“Two Ways of Viewing the River” by Mark Twain: Response Paper
“Two Ways of Viewing the River” is a short excerpt from Mark Twain’s autobiography that compares and contrasts Twain’s point of view as a Mississippi River boat pilot. In my opinion these few paragraphs are pitch perfect as well as technically masterful. The descriptive details in paragraph 1 were especially impressive. However, I’m also struck by how universal this essay is a metaphor for everyday life. It is, in a sense, a comment on the human condition. I can recall myself that youthful energy and thirst for the unknown that Twain describes in himself as a young pilot. I also recall the moment when I realized that youthful energy was laced with naiveté. In a way, Twain also describes his young and naïve viewpoints on the Mississippi, and how they change with more knowledge of the river and the world. In a modern world where we race to have all the information and know all the answers, is it all worth it? Once Twain had all the information and answers of the river, it ruined it for him. Twain, while not regretting his knowledge of the river, seems to lament the fact that he has so much knowledge. Isn’t that learning of knowledge a necessary part of his life? Twain wouldn’t be able to do his job well if he didn’t know all he did. It’s a very interesting dichotomy. I suppose for Twain the knowledge of the Mississippi River was a necessary evil. Would it be better to know few details and no answers of life, but to see it with all the romance and beauty that Twain first saw in the river? Personally, I’m pretty sure I’d want the knowledge and the answers, but Twain makes me think twice about it.
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