Friday, February 12, 2016

Mark Twain: Author and Essayist

Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Longhorne Clemens, was a successful American author. Today, Mark Twain is one of the most celebrate authors in American history. His stories represent a time in American history when the Mississippi River was still a place of adventure and slavery was working its way out of the system with which the still new country operated. His most famous works are "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." 

Mark Twain was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835. When he was roughly 4 years old, the Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a town that would later be inextricably linked with the name Mark Twain. This move brought Mark to the river that would play a huge role in his writing career, providing the fodder for both his pen name and his most popular written works.

After moving to Hannibal, Mark Twain's dad, Judge John Marshall Clemens, built a house that still stands today. He also sent his son to private school. Unfortunately, the judge died about 8 years later of pneumonia. Within the year, Twain had left private school and begun apprenticing with a printer. He apprenticed for two years before going to work at his older brother's newspaper. That lasted until he left for St. Louis at the age of 17.

If you have ever read Twain's Huck and Tom books, you know that, while his stories have a sense of nostalgia, they do not mimic his real childhood. Sure, he derives places and people from his experiences, but neither Tom nor Huckleberry had the upbringing Twain had. However, they do share a certain level of fatherlessness, which may have stemmed from Twain's own lack of a father in his teen years.

After moving to St. Louis, Mark Twain began working as a pilot on the Mississippi River. This job gave him the knowledge of the river that is apparent in some of his work. It also gave him the pen name that we know and love. Mark Twain was a term that he and other riverboaters used to signify a safe water depth for a boat to pass. He apparently enjoyed this job, but it was rendered unnecessary by the Civil War. At the onset of the war, Mark Twain returned to the newspaper biz, this time as a reporter.

In 1865, Mark Twain wrote his first popular story. In 1869, he published the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The following year, he married his wife, Olivia. He went on to travel, write a total of 28 novels and numerous other works. He and his wife had four children, only one of whom survived past her twenties. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, leaving a legacy of literature behind him.


Biography of Mark Twain

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