A biography on the life and influence of mark twain

Essay by mdsabrina July 2008

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Born in 1835, Samuel Langhorn Clemens, better known by his pen name of Mark Twain, is one of the most famous American writers of all time. After the early death of Twain's father, the young Twain found work as a printer for his brother's newspaper [Kaplan 24]. It was here that the young writer began writing stories and developing the sly voice that would distinguish his later work.

Feeling himself drawn to the south, Twain began working on a steamboat, an experience that would form the basis for his literary adventures set in the American South. This career came to an end abruptly however with The Civil War and the installation of the American railroad system [Kaplan 49]. After going out west and working in the frontier, Twain began writing in earnest.

His most popular book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn now stands as a primary example of the "the American novel" and indeed most American authors look to him as the formative voice in American literature.

It is hard to imagine what shape American prose might have taken had it not been for Twain's influence at that particular time, but regardless, his shadow is still felt even in the 21st century among young authors. After writing many acclaimed classics and working regular as a humorist and commentator on the era in which he lived, Twain died in 1910 [ Powers 6].

His journey was not so easy though. Before California, Twain's humorous writing was malicious. He enjoyed offending the sensibilities of "proper society," and used his sarcastic writing style to do so. His reputation in Virginia City suffered. In his letters, he experimented with colloquial first person narratives. He used these characters to separate the vulgarities in his writing from himself. His narrators were older, more experienced working...