Book Reports / Mark Twain: Literary Analysis

Mark Twain: Literary Analysis

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Autor:  anton  04 March 2011
Tags:  Literary,  Analysis
Words: 1359   |   Pages: 6
Views: 990

Mark Twain, one of the most famous and influential American writers, was born in Hannibal, Missouri on November 30, 1835 and died April 21, 1910. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, he eventually adopted his famous pseudonym in 1863. Shortly after his father’s death in 1847, when Clemens was twelve, his father passed away. After his father death, he applied for an apprenticeship at the local-printing shop. While working in the printing shop, Twain learned the skills required to be a printer and developed an aptitude for witty short essays and responses. Mark Twain was enthralled by his opportunity to develop his skills as a printer, and later he realized that he had a unique talent for writing. By working as an apprentice printer, he helped pay for family expenses and by age sixteen he began writing humorous articles and newspaper sketches, which could have been is his reason for becoming an author.

A common theme which was present in all of Mark Twain’s short stories that were read was his satirical style of writing. He commonly used satire in stories to evoke a response in readers – his form was mainly used to compel the reader to pause and reflect on his literature. In the three short stories that were read; “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”, and “The Invalid’s Story”, Mark Twain wrote in a funny and sarcastic style that would entertain any reader. Sometimes, his choice of words and the way he foretold certain events and even the layout of his short stories was even ironic.

In “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” Twain used the natural integrity and virtue of the human soul to wreck havoc and turmoil on a town. This story was very ironic because it began by describing the honorable and noble history of Hadleyburg and the great amount of ethical morals held by all people in the town. At the end of the story, every man in town is vying for a bag of gold that has been left by some mysterious visitor, and their ways of vying for it are far from appropriate. The story in itself is a great example of how easily moral destruction can occur within an ingenuous town, all because of one person who wished to corrupt it not by force or by physical harm, but by possibly the greatest method of all destruction – the human mind.

Many critics agree that Twain’s skilled use of the satirical literary style, defines himself as a writer. “If the prevailing spirit of Mark Twain's humor is not a sort of good-natured self-satire, in which the reader may see his own absurdities reflected, I scarcely should be able to define it” (Howells). This similarity was present in all three short stories.

Not only was satire a common recurring premise in all three of Mark Twain’s short stories, but also his style of narrating his stories in first person was also present. Throughout his short stories, this was another repetitive theme. He commonly narrated his stores in first person and for the most part, kept the tense consistent. In the three short stories, Mark Twain was the narrator and it was through his eyes that the reader witnessed the story.

In “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, Twain displayed an extraordinarily amount of boasting.

“Maybe you understand frogs and maybe you don’t understand ‘em; maybe you’ve had experience, and maybe you ain’t only a amateur, as it were. Anyways, I‘ve got my opinion, and I’ll resk forty dollars that he can out jump any frog in Calaveras County. I should judge – he can.” (The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County)

This passage from the story indicates Twain’s first person narrative. In many of his short stories, Twain took an autobiographical approach in his first person narratives. Many critics believe that this autobiographical approach is used mainly to reveal his own character through the travails and lessons that his characters learned. “Mark Twain often creates characters who have a sense of superiority, and if not apparent at the beginning of a novel, undoubtedly emerge at the end; becoming the superior character that Twain supposes himself to be” (Schmidt, “Criticism” 291). This narration style along with his technique of humor was a theme consistently used in his short stories.

Another similarity found in Twain’s three short stories was his utilization of his southwestern humor. Twain’s autobiographical approach served “as only one phase of the frankness of his humorous attitude” (Century Magazine).

“Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair, and then sat down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph… so far from his imagining that there was anything ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter, and admired its tow heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse.” (The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County).

In “The Invalid’s Story” Twain depicted a maniac’s journey to Wisconsin while accompanying his friend’s corpse. In the story, the maniac first confused his cadaver with a box of rifles, and then blamed the offensive stench which was present in the train car on his friend’s cadaver, when really it was just an innocent chunk of cheese.

In “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” Twain displayed a distinctive style of satire that shows how vulnerable and susceptible humans can be in the face of greed. Twain’s writing does not depress the reader, but lightly pokes fun and describes the moral validity of the human mind.

In all three of his short stories, Twain lightheartedly talked about the advantages and disadvantages of many situations and continually used his inimitable style of humor. Throughout the stories, Mark Twain entertains readers while also causing them to reflect on what they previously read. His style of humor is intelligent and entertains the mind of the reader on numerous levels. Twain’s use of relative humor to everyday life was very practical and was common in all three of his stories. “Mr. Clemens’s writings could be described as the ultimate example of a genre of Southwestern humor, both in their complexity and in their sophistication” (Smith, “Criticism of Twain” 28). Enjoyed by many, Mark Twain’s style of Southwestern humor is a popular theme which can be found in all three of his short stories, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”, and “The Invalid’s Story”.

While reading Mark Twain’s short stories, I initially was bored by their long, drawn out descriptions and odd sense of humor and prose. Yet, after continuing my quest to finish reading his forty-page short story, which actually was not a very short, short story, “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”, I began to develop a new interest in his writings. After reading the first six pages of his short stories, and finding them not to earn an A+ in my opinion, I found the pages after the beginning to be quite interesting and attention grabbing. The three similarities that I chose to do this report on were the characteristics of Mark Twain’s literary style of writing of which I was most interested in. These three traits grabbed my attention the greatest. These similarities were consequentially a few of the reasons why I enjoyed his writings. But, as I said earlier, the beginnings of Twain’s stories were not the zenith of his writings. I did not enjoy the beginnings of the short stories and was therefore prepared to be bored out of my mind for the remainder of the pages. I was pleasantly surprised while reading some of the stories, because they did not turn out to be too boring and I very much enjoyed reading, “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”. I would definitely recommend this particular short story of Mark Twain’s to anyone who enjoys action stories and plots which involve mischievous trickery.



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