Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2100839-Mark-Twain---American-Writer
by Espero
Rated: E · Essay · Contest Entry · #2100839
The Amazing Life of Mark Twain
Merit Badge in Attention to Detail
[Click For More Info]

 Rising to the Challenge Outstanding Review: *^*Star*^*Mark Twain, Master of Editorials, Poetry, Speeches, Fables, Mischief, and Slices of Life.

In 1815, two amazing events occurred. Haley’s Comet appeared and the world welcomed Samuel Langhorne Clemens. I doubt there is a person alive who hasn't heard of Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens, or at the very least Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The stories have withstood decades of time with their down home quaintness, picturesque verbiage and shocking reality, interspersed with cryptic humor. Of course there were naysayers like Louisa May Alcott who said, "Huckleberry Finn is not fit for children, and if Mark Twain can't write anything more uplifting, then he shouldn't write at all."

It would be fun to know what comment Mark Twain made when he heard this? Some of the newspapers expressed the same sentiment, but it was a wasted effort as we all know.

How did this man who was only schooled to age 13 and sickly until he was 10, capture the hearts of his readers? One would have to surmise that a partial reason for this was his sense of humor which may have come from his mother. He liked to tell how his mother attempted to heal him with various remedies. When she was 80 he asked her if she had been afraid he wouldn't live. Her caustic reply was “No, I was afraid you would.”

Today, Twain is still relevant. His Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are required reading in many schools and remain in young adult fiction libraries. Speakers around the country often use his quotes on politics and human nature. He had a way of reaching deep into the basic instincts of man, and wrote with no apologies. He was not afraid to reveal weaknesses or deceitfulness in people, but often peppered those remarks with humor, in a way that no one else was able to do. He made people think, made them aware of things they didn't otherwise entertain in their minds, made them look from a different perspective. His image has been captured in monuments to honor him. His name has been associated with a great number of products, buildings, riverboats, lakes, bridges, schools; the list is endless.

Twain had a diverse lifestyle, many life experiences, which certainly must have had an impact on his writing. In 1847 the family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a riverboat town. He developed his love of the river and riverboats there, expressing his desire to be a riverboat pilot. In 1851, his father died, leaving the family in financial straits, so he dropped out of school and took on work as a printer in Hannibal. In 1858 he began a two-year apprenticeship to become a licensed riverboat pilot; where he learned about river depth, 'mark twain', thus he adopted his pen name. The Civil War came in 1862; you can imagine how he must have absorbed the turmoil of the times and filed it away for future writing. The war stopped trade along the Mississippi and he joined the Confederate Army for a short period of time. In 1864 Twain and his brother Orion traveled to Nevada where Orion had been named secretary to the governor. He tried mining and then became a reporter for the Virginia City Enterprise. His trip to the west resulted in a book named “Roughing It”. In 1865 he settled in San Francisco where he would have been interwoven with many diverse cultures.

Are you getting the picture? This man has not been idle - with a mind like he had, he must have been collecting tons of ideas in his brain.

In 1866 his highly popular Jumping Frog story was published. In 1867 he traveled to Hawaii as a reporter for the Alta California Newspaper after which he gave his first lecture. He married in 1872 and had a son, meanwhile his wife helped him edit his work. In 1873 the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut and a daughter was born. His son then died of diphtheria. In 1976 Clara was born, the only child to outlive her father. In 1880, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published. His last child was born in 1883. Throughout all these years, many of his other works were published. In 1885 he founded his own publishing company, a company that eventually sent him into financial ruin. In 1889 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published.

In the hope of living more economically, he moved his family to Europe in 1894 and the following year his publishing company was closed. His creditors were clamoring to be paid so he hit the road for a worldwide lecture tour in 1896. While lecturing in Europe, his daughter Suzy died of meningitis. Two years later, after a long illness, his wife Olivia died. Twain moved to New York to write his autobiography and in 1908 his youngest daughter was institutionalized for epilepsy.

How ironic that in 1910 his daughter Jean died and he too left this world just as Haley’s Comet once more reappeared. The above is only a fraction of what he has written and accomplished; he certainly filled his life with memories; good and bad. How he maintained his sense of humor after his business failed and he lost so many of his loved ones is a mystery. I think if he had not become a writer you would have found him on a bench in front of the hardware store in Hannibal, Missouri, surrounded by townsfolk who loved to come and listen to his stories.

One of his poems was The Aged Pilot Man. It's plain to see that this poem had its roots in Twain's history and fascination with his love of the water and boats. The poem was sprinkled with seaman's terms, some of which I found to be difficult to read but yet made the poem seem more authentic. I wondered if he had been in a dangerous situation like that in his own life. A couple of times in the verse there was mention made of not seeing ones family again; maybe he was thinking of so many of his lost family members when he included that into the verse. His younger brother was killed in a boiler explosion near Memphis on the Pennsylvania, a job that Mark had obtained for him. There may have been some guilt lurking in the back of his mind over this incident that came out in the poem. I sense that Mark Twain was a determined man who never gave up. No matter what adversity came his way he was able to reroute and change his destination while keeping his sense of humor. Likewise, this poem also shows the fight that the crew and occupants put up to survive; even the poor lad who was driving the mules. Then, in the end, the darkness was lifted and a plank was thrown up to save everyone; an obvious life saver that was there all along; thus again the humor. Mark Twain overcame many obstacles and losses and still was able to make people smile. Humor may have been his way of overcoming the sadness that befell him.

In 1895, during his worldwide lecture tour to try and make money to pay his debts, Mark Twain visited Australia. His visit was highly anticipated, he was a famous personality worldwide. He and his family were welcomed everywhere they went. Twain always had political opinions and Australia was in the midst of rebellion against Britain. Twain advised them that it would not be beneficial for them to leave the British Empire.

He wrote a book called “The Wayward Tourist”, about his adventures in Australia. He remarked how beautiful the harbor in Sydney was. I'm sure he loved every port city he visited. He was not as fond of the city itself. He was highly amused by the dialect of the Australians and especially fond of the term “my word”, saying it was music to his ears. When visiting Adelaide, known as the city of churches, he referred to the city as 64 roads to the other world. Whether this was sarcastic or not, we don't know, but he had often said that Christians were hypocritical. He was quoted as saying, "As for an established church, any established church is an established crime."

He praised the landscape of Australia and described in detail the beautiful flowers. He said, "The history of Australia reads like lies but it's was all true, it all happened."

He was misquoted as saying that Newcastle consisted of a long street with an empty graveyard at one end and a gentleman’s club at the other with no gentlemen. That statement caused an uproar. What he actually said was something to the effect that it was a quaint coal town with a long main street having a hospital at one end and a cemetery at the other.

Twain was criticized when he spoke of the Tasmania aboriginals stating that they practiced infanticide and cannibalism as a means in keeping their population down. Some people said that this statement was not true; others reported that it was true. He seemed to be in the middle of controversy in his life. He was also accused of being racist because of Huck Finn and his acceptance toward the slave culture. Twain merely wrote as he saw things in his own time period. Decades later, in the 1960's, opinions had changed, and the book raised the question of whether or not Twain was a racist. It has been reported that Twain contributed to the college expenses of two or three black students, an act that doesn't seem racist to me.

In the end, no matter where he went, what he said, or what he did, he made an impact and the world noticed. His legacy will never die but lives on in poems, stories, humor, quotes, comments and images.

One lone man from Missouri made a difference in the world, made someone smile, cry, laugh, or look at themselves through a different lens. My favorite quote of Mark Twain is, "I remember everything whether it happened or not."

© Copyright 2016 Espero (espero at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2100839-Mark-Twain---American-Writer