Mark Twain: Racist or Realist

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Pages: 6 (2034 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whom readers know as Mark Twain, has written many novels including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876; The Prince and the Pauper in 1882; Puddin' Head Wilson in 1883; and Twain's masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which was completed in 1883 (Simpson 103). Throughout Mark Twain's writings, Twain had written about the lifestyle in the South the way it was in truth and detail. Mark Twain was not predjudice in his writings, instead he stripped away the veneers of class, position, religion, institutions, and the norms of society through his use of setting, language, and characters.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 and died on April 21, 1910. He was raised in the South on a Missouri Frontier and when he was only four year of age he moved to Hannibal, a large Southern town on the banks of the Mississippi River (Simpson 104). The Mississippi River is a key element in his two novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both the characters Tom and Huck are similar to Twain in their spirit of adventure (Unger 193). Throughout his writings Twain wrote about the oppression of the rich and poor, the strong and weak, and the proud and humble (Baxter 1). In his autobiography he wrote "All negroes were friends of ours and those of our own age were inface comrades (Neider 5)." Mark Twain could not find the realistic acceptance of friendships, loyalty, and courage in the adulthood of societies, and because of this he would always use a boyhood view of the world to contrast the adult hypocracies. Mark Twain was honest and knew that he could only write from a realistic perspective and could not accept these hypocracies of society (Simpson 25).

Mark Twain had paid much attention to detail in his descriptions of the South. In 1876 he had been placed at the head of the best seller lists for his realease of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Unger 199). The time period of the book exists just prior to the civil war, although it was written just after the war (Simpson 3). In this novel the reader is asked to see and judge the ante-bellum world through Huck's perception of it (Simpson 3). It is written in a first person narrative form told by a boy growing up in the South and therefore we are able to see the life of a young boy directly (Simpson 3). The scenery and the people fit perfectly together in Pudd'nhead Wilson and this is clearly recognized despite their predudices (Boysen 1). In addition to the scenery, Twain also uses his popular river setting. The Mississippi River once again appeared in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, receiving great triumphant reviews (Unger 199). The book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn took seven years to complete. The first sixteen chapters birthed the beginning of the book, but then he took a suddend rest, possibly writing a few chapters in 1879 and 1880 but he did not complete the book until a returned trip down the Mississippi River. The signifigance of the returned trip down the Mississippi River before the completion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was that it allowed him to focus his attention on his characters, folkways, speech and the setting (Simpson). The river has been written before in detail, but in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the river is an adventure all in itself full of mystery and powerful imagination (The Hartford Courant 1). Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and the runaway slave, Jim, escape the evils of society by retreating to the river, floating away on the raft (Simpson 47). In one of the episodes in the novel, Huck says "other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft." Here the main idea is about freedom (Simpson 33). The episodes were designed "to pleasently remind adults of what they once were themselves (Unger 199). The underlying theme...

Cited: Neider, Charles. ed. The Autobiography of Mark Twain. New York: Harper Collins,
Fulton, Joe B. Mark Twain 's Ethical Realism – The Aesthetics of Race, Class, and Gender.
Columbia: University of Missouri P, 1997.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. United Stated of America: Tom
Doherty Associates, Inc., 1988.
Unger, Leonard. ed. American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies. Vol. IV.
New York: Charles Scribner 's Son 's, 1974.
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