Twain certainly should have. He published his best book at 50 but lived to nearly Seen this way, Tom and Huck's Mississippi River becomes an endlessly renewable metaphor. Twain saw as clearly as anybody that as Americans we're all on this raft together, afloat between oceans, crewed by oarsmen of more than one color, tippy but not aground, not yet.
Mark Twain was a man ahead of his time from the day he was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, fully two months early, in tiny Florida, Missouri. Not surprising for a preemie, a profound sense of mortality shadowed him all his life. In addition, Twain survived a youth marked by deaths both sudden and grisly. Not only did his forbidding father, Judge John Marshall Clemens, die of pneumonia when Twain was 11, but Twain is said to have witnessed the autopsy through a keyhole.
He also sat at his beloved brother Henry's bedside as he lay dying after a steamboat explosion, and Twain forever blamed himself for getting Henry his fateful job on board. Three other formative experiences made Twain the writer he became. First were the gifted storytellers he grew up listening to, many of them slaves. Next came his early job as a printer's apprentice. There he literally put words together, by handsetting type, and observed up close what made sentences sing or clang. Finally came Twain's years in California and Nevada, where he became a newspaperman and found his voice as a writer.
There he chose the pen name "Mark Twain," a riverboat expression meaning two fathoms deep, the divider between safe and dangerously shallow water. A tall tale called "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" , widely reprinted almost immediately, cemented his national reputation.
Twain returned from the West and set out for the East—specifically the Middle East, where he traveled on the first-ever luxury cruise and filed dispatches back to stateside newspapers. The eventual result was a national bestseller, The Innocents Abroad , and highbrow acceptance from the tastemakers at the Atlantic Monthly magazine.
Meanwhile, Twain's personal life settled down. After years of bachelorhood he married Olivia "Livy" Langdon, whom he had first glimpsed in a cameo carried by her brother, Charley, on shipboard. Charley introduced the couple on their return, and after two years Twain overcame the Langdons' misgivings and they married. She was demure and he was outrageous, but somehow it worked. After the death of their firstborn son, they raised three daughters and lived as happily as Twain's dark moods permitted.
Twain's imperishable memories of his boyhood led to the writing of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and, eventually, its more challenging sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Twain wrote well and prolifically almost all his long life, but these two companion pieces stand apart as his masterpieces of childhood and childhood's end.
Financial uncertainty and death haunted Twain's last years even more than they had his first. He went broke keeping up the beautiful house he had built in Connecticut and investing in a series of harebrained schemes. A daughter died, then his adored but frail Livy, and then yet another daughter. Through it all he kept writing—fiction when he could, essays when he couldn't, plus magnificent letters and journals by the trunkful. Revered across America and around the world, Twain died on April 21, These are God's adjectives.
You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.
BY MARK TWAIN
What I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it. Skip to main content.
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The Adults Aunt Polly has taken care of Tom since his mother died. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Mark Twain Mark Twain was a man ahead of his time from the day he was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, fully two months early, in tiny Florida, Missouri. Twain on Writing "God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. How do you think American childhood has and hasn't changed since the s?
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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was already a historical novel when it was written, fully 30 years after it is set. Does it feel realistic or nostalgic? Between Tom and Huck, who's more of an outlaw and who's a conformist? Who emerges with more dimension in the book, African Americans or Native Americans? Can you detect any hints of Twain's late-career humanism?
How might the fence in Aunt Polly's yard serve as a symbol? What might be implied by Tom getting others to "whitewash" the fence for him? How old are Tom and his classmates? Do they behave convincingly for their age? Why do you think Twain made Tom an orphan?go
The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Adventures of Puss in Boots: Marks's Edition, by Anonymous.
Which do you enjoy more, Twain's dialogue or his descriptions? How does one complement the other?
If you could eavesdrop on your own funeral, what do you think you would hear? Find a sentence that makes you laugh out loud. Change one word. Is it as funny?
If not, why not? If so, change one word at a time until the joke weakens or dies. What made it work before? What important roles did Huck and Becky play in Tom's success, even though Tom is celebrated as the town's hero? Tom makes a difficult decision when he tells the truth about the murder. Next day to a wheat-field Grimalkin repair'd, And there two fine partridges caught, These he took to the king who kindly enquired, From whence the fine present was brought. This king took a journey, his kingdom to view, With his daughter so fine and so gay, What happen'd then, I will now tell unto you, To my tale therefore listen I pray.
Puss ran to a cornfield, to the reapers he said, "When the king comes these words you repeat, 'To the Marquis Carabas these fields all belong, Or I'll chop you as small as minced meat.
To an Ogre's grand castle grimalkin now went, Which was opened by servants so gay, 'Is his highness the Ogre at home sir,' said he, 'For my bus'ness is urgent to-day. The Ogre received him with kindness, and now, Puss entr'd the castle so gay, When making a low and reverend bow, He march'd to the parlour straightway. To convince you 'tis true, the Ogre replied, I will change myself now in your sight: He did so—a lion he now roars by his side, Which put the poor cat in a fright.
Doubt not, said the Ogre, my power to do so, When a mouse he directly became, On his victim Grimalkin immediately flew, And sealed in an instant his doom.