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Mark Twain, a Racist

Mark Twain was a man that was way ahead of his time. In a time when people were judged on color,Mark Twain grew up in Florida, Missouri (Mandelbrot, Twain). In Missouri and Louisiana combined there were less than one half a million white persons (Chang, Twain p. 21). Which meant the black population was abundant. While growing up Twain had no telegraph, no railroads, no stage lines of any consequence (Twain, www. marktwain. com). Also maps were scarcely ever found. So Twain didnt really get to communicate with different people that were outside his little town.

Twain was a sixth child so he had many siblings to look up too. When Twain was young he was kept indoors mostly because of his poor health. He stayed mostly in the house until he was about nine, when he seemed to recover and join the rest on the towns children outside. Twain attended private school. He attended private school for the first time at the age of nine. Twain didnt have very luxurious life growing up because his family was extremely poor. Because of his upbringing, Twain started believing that slavery was part of the natural order.

Twains childhood may not have been luxurious but it was a curious childhood full of weird, fantastic impressions and many contradictory influences. Like his father never really being there for his kids. All of the children of that time were fond of the Negroes and confined in them. They would, in fact, have been lost without such protection and company. Slave punishment; too was not unknown, even in the household. Sometimes the punishment would be that their hands would be tied together with a bridle rein, and administered astisement across the shoulders with a cowhide.

These were things all calculated to impress a sensitive child. This was commonplace enough for that time and locality. When Twain was 12 years old his father died. Then at age thirteen Twain dropped out of school. Because he grew up in a port city he had more job opportunities. His jobs consisted of numerous printing jobs and a river pilots apprentice, and then later on he became a licensed river pilot in 1858. Clemens pseudonym, Mark Twain comes from his river pilot days. All the games and the daily talk concerned fanciful semi-African conditions and strange primal possibilities.

The children of that time believed in spells and charms and bad luck signs, all learned of their Negro guardians. But if the Negroes were the chief companions and protectors of the children, they were likewise one of their discomforts. The greatest real dread children knew was the fear of meeting runaway slaves. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered to be one of Twains masterpieces. The book is about a boy named Huck, who flees from his father by rafting down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave, named Jim. The pairs adventures show how Huck the cruelty of which men and woman are capable.

Another theme for the book is the conflict between Hucks feeling of friendship with Jim, who was one of the few people he could trust, and his knowledge that by helping Jim escape. Huck Finn is noted for its authentic language. The book was said to be a plea for racial tolerance. Huckleberry Finn had been banned in some cities on its first publication in 1885 for its supposed coarseness and vulgarity (Mandelbrot, Twain). One quote from Twain was Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.

Another is Where prejudice exist it always discolors our thoughts. What Twain was saying in the first quote is that man is the only animal on the face of the earth that can inflict pain to something just because man likes to. The second quote was saying that when people are prejudice there can be no clear thinking. Mark Twain has been seriously accused by some of being a racist writer, whose writing is offensive to black readers, perpetuates cheap slave era stereotypes, and deserves no place on todays bookshelves. Twains writing is also known for realism of place and language.

In 1864, Twain met two American writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him in his work. Twain was also renowned as a humorist but was not always appreciated by the writers of his time as anything more than that. Successive generations of writers, however, recognized the role that Twain played in creating a truly American literature. For Twains Critics, the novel is racist on the face of it because many characters use the word nigger throughout the book. It is not just white people that feel Mark Twain is not a racist.

One said, Twain succeeded in making his readers genuine respect for Jim, and pointed out that Twain, in creating Jims character, had exhibited his sympathy and interest in the masses of the Negro people. What you find in Twain is the opposite: a lively affection and admiration for black Americans that began when he was a boy and grew up through the years. In a widely praised post-Civil war sketch titled A True Story, for example, he wrenchingly evoked the pain of an ex-slave as she recalls being separated from her young son on the auction block, and her joy at discovering him in a black regiment at the wars end.

And finally I leave you with this; on those occasions when Twain does venture to compare blacks and whites, the comparison is not conspicuously flattering to the whites. The first one is One of my theories is that the hearts of men are about alike, all over the world, whatever their skin-complections may be. The second quote is Nearly all black and brown skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare. The third and last quote is There are many humorous things in notion that he is less savage then all the other savages. In conclusion to my paper I say Mark Twain a racist! Isnt it about time we put this ridiculous notion to rest?

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