Mark Twain was a very realistic author. He liked to write about the experiences that he saw throughout his lifetime. After reading some of his literary works, readers can “see” and connect with the events that happened in history in the late nineteenth-century. They can gain a better understanding and acquire insights into the time period and the people who lived in it. At his peak, he was probably the most popular American celebrity of his time.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri, to John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton Clemens. He was the sixth of seven children. Only three of his siblings survived childhood. However, he did not go by this particular name. He goes by Mark Twain which is his pen name. At the age of four, Sam and his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. This is where he was brought up. He only completed school through the fifth grade. He then went to work as a printer’s apprentice for a local newspaper. For many years he had different jobs, but mostly whatever he did involved working for newspaper companies. In 1865 Sam’s big break came with the publication of his first short story “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” Sam loved to travel. He traveled all over the world doing different writing jobs, from Missouri to San Francisco.
Sam and Olivia Livy Langdon were married in 1870. They had four children, one son and three daughters. Their son died at the age of two from diphtheria. Their first daughter, Susy died at the age of twenty-four from meningitis.
For the next seventeen years (1874-1891) is when he completed some of his most famous works, one of them being The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884. In 1884, Sam created his own publishing company, the Charles L. Webster Company. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the first book to be published by his own publishing company. The company eventually went bankrupt and he had to move to Europe to pay back his debts. When he returned to the United States in 1900, he served as the vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. On April 21, 1910, Sam died at the age of 74 in Redding, Connecticut.
Sam’s works are influenced by many different things. He began his career writing light, humorous works, but then they evolved into grim, misleading, and murderous works. With The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he combined rich humor and social criticism. Sam was an expert at mastering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize American literature. American literature is a very distinct genre built on American themes and language. He loved to write about life in America in the late nineteenth century. One major theme that Twain is famous for is writing about racism and slavery in Mississippi. Sam’s most famous work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn lets readers know what it was like to live in a slave state. Readers can “visualize” what life on the banks of the Mississippi River was like, especially if you were black.
Twain wrote many literary works including Life on the Mississippi, Roughing It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, The Gilded Age, and several short stories. Many critics clam that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the greatest novel ever written. As Earnest Hemingway himself said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn…all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” In recent years, there have been occasional attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn from various libraries because Twain’s use of local color and racial words offends some people.
In his writings, Twain likes to include the strengths and the weaknesses of the rapidly changing world. By reading and analyzing his works, readers can learn and connect with what life was like in the late nineteenth century in the South.