The paper discusses the role Mark Twain played in the development of the American Literature. Twain’s works became the turning point in the history of the American literature development because they brought the poor class in the spotlight of public attention. Being a writer from the country, Mark Twain managed to become a real idol for many generations of Americans. In his books, he combined humor, realism, and naturalism; in his later works, the author turned to some philosophical and ethical problems.
Mark Twain was an outstanding writer and journalist in the USA of 19th century. His works cover many genres, among which are: realism, romanticism, humor, satire; along with it, the author was on the position of a humanist and democrat. On the top of his career, he was considered to be the most readable and well-known author in America. According to Ernest Hemmingway, the real American literature started with Mark Twain; William Faulkner called Twain “the first real American writer” (Lenard 12).
Samuel Langhorne Clemens took the pseudonym from his youth when he served on the sheep. He was a pilot’s assistant on the Mississippi River, and the term “mark twain” denotes the minimal depth for vessels to pass.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on 30 November 1835 in a small town, in Florida. The writer even joked that his birth increased the population of the town by 1 percent. He was the third child in the family of John and Jane Clemens. When he was a child, Twain moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri. This very city was later described in his novels especially in one, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After the death of his father, the young man had to earn money and had to engage in the marine business. Mark Twain once told that working on a sheep was his cup of tea and, but for the Civil War, he would have stayed there forever.
The war made Samuel move to the West where he developed as a writer. The events that took place in that time underlie the plot of the next book. In Nevada, Samuel tried to grow rich, and became a miner digger looking for silver. He described his life in a camp with other workers in several pieces of his literature. In 1864, he came to San-Francisco to work as a journalist. Later on, Samuel was sent to Hawaii in order to write letters about his travel. After Samuel’s coming back, he found out that those letters became extremely popular as short stories in America. The colonel John McComb, the editor of Alta California suggested Twain going on a tour around America lecturing about his adventures. The lectures at once attracted much attention and were very popular with the citizens. The author even managed to earn on these lectures charging one dollar as an entrance fee.
The real success waited for Samuel in his second trip to Europe and Middle East. A Tramp Abroad is the first book that made him famous with fiction literature. During his life, the majority of people knew him as the author of this piece of literature.
The most interesting feature about Mark Twain as a writer is the fact that he started with writing humorous light stories and finished with the works on ethics, morale that raised the problems of hypocrisy, nobility, and murder. The author was also a good orator; he did much to create and develop the American literature as a constituent part of the world literature. While becoming famous and gaining respect, Mark Twain paid much attention to finding new literary talents and helped them to make their way through using his power and authority.
Samuel Clement was interested not only in literature, but also in scientific work. In his work A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Twain narrated about the journey through time that brought all modern technologies to the times of King Arthur. Besides, being interested in literature and sciences, Samuel was keen on smoking pipe and playing billiards. The guests of Twain would say that there always was such thick smoke in his house that they could hardly see each other.
From time to time, some works by Twain were forbidden by American censor because of different reasons. The main reason, however, was Twain’s social activity. Clements even did not dare to publish several writings that could hurt the feelings of religious people; for instance, the novel A Mysterious Stranger was left unpublished.
When speaking about the writer’s style, it is necessary to point out that it differed greatly from the one of his contemporaries. All of them were trying to make there style high and florid, in order to follow the English poets. Mark Twain, on the other hand, employed realistic American colloquial speech that enabled people to reevaluate it. He was the first writer from the poor family, who managed to reveal in his works the differential, full of bright humor slang and the struggle against prejudice.
For Mark Twain, as well as for others writers of the end of XX century, realism did not represent just a literary method, but the approach used to express feelings and reveal the truth to a reader. Thus, it had a deep liberation nature that arose some contradictions with the community. This though is vividly depicted in the book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where a tramp-boy decides to help a Negro slave to escape from his owner, despite the fact that he is sure in his getting to Hell for violating the law. In this writer’s outstanding work, the events take place in a small town named St. Petersburg that is situated on the Mississippi River. In his novel, the author opposes the civilized society and the free life while the later is admired by him. The main character is an energetic boy, full of optimism and never looking back – he wants to live a free life because it does not have any household churches, suit collar and the duty to visit the church every Sunday. The end of the story represents quiet the opposite thing to the “American dream” – the wide road leads to primeval nature further from the damaging influence of civilization. Other examples of such ending can be found in the novels of Fennimore Cupper, anthems of Wall Whitman, and novels of Jack Kerouac.
Huckleberry Finn inspired numerous authors to make a great number of interpretations of it. It is clear that this story has the elements of demise, revival, and initiation. Huck treats the runaway slave Jim like his father, and by helping him, he overcomes the limitation and degradation of the slaveholding system. “I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (ch.43). The adventures of Jim introduce Huck to the complications of the human nature and at the same time give forces to him.
Mark Twain’s model of the ideal society is described clearly in the novel – the main thing for all people who are on a raft not to argue and to be satisfied with everything (Lenard. 23). The characteristic feature of Twain’s humor is the vague link between reality and fancy. Subtle and varying river as an essential part of the scene portraying can be often found in his works. While serving on the vessel in his young years, Samuel tried to study the river, but of all his attempts to catch something subtle, this issue was the most mysterious one.
Being a writer for Twain is like being a pilot on the vessel – he must deliver the guests to the final destination. Two literary styles are combined in the works of Mark Twain: the popular humor of New Land and so-called regionalism. These stiles appeared in the 1830‘s though their roots go into the local folklore. The stories were composed in poor houses in the country, in the mines, in the woods around the fire, and then they became popular among people by the word of mouth.
Being humane, sardonic, compassionate, impatient, complicated, and attentive, extremely funny, and sometimes dramatically honest, he was the source of inspiration for many famous writers of the XX century not only in America but also in the whole world. The genii of literature were amazed by Twain’s ability to work miracles with the speech of ordinary people.
When concluding the role of Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) in the history of the world literature, it is necessary to point out that he became the real founder of the American literature because he symbolized freedom of choice for a writer weather to write about ordinary or rich and famous people. He introduced the slang speech of poor Americans, as well as the speech of slaves, into American literature. The writers before Mark Twain tried to follow the style of authors from Europe in their desire to sound sentimental, elevated, and noble. His works, however, became the turning point in the history of the American literature development because they brought the poor class in the spotlight. Moreover, the author dared to raise the problem of slavery in America.