Realism and Local Color

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Realism and Local Color

The intent of local color writing was to show the culture and uniqueness of specific regions. Writers who wrote using local color were, in most cases, connected to the region they were writing about. Mark Twain, who is commonly known as being one of the greatest American writers, if not the greatest, used copious amounts of local color in his stories.

In Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi he uses local color that gives the reader a better sense of what he experienced when he was growing up. Twain put a lot of emphasis on how there was one ambition that all the boys in his village had, and that was to be a steamboatman. All the boys wanted to be a steamboatman because they all wanted to get out of their tiny, sleepy little village. Twain shows local color by explaining the ambitions of the boys from his village.

Mark Twain did not only show local color by describing the ambition of the village boys, but also by describing the village scenery. His goal was to put a picture in the reader’s head. When Twain talks of the two clerks sleeping on their splint-bottomed chairs I instantly see the image in my head. He writes of the “peaceful lapping of the wavelets” of the Mississippi River and the “great volumes of the blackest smoke” coming from the chimneys of the steamboat. This imagery is something only someone native to the area would know about.

Writers use local color to bring out the character and culture of a certain area. Mark Twain and many other writers use local color to convey to the reader what it is actually like in the specific region they are writing about.
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