for what they want, by wishing death to others. It is referred to as blind patriotism. Twain never published this work, fearing that society wouldn’t take very well to his story. He said to Daniel Beard, “No, I have told the whole truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead.” He did exactly that, having it published after his death.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was published in 1889 and tells a story about an engineer that is a Yankee from Connecticut. The engineer was transported to the sixth century to King Arthurs court. While in the court he uses his knowledge of modern technology to fool the people of that era. His writing makes fun of chivalry and the idealism of other authors work about the Middle Ages. This novel is one of the first of it’s time, having to do with time travel and taking on a sub genre of science fiction.
The Prince and the Pauper is based in 1547, published in 1881, about two boys that are very similar in appearance but come from two different walks of life. One, who is abused by his father in London and one who is the son of one of the many King Henry’s of England. The two boys swapped places proving to King Henry’s son that things can always be much worse and someone, somewhere, always has bigger problems than you. The saying, “the grass is not always greener on the other side,” is very fitting for this novel. It’s a children’s novel and shows social inequality and the criticism of people just base off of their appearance.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876 and is one of Twain’s most famous novels, up until The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that is. The story is based in the 1840s and is about a young boy that grows up along the Mississippi River. Many of the places in this novel are real and some are fake, inspired by some of Twain’s boyhood experiences. Tom Sawyer was very relatable to most Americans, being that he was your typical boy full of mischief growing up in a rural area, running away from home, on the chase after a murderer, all while searching for treasure. Tom and Huck end up tracking down the murderer, Tom gets the girl he is after and ultimately live happily ever after.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was followed up by possibly one of Twain’s most popular Novels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This novel was published in 1884 and is told in first person about a boy names Huck.
His father was a drunk and he had no mother. His best friend is Tom Sawyer. It is pre civil war and is about a friendship created by a runaway slave and a homeless kid (Huck), that become friends against all of societies norms in the south. The two have something in common, they’re both running from something. One is running from a mean dad and the other against racial oppression. The novel is full of offensive language and humor. The book was banned immediately because society viewed it as “vulgar,” considering it was about racism and used the n-word throughout. Some people ask what made this novel so famous, it brings to life a lot of important issues. Issues from is it right or wrong to own people, obey laws that you know are wrong, or what is more important, individuals or society? Twain introduces many issues that haven’t been wrote about up to date. Slavery and racism being the main one, going against societal norms and seeing a person for what they are; a person.
By looking at The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Innocents Abroad, Roughing it, The Glided Age, The War Prayer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn we are able to see why Mark Twain is notably one of the most famous writers to this day.
He inarguably has had the most significant influence on American literary history. He showed society during that time period and there on after what it was like to defy societal norms, mainly with racial issues. He brought humor to literature which was out of the norm. His quotes still live on today more than ever. His work is still in our schools today, with many of his novels still on school’s reading lists. To further the fact that Twain had a remarkable influence on American literary history, the fact that several pieces of his work have made it to the stage in the form of plays or skits. On top of having plays or skits created, several of his pieces of work have also made it to film. Without Mark Twain, American literature would not be what it is today.
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