MarkTwain: A Literary Icon
MarkTwain is regarded as one of the most influential authors of alltimes. He has demonstrated his ability to produce thought provokingand enthralling literary pieces with the zeal only comparable to thatof a freedom fighter. In addition, Twain`s writing was a truereflection of his spirit of Americanism and realism. A criticalanalysis of Mark Twain`s work reveals a shift in his sense ofidentity, a feature which greatly defines him both as a writer, arealist and social activist.
Marktwain started his writing career in 1865 as an amateur author. Hefirst produced a short story by the title "The CelebratedJumping Frog of Calaveras County" that propelled him to thenational limelight in American literature (Emerson 14). It also sethim up for more challenging tasks in the future and a platform forhis new career. Twain demonstrates a unique literary style throughouthis writing career with a strong inclination towards a realistperspective of issues. His style of writing brings him out as aperson eager to transform the American society in terms ofrevolutionary ideas, rich imagination, as well as accurate depictionof the status quo (Twain and Harriet 9). Twain was one of the firstliterature authors to pave the way for a new style of writing.Analysts consider him an influential artist who shaped the realistmovement in a great way through his writing. Twain`s writing stylegreatly reflected on his biographical background. He grew up at atime when America was still struggling to come to terms with theexisting societal challenges associated with the civil war. Most ofhis works represented his realistic perception about American lifeand his active spirit for adventure. Twain connected very well withthe society through effective and accurate use of colloquialism. Withsuch a style, twain was able to clearly depict the American cultureand in turn got a large acclaim from the Americans. This strategyalso enabled him to capture the attention of his audience in alivelier manner and project his message accurately. Twain`s shortstories resonate very well with the American culture, as they feelquite in touch with most of the issues raised in the stories.Previously, authors did not give a real life picture of what washappening on the ground. Rather, authors used to sugarcoat issue anddirected readers away from the
Twain`sstyle of writing can also be connected to the realism movement.Unlike most of the authors of his time who majorly focused onRomanticism, Twain did not shy away from the real issues which facethe common people. This style is can be clearly seen in Twain`ssecond short story by the title "The adventures of HuckleberryFin." In this short story, twain highlights some of the problemsthat face the American society through a realist perspective. Tobegin with, Twain`s book reflects on the issue of race as it pertainsto the relationship between the different members of the society. Hedoes this by making a black man the main character and in some waydepicts the conditions that preceded the civil war in the U.Shistory. This theme brings Twain as an author against racism and thehypocritical nature of the South, further proof of his realistictendencies and a desire for social justice. Twain also handles othercrucial themes such as morality and ethics in his short story. Thisis also another relevant theme in the American society consideringthat there were so many challenges concerning the issue of morality.Twain demonstrates that the fact that American has to have aneffective of dealing with moral crises. Twain`s "The adventuresof Huckleberry Fin" highlights other themes which affect theAmerican society in a negative and includes drug and alcohol abuse,foolishness, the youth, religion, as well as rules and disorder.
AlthoughTwain began writing during the period of Romanticism, his writing ismostly regarded as realistic in nature. This can be seen through thedifferent works of art that he produced during his lifetime. Onecharacteristic that he used was the incorporation of regional dialectin most of his short stories. This element made his message resonatequite well with the society and enable him to gain a largerecognition and readership. Second, Twain depicted characters in hisstory as not so perfect persons but rather, people with common flawsjust like the rest of the societal members (MacMahan 33). Twain alsointroduces different angles of moral and ethical dilemmas in most ofhis literary works. This way, he can give the story a more realisticperspective and bring out his literary identity. It further bringsout as an able social activist who was ready to provide a realitycheck to the rest of the literary scholars who only focused on otherfictional issues.
Twaincontinued to express his realist sentiments in the next short storiesthat he produced during his lifetime. In the process, he was able toinfluence the thinking of the average American and gave hope to anumber of people. Most of the people came to associate him with therealist movement and relates most of Twain`s work with realism.Realism was a period preceding the civil war and was reflected inmost of the works in American literature. For instance, in the book"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Twain presents acharacter by the name of Huck Finn. Huck`s father is a drunkard whois extremely mean. Unfortunately, Huck undergoes a very difficultexperience, as a result, of his father`s behavior and the prevailingsocietal challenges (MacMahan and Mark 24). Huck is abused by hisfather and is left to handle problems without any assistance. Twainfurther gives an elaborate account of the adventures of the Huck andhis friend by the name Finn. Most of the experiences which the twoboys undergo as seen as normal just like they happen in the society,unlike other fictional books which exaggerate events. Twain alsodescribes the setting of the novel using a clear language flow andpaints a real life of the society (Quirk 21). Through Huck, readersget to understand the real life situation that existed during theperiod the book was written and enables one to get an idea of how thesociety reacted to certain behaviors and mannerisms. The book showshow an individual actions and morals conflict with those of thesociety around them. All these features makes clearly describesTwain`s tendency towards the realist movement and tells more abouthis literary prowess.
Twainalso points out the societal flaws which existed during his timethrough literature. He particularly focuses on the hypocriticaltendency and ignorance prevalent in the society at the time he waswriting his novel (Berkove and Joseph 37). This he does through thefactual description of events and an accurate presentation ofrealities throughout his stories. He tries to show that slavery isunacceptable and that the general societal perception about slaves isalso misguided and, therefore, immoral. Twain conveys this messagethrough an innocent kid who is still green about life and has toadjust to the American culture at the moment. He uses realism toprove that the American society is different from the imaginarysettings presented by other authors of his time but rather, a reallife situation.
Insome way, Twain can be considered an activist in that he championedfor the rights of minorities, campaigned against slavery andcondemned other societal ills against the less fortunate. His is astyle that was so informative yet so entertaining that aptly painteda clear picture of the American society. Most of his books revolvearound issues that touch on the lives of common people in thesociety. In essence, Twain`s literary work paved way for the realistmovement and changed the societal perception about life and increasedthe desire to accept life as it is. Twain`s contribution towardsrealism is the greatest legacy that he bequeathed the Americanliterary society. He remains one of the greatest authors in thehistory of American literature, as well as iconic realist of alltimes.
Berkove,Lawrence I, and Joseph Csicsila. HereticalFictions: Realism in the Literature of Mark Twain.Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010. Print.
Emerson,Everett. MarkTwain: A Literary Life.Philadelphia, Pa: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Print.
MacMahan,Elizabeth, and Mark Twain. CriticalApproaches to Mark Twain`s Short Stories.Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1981. Print.
Quirk,Tom. "The Realism of Huckleberry Finn." CriticalInsights: Mark Twain.Ed. R. Kent Rasmussen. 1 vols. Salem Press, 2010. SalemLiteratureWeb. 17.06.2014
Twain,Mark, and Harriet E. Smith. Autobiographyof Mark Twain: Volume 1, Reader`s Edition.Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Print.