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By Peter Messent, Louis J. Budd

This broad-ranging significant other brings jointly revered American and eu critics and a few up-and-coming students to supply an summary of Twain, his historical past, his writings, and his position in American literary history.

  • One of the main broad-ranging volumes to seem on Mark Twain in fresh years.
  • Brings jointly revered Twain critics and a couple of more youthful students within the box to supply an summary of this important determine in American literature.
  • Places designated emphasis at the ways that Twain's works stay either correct and demanding for a twenty-first century audience.
  • A concluding essay evaluates the altering panorama of Twain criticism.

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Extra info for A Companion to Mark Twain

Sample text

On the other hand, something more interesting (and personal) than his predictable rant about the Noble Red Man may have been at work in the book as well. In the margin of his copy of The Descent of Man, where Darwin discusses the intellectual faculties of animals, Clemens wrote, “War horses learn the bugle notes. Fire horses rush at the fire alarm” (quoted in Cummings 1988: 33). Similarly, in Roughing It, Twain interpolates an apparently invented recollection of hiring a horse recently retired from pulling a milk wagon in order to take a young lady for a drive.

Twain’s renderings of the village of his youth, Hannibal, Missouri (the St. Petersburg of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and the Dawson’s Landing of Pudd’nhead Wilson) are different enough from one another to signal real changes in attitude. More important, though, is the apparent fact that he took human nature as a thing worthy of study and understanding. In his youth, Sam Clemens received religious instruction, sometimes in the Presbyterian church, sometimes in the Methodist. In either he would have experienced the lingering aftertaste of a Puritan dispensation – that God is an all-powerful and jealous presence in everyday life and that boys are pitiful sinners absolutely dependent on his mercy.

This is not to say, though, that such generalizing has not been illuminating and provocative. Ten years after Twain’s death, Van Wyck Brooks made the first enduringly influential and controversial sally in The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920). Sometimes remembered only as a misogynistic and psycho-biographical attack on Twain’s wife Livy for censoring and stunting her husband’s talent, Brooks’s book more largely aimed to make Twain a national type – of the artist crushed by the American environment – and to skirmish over the definition of a national literary tradition during the period of intense nationalism (and nativism) following World War I.

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