Mark Twain's Personality Revealed in His Writing
Literary artists refuse to be categorized, defined, and completely fathomed by any standardized paradigm, but a writer's work exhibits his or her personality traits. Though authors are incapable of being defined by mere personality traits, literary accomplishments, and literary criticisms, an author's personality can be used to sketch a limited definition of his or her literature. Mark Twain's literature manifests his personality's candor, graphicness, humor, and criticalness that William Dean Howells describes in "My Mark Twain." These attributes are evident in "Old Times on the Mississippi," The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," "Fennimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," and "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." Howells' portrayal of Twain facilitates some understanding of Twain's fiction, but by no means is Mark Twain's literature as simple as four personality traits. The traits of Twain's literature transcend simple entertainment, and he enlightens the reader about the need to reform literature, religion, society, and the individual.
In the midst of the dishonesty, greed, and corruption of his time, Mark Twain's characters and stories display great candor. Candor is the ability to express frankly, openly, and unabashedly an opinion or depict a situation, and the letters that William Dean Howells received from Twain are brimming with candor. Howells recounts, "He has the Southwestern, the Lincolnian, the Elizabethan breadth of parlance which I suppose one ought not to call coarse without calling one's self prudish [. . .]" (351). As Twain's stories unfold, he realistically and vibrantly describes outrageous events with an unblinking narrator. Likewise, sometimes the honesty of Twain's characters is shocking and naive, but these characters take pride in saying what they choose to say. Although the theme of deception pervades Twain's work, truth always emanates from both the plot and characters.
While many Romantic authors elevate their childhoods to idealistic terms of good or bad, Twain walks the line between Romanticism and Realism. After romantically heralding the position of a steamboatman in Old Times on the Mississippi, a young Mark Twain realizes and expresses his new belief on the unfairness of life because of his recent knowledge about the rise of an ungodly boy to the position of a steamboatman. Twain writes, "This thing shook the bottom out of all my Sunday-school teachings" (275). Instead of glossing over his young self's questioning nature, Twain acknowledges the ability to question the authority of the church, even if it is based on jealousy. Similar in honesty and naivete to the young Twain is the forthright Huckleberry Finn. He will not accept society's conventions about both religion and history, and he denounces the Widow Douglass' story about "Moses and the Bulrushers." Huck states, "so then I didn't care no more about...