Mark Twain2




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Michael Jones
Mrs. Smith
American Literature 1.20
Dec. 2, 1999
Mark Twain
It is indisputable that, during his many years of writing, Mark Twain established himself as a literary genius. It is also indisputable that the primary reason for his success as an author was his quick wit and sense of humor. During this nation’s time of political and social division, Twain wrote about many of the simpler things in life while always showing his humorist side. His brilliant comedic mind was especially unusual for any popular writer around during this rough time period in the nation’s history. Mark Twain’s humorist views and writings truly solidify him as the forefather of American humor.
Unlike many writers of his time, Samuel Clemens, better known as his pen name, Mark Twain never secluded himself or slaved over a piece of work. He enjoyed playing billiards or sitting on his porch, smoking a pipe. He lived with his wife and three daughters, and did most of writing in his billiards room or on his bed. He lived a simple, casual life, which proved to encourage his laidback, humorist attitude. (Whipple, Sally) William Dean Howells once compared Twain’s lifestyle to the other famous writers of his time. “Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes… they were like one another and like other literary men; but Clemens was sole, incomparable.” (Twainweb) This being

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perhaps the best explanation for Twain’s unique humorist views, it is no doubt this lifestyle provided for his creative storytelling and successful career as an author.
Mark Twain, a native of Missouri who lived most his childhood in poverty, began his career, surprisingly, as a steamboat pilot. This career path was soon to be interrupted by the Civil War, in which he served for the Confederate Army for two weeks before withdrawing. Already at this point in his life, Twain was showing his humorist side when he commented on this incident saying, “…it was my retirement from it that brought the crash. It left the Confederate side too weak.” (Ayers, 42)
After the Civil War, Twain began his career as a journalist. He bounced from one city to another, including a stay at Virginia City, Nevada and San Francisco. While in San Francisco, Twain wrote The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, his first nationally acclaimed work. This tale of young boys and frog races combined the themes of youth and humor, a combination he would revisit frequently. (Budd, 32)
Finally, in 1869, Twain’s first book, The Innocents Abroad, was published and released. This story provided many humorous quotes which Twain would become famous for. For example, Twain commented on Italy saying, “The Creator made Italy with designs by Michelangelo.” (Ayers, 126) Twain would create his most famous, and humorous, quotes later on while living in Hartford.
In the early 1870’s, Twain and his newlywed wife, Olivia Langdon, moved into a three-story house in Hartford, Connecticut, where he would spend his most successful years. The first book Twain wrote while in Hartford was Roughing It, which was

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released in 1872. Despite many humorous moments during the book, its popularity and comedic were very slight compared to his next book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Considered by many as one of Twain’s greatest stories, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer revisits the theme of youth combined with humor which he often almost thrives off of at times. Tom Sawyer, which came out four years after Roughing It, was released to mixed crowds. The book was banned in several areas and sales were slow to begin with. Eventually, people were able to look past many of the controversial issues in the book and see the humorist side of the book, which would eventually make the book a classic. (Mark Twain in His Times) This book, more so than others, indirectly poked fun at adults for forgetting their childhood. In the preface of Tom Sawyer, Twain explains his reason for writing it. “Part of my plan has been to pleasantly remind adults of what they were themselves, and how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.” (Ayers, 37) This statement does a good job of not only pointing something relatively obvious, but also makes fun of life at its simplest. This is a humorist style that has made him not only one of