Life on the Mississippi
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This great river flowed so deeply through his mind and art that he would eventually extract his final pseudonym from its waters having flirted with, and rejected, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, W Epaminondas Adrastus Blab and Sergeant Fathom. In the end, Clemens took his pseudonym from the language of the river he loved. Twain had no truck with any of that. In the making of Mark Twain, the great American writer, Life on the Mississippi follows two other crucial volumes of literary self-invention. In The Innocents Abroad , Clemens had established himself as the voice of his generation:.
If it were a record of a solemn scientific expedition it would have about it the gravity, that profundity, and that impressive incomprehensibility which are so proper to works of that kind, and withal so attractive… It is only a record of a picnic. Next, in Roughing It , his hilarious account of his adventures in the Nevada silver mines, he transformed this voice into an instrument for narrating the authentic American experience in a language that would resonate throughout the United States.
Finally, in Life on the Mississippi , working from sketches Old Times on the Mississippi already published in the Atlantic Monthly in , he not only completed the making of Mark Twain, he also located his future subject: the Mississippi childhood that would lead directly to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. In this teeming nonfiction preamble to his great novels, Mark Twain and the mighty Mississippi become equally mythic. That is, of course, if he can hold his temper despite the intolerable provocations of his pupil:. He [Bixby] raged and stormed so that I judge it made him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading-scow.
Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
These stories of workers, farmers, and steamboat captains serve to bring the novel alive for the audience. As I have stated earlier, this also allows for a great deal of background for his novel Huckleberry Finn. It is in this novel, considered his greatest of all time, that Twain gains the admiration and awe of people around the globe, and without the raw material of Life on the Mississippi , he would not have what he needed to make this novel what it was.
Thus, he began his career as a novelist with this novel, and he reached his peak as well through this novel, gaining him more recognition as an author than the vast majority of all American authors, and than authors throughout the world. I was appalled; it was a villainous night for blackness, we were in a particularly wide and blind part of the river, where there was no shape or substance to anything, and it seemed incredible that Mr.
Bixby should have left that poor fellow to kill the boat trying to find out where he was. But I resolved that I would stand by him any way. He should find that he was not wholly friendless. So I stood around, and waited to be asked where we were.
Life on the Mississippi
W plunged on serenely through the solid firmament of black cats that stood for an atmosphere, and never opened his mouth. Here is a proud devil, thought I; here is a limb of Satan that would rather send us all to destruction than put himself under obligations to me, because I am not yet one of the salt of the earth and privileged to snub captains and lord it over everything dead and alive in a steamboat. I presently climbed up on the bench; I did not think it was safe to go to sleep while this lunatic was on watch. However, I must have gone to sleep in the course of time, because the next thing I was aware of was the fact that day was breaking, Mr.
Wgone, and Mr.
Bixby at the wheel again. So it was four o'clock and all well--but me; I felt like a skinful of dry bones and all of them trying to ache at once. Bixby asked me what I had stayed up there for. I confessed that it was to do Mr. W a benevolence,--tell him where he was.
It took five minutes for the entire preposterousness of the thing to filter into Mr. Bixby's system, and then I judge it filled him nearly up to the chin; because he paid me a compliment--and not much of a one either. He said,.
What did you suppose he wanted to know for? Didn't I tell you that a man's got to know the river in the night the same as he'd know his own front hall? Why, he'd have slammed you through the window and utterly ruined a hundred dollars' worth of window-sash and stuff. I was glad this damage had been saved, for it would have made me unpopular with the owners. They always hated anybody who had the name of being careless, and injuring things.
Three to Compare
I went to work now to learn the shape of the river; and of all the eluding and ungraspable objects that ever I tried to get mind or hands on, that was the chief. I would fasten my eyes upon a sharp, wooded point that projected far into the river some miles ahead of me, and go to laboriously photographing its shape upon my brain; and just as I was beginning to succeed to my satisfaction, we would draw up toward it and the exasperating thing would begin to melt away and fold back into the bank!
If there had been a conspicuous dead tree standing upon the very point of the cape, I would find that tree inconspicuously merged into the general forest, and occupying the middle of a straight shore, when I got abreast of it! No prominent hill would stick to its shape long enough for me to make up my mind what its form really was, but it was as dissolving and changeful as if it had been a mountain of butter in the hottest corner of the tropics.
Nothing ever had the same shape when I was coming downstream that it had borne when I went up. I mentioned these little difficulties to Mr. He said If the shapes didn't change every three seconds they wouldn't be of any use.
Twain, Mark "Life on the Mississippi"
Take this place where we are now, for instance. As long as that hill over yonder is only one hill, I can boom right along the way I'm going; but the moment it splits at the top and forms a V, I know I've got to scratch to starboard in a hurry, or I'll bang this boat's brains out against a rock; and then the moment one of the prongs of the V swings behind the other, I've got to waltz to larboard again, or I'll have a misunderstanding with a snag that would snatch the keelson out of this steamboat as neatly as if it were a sliver in your hand.
If that hill didn't change its shape on bad nights there would be an awful steamboat grave-yard around here inside of a year.