Mark Twain (1835-1910)
一、The Background of Mark Twain
1.1 Mark Twain and His Experience
Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was brought up in the town of Hannibal, Missouri, near the Mississippi River. Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was brought up in the town of Hannibal, Missouri, near the Mississippi River.
“Mark Twain” means two fathoms, i.e. twelve feet.12（英尺可以通航的信号）
He was born in Florida, Missouri, on 30 November 1835.
He was twelve when his father died and he had to leave school. He was successively a printer?s apprentice（学徒）, a tramp（流浪汉） printer（印刷工）, a silver miner, a steamboat （轮船）pilot（驾驶员） on the Mississippi, and a frontier（边界的） journalist（记者/新闻工作者） in Nevada （内华达）and California.
This knocking about (漂流)gave him a wide knowledge of humanity. As one of America?s first and foremost realists and humorists, Mark Twain usually wrote about his own personal experiences and things he knew about from firsthand experience. His life spanned the two Americas, the frontier America and the emerging urban, industrial giant- of the twenty-century.
With the publication of his frontier tale,” The Celebrated
Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country”, he became nationally famous.
? In 1866, he married Olivia Langdon（欧丽维亚）.
In 1871, he established himself as a successful writer. In 1904, his wife died and his daughter died in 1909. Mark Twain died at Redding, Connecticut（美国康乃迪克州）, on April 21, 1910, at the age of 75.
? Roughing It(1872)
? The Gilded Age(1873) 《镀金年代》written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner
? The Adventures of Tom Sawyer(1876) 《汤姆索亚历险记》 ? Life on the Mississippi(1883) 《密西西比河上的生活》
? Adventures of Huckleberry Finn(1884)《哈克贝利费恩历险记》 ? A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Couru（受欢迎的） (1889)《在亚瑟王朝的康涅狄克州的美国佬》
? Pudd?n head Wilson(1894)《傻瓜威尔逊》
? A Dog’s Tale
? A Helpless Situation
? ￡1,000,000 Bank-note
An affirmative writer
Became violent in his censure of man and his society
From an optimist and humorist to an almost despairing determinist
? Colloquial style: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremist forms of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary “Pike County” dialect.
? In thematic terms, Mark Twain dealt largely with the lower strata of society.
? Technically, he contributed to the development of realism and to American literature as a whole was partly through his theories of realism in American fiction, and partly through his colloquial style.
As a witness of the civil war, Twain saw clearly the great changes in nation?s economic development and political life.
With the final victory over the South the North once again enjoyed its wielding power in the nation?s administration. Now the acute conflict at home was undermined and the American people again focused their full attention on re-construction after the war. Because most majority of the slaves were emancipated, the slave-based economy of the defeated South had its prosperity became rootless. In this case, clusters of groundless southern poor
whites and the newly freed slaves headed directly of indirectly for the new-liberated cities to seek opportunities. It may be called the ?Gold Rush? rejuvenated, or rather, it was so-called the ?American Dream? by some critics. Twain also could not help rushing to the west to will his American dream. He once believed the idea of development and industrialization since it would modernize the young country and encourage the enterprising spirit of the American who had long been famous for it. He was firmly enthralled by（被迷住）such fever, so once again he held an optimistic attitude towards the post-westward expansion. He drew much inspiration from the unparalleled and magnificent event and spoke highly of its decision-makers and its people.
1.2 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The best work that Mark Twain ever produced is, as we noted earlier on, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It tells a story about the United States before the Civil War, around 1850, when the great Mississippi Valley was still being settled. Here lies an America, with its great national faults, full of violence and even cruelty, yet still retaining the virtues of ?some simplicity, some innocence, and some peace.? The story takes place along the Mississippi River, on both sides of which there was unpopulated wilderness and a dense
forest. It relates the story of the escape of Jim from slavery and, more important, how Huck Finn, floating along with him and helping him as best he could, changes his mind, his prejudice about black people, and comes to accept Jim as a man and as a close friend as well.
At the heart of Twain?s achievement is his creation of Huck Finn, who embodies that mythic America, midway between the wilderness and the modern super state.
The book is Mark Twain at his best, and remarking that Jim and Huckleberry are real creations, and the worthy peers of the illustrious Tom Sawyer."
He has made a very distinct literary advance over Tom Sawyer, as an interpreter of human nature and a contributor to our stock of original pictures of American life. Still adhering to his plan of narrating the adventures of boys, with primeval and Robin Hood freshness, he has broadened his canvas and given us a picture of a people, of a geographical region, of a life that is new in the world. The scene of his romance is the Mississippi river."
But the mark of a really good book is that it has so much literary machinery whirring and grinding below the surface that you're constantly thinking back on it, days or weeks or months after you've finished reading it. The most striking thing to me after the authentic representation of dialects was what a master of
irony Twain was. It's everywhere in this book: from Tom Sawyer telling Huck that he had to let his foster parents civilize him before he could join Tom's (imaginary) band of cutthroat robbers, to Huck's saying that he's sorely disappointed in the quality of Tom's morals after the other boy agrees to help Huck free the captured runaway slave Jim. It's the same kind of juxtaposition and stinging irony that modern writers of shows like The Daily Show employ. The book is rarely laugh out loud funny, but I sure grinned a lot.
I also really love the character of Huck Finn, and I can see why he's so timeless. Huck is undoubtedly a thirteen year old country boy --he's uncouth, he's uneducated, and he's lazy. But he's also really intelligent, kind, clever, independent, and has no problem following his own moral compass even when it leads him against the grain of society and those supposedly better than him. Well, eventually. Like any thirteen year old boy he gets swept up among the actions of his elders, but he rarely hesitates for long before correcting his own course.
I also loved how Twain contrasted the characters of Huck and Tom Sawyer. Both are young boys who are smart and clever, but beyond that Tom is everything Huck is not. Tom needlessly complicates everything while Huck is much more pragmatic and direct. Tom adheres zealously to the rules governing any situation --gleaned in his case from adventure stories about pirates, robbers, and prison escapees-- while Huck is willing to question authority and come around to his own decisions about what's right. Tom lets his adherence to the rules and his desire to do things "right" lead him into inadvertent cruelty, while Huck will actually endanger himself and break the rules in order to help other people directly. It's great stuff.