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Samuel Langhorne Clemens A Life Worth Remembering

985 words - 4 pages

What is the value of a life? Every man, whether he be a prince or a pauper, smart or dumb, ponders the question of his own worth at least once in his short, pathetic life. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was no different and had quickly become engrossed with this very question. Even the greatest humorist in the history of American literature turned very bitter and cynical about life, due to tragic events late in his life. Thankfully, much of Mark Twain’s greatest works, including The Prince and the Pauper, were written earlier in his life, when he did not have manifold and incessant adversities polluting his usual humor and satire. It is this great work that we use today to measure the worth of Mark Twain and his fascinating life. Mark Twain was inspired to write The Prince and the Pauper and his other great works by his childhood in the town of Hannibal, Missouri, his career as a Mississippi River steamboat pilot, and his adventures across rural America during the Civil War period.
To begin any discussion about a great life, it is most important to start from the beginning, childhood. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. When he was four years old, the Clemens family, consisting of six children, moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where Clemens spent most of his childhood. The small, dusty, farming town is where Clemens was inspired to write some of his most famous stories, including Huckleberry Finn ("The Prince" 173). It is also where he developed an appreciation for the vernacular and a distaste for the haughty, esoteric language of European literature. Clemens longed for an "idealized past as a haven from the increasingly hostile present," a common theme in both his life and literature. Also, Clemens, throughout his life and career, "looked back yearningly to his happy, youthful days on the Mississippi" and found inspiration in his memories of those golden years ("Mark Twain" 292). As a result, his childhood and frontier roots are found sprinkled throughout his stories, from the frontier themes and morals, to the "American" language and expositions.
To think that this uniquely "Mark Twain" writing style was inspired only by his childhood would be neglecting many other facets of his life. One such facet was the time he spent as a Mississippi River steamboat operator. During the 1850's, Clemens set out from his hometown to find work and came upon the prospect of piloting a steamboat. He prospered as a steamboat pilot until the Civil War forced the closure of the Mississippi to all commercial traffic, forcing Clemens to find work elsewhere ("Mark Twain" 452). It was during these years that Clemens came in contact with various towns and people as he traveled up and down the Mississippi River. This experience of seeing more of the American frontier and its greatest river imbued him with ample inspiration for his...

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