Modernism Movement

Mark Twain 1835-1910

Biography of

Mark Twain

Early life

Mark Twain was born under the name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens in November of 1835. The place of birth, and where Twain grew up, was Hannibal, Missouri which he later used as the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn among a few other books. Mark Twain’s first job was as an apprenticeship in a print shop which helped give him the positive view of then modern technology that he brings to life so well in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Another occupation that inspired a book was his time as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi, which of course led to Life on the Mississippi. After that, Twain headed west to meet with his brother, Orion. While out west he engaged in various occupations from gold mining, to working at a mill, and finally, journalism. As a reporter he made his first entry into storytelling with The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Shortly after it was published he was assigned to write a travelogue while on the first recreational cruise ever. While his travelogue was published in the newspaper as a week by week development as he telegraphed his writings back to America it eventually resulted in an incredibly popular published book, Innocents Abroad. He had found greatness as a writer, he was well known, he would be writing more travelogues and stories for the rest of his life.

Reception of Work

Mark Twain was an extremely popular author of the time, mainly starting with The Innocents Abroad. That first travelogue was both one of the best selling books of his lifetime and one of the best selling travel books of all time. Today, Twains most well known books are most likely The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Books by

Mark Twain

1885
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
1876
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
1883
Life on the Mississippi
1889
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
1880
A Tramp Abroad
1869
The Innocents Abroad
1872
Roughing It
1884
The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson
1894
Tom Sawyer, Abroad
1896
Tom Sawyer, Detective
1900
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg
1906
What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain
1907
A Horse's Tale
1909
Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven

Review of

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is probably one of Mark Twain’s most well-known books other than the Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer books. It’s also one of the more modern books that can be considered great works.

The premise is essentially this; The Yankee, a 19th century factory supervisor, engineer type, wakes up in 5th century England. He goes from thinking he’s in some sort of asylum around the time he’s captured by Sir Kay, to accepting that somehow he has been transported back in time. At first he’s going to be burned at the steak, but he manages to avoid this with a display of “magic”. He happens to know the date of a solar eclipse in the 5th century and decides to turn it to his advantage by threatening the knights that he would turn out the sun if they tried to burn him. The eclipse happens right on schedule and he assumes the role and title of being a powerful magician. With his knowledge of modern technology, The Yankee quickly overshadows Merlin and gains a role of importance in the community and the court.

Over the course of the rest of the book The Yankee assumes greater and greater importance and responsibility in the community until Camelot is basically as similar as it can get to 19th Century America. However, the exchange of technology and knowledge isn’t just one way. On his quests and travels, The Yankee gains more knowledge about humanity than he ever had in his Industrial American setting. He grows more compassionate when he sees the poverty ridden society that exists in much of Camelot. Basically he learns more about how different classes of people live and vows to improve and equalize each class.

The book draws an extremely good contrast between the merging societies and time periods. Not everybody can take two eras and create realistic ties between them, draw a picture of somebody from the future changing the past, and do it all with great dialog between characters and realistic development. Twain doesn’t even come close to losing this illusion by creating unrealistic situations to provoke character development as you often see today in both literature and film. Instead he evolves the characters through everyday activities and random but life-like events.

During the book our hero ascends from an outsider to in his opinion, the most important person in all of England. Throughout the book we are introduced to the quirks of ancient society that have fallen out of fashion. A great example of this is the lack bathing from the general public and how he sets out change the nation to be “more civilized”. This is a major undercurrent of the plot that links together like a spider’s web.

Mark Twain’s seamless ability to mesh to dialogs from two different centuries is astounding. These dialogs can provide humor and flaws in conveying meanings.As the book progresses readers are exposed to different meanings that have fallen out of style, and their alternate definitions becoming unknown to the common populace of the 5th century world. Throughout the book we find that the descriptive manner of his writing brings mental images bubbling to the surface of our thoughts.

Twain uses his masterful descriptive paragraphs to push forth background ideas of the time, practices left in the dark by the history books. These ideas about slavery and the hold of the church over England take center stage in this jaunt through Medieval England, all through the ideas of an industrious American. His words flow onto the paper in such a way that you just assume they are true. This rare ability makes a completely impossible event like time travel feel plausible and even likely to the reader. Only after putting the book down do you question the facts and ideas he put forth.

Influence

Mark Twain is considered one of the great American authors. His writing has influenced countless authors over time through his classic stories great travel novels and strong essays. According to many literary experts, what we consider American Literacy dates back to one book; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Over 100 years later we still read his books and quote him throughout our lives. One famous quote he made was, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Ralph Ellison a famous American WWII novelist wrote an essay on how Twain’s work influenced one of the greatest WWII books of all time. His works have even reached William Faulkner, a Nobel Prize winning author whose books are held next to Twain’s as the best books to come out of the United States. Faulkner in a literary conference stated, “the father of American literature … the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs.” Overall we can consider Mark Twain on of the greatest authors in American history and maybe even the world.

Inspiration

Mark Twain is considered one of the great American authors. His writing has influenced countless authors over time through his classic stories great travel novels and strong essays. According to many literary experts, what we consider American Literacy dates back to one book; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Over 100 years later we still read his books and quote him throughout our lives. One famous quote he made was, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Ralph Ellison a famous American WWII novelist wrote an essay on how Twain’s work influenced one of the greatest WWII books of all time. His works have even reached William Faulkner, a Nobel Prize winning author whose books are held next to Twain’s as the best books to come out of the United States. Faulkner in a literary conference stated, “the father of American literature … the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs.” Overall we can consider Mark Twain on of the greatest authors in American history and maybe even the world.

Group

Discussion

Our group had two main discussions, one about the book cover of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and one about Time Travel.

The book cover (as seen farther up the page) shows an excellent contrast of both eras, 19th century industrial America and 5th century Britain. Since the book and this version of the cover both show that so well, we agreed that it was one of the best covers available. Both for illustrating what the book is about, and for being aesthetically pleasing artistically.

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As for time travel, the discussion is impossible to duplicate in text because it was very spontaneous, but we covered everything from relativity to Doctor Who, to the buttlerfly effect.