Cultural Criticism in Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi (1883) -Throughout “life on the Mississippi, Twain seeks to delay time, to make it pause long enough to make some sense of it, even as he realizes that detah will end all speculation. -He writes of his day as a pilot that “time drifted smoothly and prosperously on, and I supposed – and hoped – that I was going to follow the river the rest of my days, and die at the wheel when my mission was ended. But by and by the war came, commerce was suspended, my occupation was gone” -Historical time interrupts the expectation that time will cease, that he will always be a pilot, until the end of his time. And the river will always be there -This stalbe moment in time, an eternal River, is lonesome, alienating and disinterested in the affair of mankind -Throughout “Life on the Mississippi” the evident nostalgia for the river long gone pervades Twain’s discussion of it. In particular, the monopoly enjoyed by the Pilots’ Benevolent Association for a few short years before the Civil War occupies Ch.15 Twain’s lifetime fascination with American capitalism also becomes apparent here. (Remarks: “This union of pilots was perhaps the compactest, the completest, and the strongest commercial organization ever formed among men”) -In the end, however, the association collapses
-Twain sketches out, how the railroad and the Civil War decrease trade on the river, until “behold, in the twinkling of an eye, as it were, the association and the noble science of piloting were things of the death an pathetic past” -When Twain visits his boyhood home and village, all seems changed. The town has grown, it is no longer a village; it is a city -first he ignores the new houses and “sees” the vanished houses which had formerly stood there and metaphorically shakes hands with former people = timeless dream -Twain needs to resort to his memory and his reconstruction of it in order to accept these changes to his town and to his past: “I...
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