America: the land of the free and the home of the brave. When people think of America, they either think of fat Whites eating McDonalds or Yanks who love to invade other countries for oil. What people rarely think of when thinking of America, is the great writers that the country has produced. Throughout this year, I have read many great works written by many American writers. Over the course of America’s history, the nation has produced many great novelists. From Benjamin Franklin during the American Revolution era, to F. Scott Fitzgerald during the Roaring Twenties, many great American writers have written wonderful books and poems. When people from other countries think of great writers, they only think about Shakespeare or Homer, who aren’t even American writers. They rarely think about Henry David Thoreau or Ernest Hemmingway because they aren’t well known in foreign countries. These writers are famously known in America but one common question that people ask is, “Which American author is the greatest?” In my opinion, out of all the American writers, Mark Twain is the greatest and most influential author because of his humor and wonderful novels.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, nearly thirty years before he took the name Mark Twain, in Florida, Missouri. It is located some 130 miles north-west of St. Louis, and 30 miles away from the Mississippi River. His father, John Marshal Clemens, was from Virginia and was a failed country farmer and lawyer. His mother, Jane Clemens, met his father in Missouri and married him in 1823. His parents had seven children but only Twain, who was the sixth child, and three other siblings survived childhood. His surviving siblings were Orion, Henry, and Pamela Clemens. When Twain was four, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River that inspired the town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Missouri was still a slave state at the time which caused Twain to become familiar with the institution of slavery. He later explored this theme in his writings. As a child, “Young Twain reveled in life along the Mississippi, a river busy with steamboat activity and he often traveled in makeshift rafts or cavorted in various swimming holes” (“Mark Twain Biography” par 4). When Twain was eleven years old, his father died and Twain was forced to cease formal schooling and had to help support his family. He came to work for a newspaper called the “Hannibal Journal,” a newspaper owned by his brother Orion. With no formal education like many other Americans at the time, he got his education in print shops and newspapers. When he turned eighteen, he left Hannibal for New York and worked as a printer. Twain eventually left New York in order to travel to New Orleans down the Mississippi in a steamboat piloted by Horace E. Bixby, who inspired Twain to become a steamboat captain himself. After being rewarded with his steamboat pilot license, Twain received his pen name, Mark Twain, from “mark twain,” meaning the river is measured at two fathoms. While Twain was training for his pilot’s license, his younger brother, Henry was killed when the steamboat he was working on exploded. Twain, having foreseen this in a dream one month earlier, joined the “Society for Psychical Research.” Twain continued working on the Mississippi until 1861 when the American Civil War broke out and river was curtailed or blocked off in order to separate the Confederate States in half. At the start of the war, Twain volunteered briefly in a Confederate local unit before the company was disbanded by Twain and his friends two weeks after joining.
In 1861, Twain joined Orion and together, the two brothers traveled west across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, visiting a Mormon community in Salt Lake City. Their journey ended in the silver-mining town of Virginia City, Nevada where Twain became an unsuccessful miner. He...
Cited: Finger, Ray. Signs Will Tell Mark Twain’s Story in Elmira. The Star Gazette.
7 May 2013 Web. 1 June 2013
Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. New York: New American Library. 1961
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
New York: New American Library. 1979
Twain, Mark. The Prince and the Pauper. New York: New American Library 1979
Mark Twain Biography. The New York Times. Web. 6 June 2013
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