Mark Twain is important to American literature because of his novels and how they portray the American experience. Some of his best selling novels were Innocents Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In these books, Mark Twain recalls his own adventures of steamboating on the Mississippi River. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 in a small village of Florida, Missouri. His parents names were John Marshall Clemens and Jan Lampton Clemens, descendants of slaves in Virginia. They had been married in Kentucky and move to Tennessee and then Missouri.
When Sam was four, his father, who was full of the grandiose ideas of making a fortune, moved the family to Hannibal, Missouri. Here, the mighty Mississippi River with its mile side wide was the home of little Samuel Clemens. There on the West Bank of the river, Sam spent his boyhood with moving steamboats and making stops (Encyclopedia Americana 921A). Growing up aside a mile-wide surfaced Mississippi River was the same as Tom Sawyer did. Young Samuel must have watched, as any boy might, admire the strength of this river and the surrounding frontier.
He seen men killed in waterfront brawls and Negroes that were chained like animals transported up and down the river for slavery in the south. Sometimes he would have nightmares by walking in his sleep because of the ride ways and the terror (American Authors, 193). By the time he was 18, Sam had served an apprentices as a printer on his brothers Orions paper and had tried his hand at writing juvenile sarcasm. He even had one humorous sketch, The Dandy Frightening the Squatter, published in B. P. Shillabers Carpet Bag, which was a New York periodical. During the next 10 years, from1853 to 1862, he continued his efforts as a humorous writer.
During those ten years Sam also engaged in another skill. He was piloting steamboats on the Mississippi River. He might have remained a pilot had not the Civil War intruded (Encyclopedia Americana 192A). When the war closed the river and after two hectic weeks in the Confederate Army, he went to Nevada with his brother, an abolitionist whom President Lincoln had appointed secretary to the territorial governor. And so, while the Civil War raged in the East, Samuel Clemens found himself searching the Wet for silver, and, soon his father, dreaming of a fortune (American Writers 193).
Since Samuels career as a prospector and a minor was a failure, he went back solely on journalism as a profession. In 1862, he got a secured job with the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. This demonstrated his ability as a reporter and a humorist. A year later, in February 1863, he adopted the pseudonym Mark Twain a river phrase meaning two fathoms deep (Encyclopedia Americana 291A). He started to use the pen name Mark Twain while he was on the Enterprise. Changing names during this time was common for writers. When readers saw that name they looked for a unique perspective upon people and events, and usually a comic one.
It signified an invented personality, a mask. He mostly signed humorous journalism and other personal writings by Mark Twain. For his political reporting, he signed himself Samuel L. Clemens. Samuel pulled out this name from his piloting days on the Mississippi river (Meltzer 40). At the end of May 1864, he traveled to San Francisco by a stagecoach. He hadnt quite found out yet the power hidden within as a journalist and a writer. He had proven himself as a professional journalist with the Enterprise. While in San Francisco Mark found a job with the Daily Morning Call.
He felt that the routine of the Call was a disappointment by comparing it to the free and easy Enterprise. Although he found his work dull, he discover San Francisco to be a truly fascinating city to live in, stately and handsome at a fair distance, but close at hand one notes that the architecture is mostly old-fashioned, many streets are made up of decaying, smokegrimed, wooden houses, and the brown sandhills towards the outskirts obtrude themselves too prominently. The Call paid him twenty-five dollars a week and agreed to give him no night work.
He got up at ten and quit at five or six (Meltger 43). He also signed with the Alta California in 1866 which was the Wests most prominent paper. As he approached forty, he had come to maturity in writing the book Innocents Abroad. To many readers this book remains third best behind Life on the Mississippi and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. His invention of stories did not come easily to him (American Writers 198). Mark Twain published in full in 1883 Life on the Mississippi, which is an autobiographical account that gives a vivid picture of his days a Mississippi River pilot before the Civil War.
The rugged apprenticeship of the river pilot, the excitement on the river leaves, the steamboat races, the gambling on board the ships, and wealth of human incident make this a classic account of river life. Another book is Huckleberry Finn. It was published in 1884. This book is generally considered his masterpiece and one of the masterpieces of American literature. The story is told in the vivid view of Huck. He is a true child of nature that deals with his daring act of helping him, who is a runaway slave, to escape.
In a frontier voyage, Huck and Jim float down the Mississippi on a raft enjoying peace, freedom, and mutual respect that is a sharp contrast to the meanness of society in the river towns where they stop. Twain uses the irony of Hucks innocent view of life to criticize the barbarity of sivilization. In conclusion, Mark Twain has left us with an unbelievable legacy. He still remains as one of the greatest writers of all time. It is his childhood stories that will follow and set a roadmap for all new writers for the generations to come.