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Posted on July 26th, 2012, by

As a matter of fact, not in vain Samuel Clemens was called the father of American literature by William Faulkner, as the appreciation of his literary heritage and its place in world literature cannot be overestimated. To adduce evidence of that one should recollect a keen quotation of Thomas Edison, who noted: An American loves his family. If he has any love for some other person he generally selects Mark Twain(Edison).

Gaining fame of a prominent American humorist writer, satirist, lecturer and an all-round person, he used several different pen names for signing his literary works. Thus it is next to impossible to compile a complete list of his works, including short stories, essays, lectures’ themes, etc. But his most known nom de plume was Mark Twain, he claimed, by the way, that this pseudonym was not entirely his invention; it was the name captain Isaiah Sellers went under in work Life on the Mississippi as he used to sign telegrams: Mark Twain. Virtually, Samuel Clemens’ literature gives readers an opportunity to get a deep insight into the past, into the events and issues of his epoch as well as the events of his personal life. This surely demonstrates his ability of life observing and reporting on his surroundings with original and peculiar to him inspiration and in a specific humorous and at times satirical manner.

In his writings he gives readers not only the clear view of different events in the historical context but also provides with images and various manifestations of quickly changing world with its multiple features. According to Mark Twain’s contemporary study of his museum keepers: By examining his life and his works, we can read into the past piercing together various events of the era and the responses to them. Not at random one of Samuel Clemens’ mottos in life was: Supposing is good, but finding out is better (Twain), therefore he traveled extensively practically all over the world. In such a way he gained experience, got knowledge, drew information about the world he lived in and finally derived strength and inspiration from them. That is why it is evident that his life and literary activity are closely interrelated. During Clemens’ life, the writer became an eyewitness to a young United States evolution, internal conflicts and undercurrents, he witnessed the country’s advancement, western expansion, industrialization, slavery abolition, technological progress, etc. Being an educated and erudite person who was not indifferent to what was going on in the country, Mark Twain often had something to comment on the changes.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November, thirtieth in the year 1835 in Florida, Missouri to John Clemens, a merchant, and Jane Clemens. The family had seven children in which Samuel was the sixth one. Only Pamela, Henry and Orion survived their childhood, the rest died in their early age. When Twain was four years old the family moved to Hannibal on Mississippi, the life in this region inspired him for creating some of his best works including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In his early childhood Twain already had an idea of what slavery was and later engaged this theme in a number of works, including those named above.

In the year 1847 Mark Twain’s father died of pneumonia. Later on, Mark Twain had to help in money earning and so he became a printer’s apprentice and was made a typesetter and contributor to articles and various humorous sketches for his brother Orion’s Hannibal Journal. Here the writer began his literary career by writing light verse and ironical sketches about life of common people and of the rich. However, at the age of eighteen he has to leave Hannibal for receiving a work in New York City printing house. In Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati he worked on his education regularly attending libraries and reading a lot.

Being twenty-two years of age the future humorist started working as a steamboat pilot, inspired by Horace Bixby, moreover, the job was profitable. It was not an easy occupation as he had to know much about the ever-changing river. Samuel persuaded his brother Henry to join him in this business and consequently blamed himself for having advised it to Henry as in summer of the year 1858 the steamboat exploded and the brother perished. The writer served as a steamboat pilot until the American Civil War broke out in 1861. Twain together with his friends formed a Confederate militia and traveled much across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Everything he saw there and what impressed him much was depicted in the work Roughing It. This book is also called a semi-autobiographical account for it described Twain’s journey to Nevada, and as well as in Innocents the writer criticized different European and Middle Eastern countries. What is more, the book contains Native American tribes life description and original characters portraying. This trip also gave Twain material for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, published in 1865 in the New York Saturday Press. After the success of the work, he was commissioned to write letters about his travel experience. Twain traveled to California where he went on his journalist activity as well as started giving public lectures, which were a popular way of entertainment at the period.

His voyage on a cruiser resulted in The Innocents Abroad and The New Pilgrim’s Progress. Only in the year 1868 his love at first sight came to him and in 1870 the writer married Olivia. As Twain had a stake in the Buffalo Express, he worked in New York as a writer and editor and lived there with his wife and son Langdon who died of diphtheria at nineteen months. It was a hard blow for Mark Twain, but he still found strength to continue working and in the year 1871 the couple moved to Hartford and Twain established a small drama house there. Now it is a museum. In 1875 the writer described his experiences on the Mississippi River in Old Times on the Mississippi. This work became the first step towards creating Life on the Mississippi. Soon Olivia gave birth to three more children: Susy, Clara and Jean, but died in 1904. The fate delivered Twain another blow.

On returning from a tour from central and southern Europe, he wrote about it in A Tramp Abroad and also worked on The Prince and The Pauper and started writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which would be later called the first Great American Novel. In this novel Twain criticized the institution of slavery and showed his negative attitude towards African-Americans’ poor treatment. Being Twain’s masterpiece, it contains his typical satire, wit, humor, rich descriptions of the river and the local residents. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is drawn on Clemens’ youth in Hannibal. Tom Sawyer is modeled on Twain himself and some features of his friends Briggs and Bowen are most likely traced in Tom. While his friend Tom Blankenship was a prototype of Huckleberry Finn. It has already been recognized that: Huckleberry Finn, one of the central works of American literature and a worldwide bestseller, traces the moral education of a young boy whose better impulses overcome both self-interest and the negative forces of his culture (Lindborg). Twain portrays human corruption, pretension, violence, touches upon issues of freedom and equality, which are still actual in modern times.

Later Mark Twain concentrated on new writing projects and President Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court he discloses the paradoxes of political and social norms and starts writing articles for earning money as he had definite financial difficulties. He wrote Pudd’nhead Wilson and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, the latter was dedicated to his wife. From 1891 to 1900 he witnessed European powers’ economic relations, described them in Following the Equator. Twain also wrote literary reviews and criticized a number of outstanding men of letters, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Robert Stevenson among them. In the year 1906 M. Twain starts writing his autobiography for the North American Review. Having outlived his two children, the writer suffers deep depression and dies of a heart attack on April, twenty-first in 1910, one day after the comet’s closet approach to our planet as well as one of his brothers did.

Samuel Clemens’ life is essential to be analyzed in order to comprehend his works’ messages to the full as his major works are based on data from his Hannibal boyhood and Mississippi experiences.

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