Mark Twain the Philosopher
Mark Twain is, according to critics and readers alike, the first great American novelist (Reuben). Throughout his lifetime Twain, born Samuel Longhorn Clemens, held an eclectic mix of jobs, and, wrote a great deal about his experiences and his boyhood. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (AOTS) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (AOHF) are a pair of novels by Twain that: present the new and radical changes in the early 1800s in contrast to the old fashioned ways; mirror Twain's life as a young boy growing up in a one-horse town on the Mississippi River; and, give the reader an idea of his view that the loss of innocence signals the coming of age.
Twain was born in 1835 and Tom Sawyer grew up in the 1840s. Around this time, America, especially the North, was undergoing revolutionary changes in transportation and communication. The river steam boat was invented in 1807 and subsequently took over mass transportation from sailboats using the ocean (Ships). This was a big change from the previous small scale or trans-ocean transport. After the steam boat came the steam train which revolutionized transportation in a similar fashion, and they synergistically opened the West to all people and boosted trade and commerce enormously--not just of the big industrial towns but of the en-route towns and the farms. In 1849, agriculture accounted for over one-half of the nation's economy, whereas today it is one-fiftieth (Agriculture). Canals, turnpikes and clipper ships also greatly affected transport and communication between distant places. The times were revolutionary in that the old ways of taking dirty, bumpy roads long distances with little profit were over. Another sign of the times was slavery. Racism was widespread during this time period because many large farms and plantations held slaves. Feelings towards slaves in Missouri were not generally sympathetic, and abolitionists were not well accepted because the economy would collapse without the slave based agriculture. Rudyard Kipling wrote at the end of that century "The White Man's Burden," (Kipling) that was taken to mean that blacks must accept their position as underlings. While a false interpretation, it shows that many Confederates and sympathisers held the view that blacks and slaves deserved to be oppressed even after the Civil War (1861-1864).
TAOTS accurately reflects the small town economy. The river trade is the center of all commerce and without it, town life would end. In Chapter Two of TAOTS, Ben Rogers, a local boy, pretends to be a steamboat. This exemplifies how important the boats were to the town. Everything in the town--the mill, the taverns--they all depended on the trade from the river. The town, consisting of a church, a school, a general store, taverns, a mill, and a docking area for the boats also reflect how important the river really was. The minister's fire and brimstone sermons (35) preach against the evils of...