Mark Twain: The Prince of Humorous Enlightenment

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Mark Twain: The Prince of Humorous Enlightenment
Many historians write that Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, the distinguished novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist, and literary critic, ranks among the greatest figures of American literature. Twain was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, and moved during his childhood to Hannibal, Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi River (Contemporary Authors Online). Twain stayed close to the Mississippi River and even became a riverboat captain. One historian says “the Civil War effectively closed business travel along the Mississippi (which was being used as an invasion route by Union troops), Twain was then unable to continue working as a riverboat captain” (Contemporary Authors Online). Throughout the rest of his life Mark Twain traveled, married, had children, and even lost his beloved wife Olivia. During Twain’s lifetime, he wrote almost twenty-eight novels and a collection of short stories, all of which are still read and highly esteemed today. One critic writes that Twain remains one of America's most widely read authors and to a great extent, his popularity has rested upon his humor which comes from his satirical and colloquial writing (Gerber). This can be said about most of Twains novels, especially: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and The Prince and the Pauper. Through satirical writing, Mark Twain presents the flaws of the common man by spotlighting the aspects of his everyday mundane tasks.

The novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is about a young boy named Tom Sawyer who strives to be outrageously adventurous. He goes through many common obstacles in his life with his friends which later help him realize that those obstacles make his life one big adventure. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is believed to be Mark Twain’s “best constructed work since in it Twain manages to keep three narrative strands carefully interwoven: the family complication involving Tom and his Aunt Polly, the love story between Tom and Becky; and the murder plot involving Tom, Huck, and Injun Joe. Tom Sawyer has been called ‘an idyll of boyhood,’ and as such it has never been surpassed” (Gerber). Mark Twain satirizes the flaws of the common man in his everyday ordinary aspects. In one part of the novel, Tom Sawyer – the main character – is forced to paint his Aunt Polly’s fence. Of course Tom is reluctant but is forced to paint the fence anyway. However, while doing so, a friend of his passes by who Tom tells that he enjoys painting the fence and makes himself seem lucky for being able to do so. Tom swindles the boy into painting the fence as opposed to Tom painting the fence himself: ’Like it? Well, I [Tom Sawyer] don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?’ That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to note the effect—added a touch here and there—criticized the effect again—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said: ‘Say, Tom, let ME [Ben] whitewash a little.’ (Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 17) The whole idea of Tom – a young boy – tricking someone else into doing his work exemplifies what the common man is like. The common man is lazy to work especially if the work does not benefit himself. Here, Mark Twain is satirizing the laziness of the common man and what he would do to get out of his responsibilities. However, this is not the only flaw Mark Twain presents through his satirical writing. At another point in Tom’s adventure, Tom speaks out about his class and his teachers. His school house is under observation by a government official. Tom talks about how everyone in his class was “showing off” mainly in front of the official. “Mr. Walters fell to ‘showing off,’ with all sorts of official bustlings...
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