Books By Mark Twain | Reviews And Recommendations | 5 Literary Works | Mark Twain: Part 1

Vidisha Pandey
Sep 23, 2019   •  203 views

What is Man?

Goodreads: 4/5



This is rather a short essay by Mark Twain, formally published after his death.

“What is Man?" by Twain, was very personal to him.

American Writer, Mark Twain was better known as a humorist. This essay, however, is straight forward in terms of debatable opinions. It is a colloquy between two men of contrasting ages and generations.

The old man is constantly trying to put the ideas of human freedom, instincts, decisions, deeds and possible mistakes, under the label of Self Satisfaction or gratification!

The younger man, on the other hand, denies this explanation.

This book is indeed different from Twain's traditional works and has gotten it's share of criticism on grounds of Twain's experimental outlook.

His essay does have dark aspects that are rather philosophical. However, many people interpret it as an anti-religious piece of text!

Christian Science

Goodreads: 3.7/5


Christian Science is the cumulation of a number of essays by Mark Twain, at different points in his life. It originated from an article that Twain wrote, sometime in 1899 for the Cosmopolitan Magazine- precisely the October Volume. He went about this article by telling an incident of him walking off a cliff at Vienna, the Capital city of Austria and getting a hundred and twenty fractures. It is written in a humorous manner, as was typical of Mark!

He explains how he was treated by a Christian Science doctor.

After this article, Mark was fascinated by its structure and continued it in a series of essays and later combined to form a book, called 'Christian Science' released in February, 1907.

He explains various possibilities of real life and rather addresses them in light of Psychology or mental science.

Below is an excerpt from the book:

“For the thing back of it is wholly gracious and beautiful: the power, through loving mercifulness and compassion, to heal fleshly ills and pains and griefs—all—with a word, with a touch of the hand! This power was given by the Saviour to the Disciples, and to all the converted. All—every one. It was exercised for generations afterwards. Any Christian who was in earnest and not a make-believe, not a policy-Christian, not a Christian for revenue only, had the healing power, and could cure with it any disease or any hurt or damage possible to human flesh and bone. These things are true, or they are not. If they were true seventeen and eighteen and nineteen centuries ago it would be difficult to satisfactorily explain why or how or by what argument that power should be non-existent in Christians now.”

Twain, at a point also targets Mary Baker Eddy, an American author and teacher. She was also known for her religious leadership.

Eddy, was one of the very few people to have contributed to the foundation of what they called "Christian Science" on grounds of health and spirituality.

Caroline Fraser, a media expert has been seen to give a generous amount of attention to this topic!

The book, however, didn't receive great amounts of recognition and acclaim.

The Innocents Abroad

Goodreads: 3.9/5


Source: Yaoota

This bestseller by Twain, was beginning to take shape in 1867, through his columns and letters for newspapers, which got formally published in 1869. In this book, Twain journals his sail through Marseille, Papal State, Black Sea and the Holy land. In this voyage, he covers Paris, Rome as well as Odessa!

This is a socio-cultural addressal of the various places mentioned. He has also referred to various other travelogues and literary pieces by writers like- James Fenimore Cooper, Sir Walter Scott and many others, through this book.

The Innocent Abroad (also called- "The New Pilgrim's Progress"), is one of Mark Twain's most acclaimed works as well as that under the genre of Travel Books!

We can see through the conflicts in the trivia given by Twain, at accounts of different historical confrontations or encounters. He draws a contrast between the ancient and modern worlds. These arguments kindled by Twain, are appreciable in many respects.

Various experiences such as first dock on an extralocal land, understanding of native ways and sensibilities, ceremonies, monarchy, approaches and departures have all been described so vividly!

"Technical, Satirical, Spoofy and still Resplendent- Basically all that you may want to hold on to, when stranded on an Island, this book is all of it!"

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Goodreads: 3.9/5


Source: GradeSaver

Published in 1876, Twain goes back in the 40's to describe an orphan boy, living in a hypothetical town, St. Petersberg. The book takes you into this boy, Tom Sawyer's life and let's you see the world through an objective filter.

The story begins by a giving you a background of this boy, who is a not-so-good student and is rather one of the very bad students among his fellows. This boy maneuvers and persuades his neighbours to his own advantage by asking for denominations and coaxing them with expectations of enjoyment!

Ironically, he does all of this to reap the "Bible", meant to be given to studious and academically consistent students!

It also introduces another little character named Becky Thatcher, the love interest of Tom Sawyer.

Soon after this episode, the popular character- Huckleberry Finn comes in the light! From here, the book takes a turn and induces thrills in the reader.

There's adventure, a little bit of violence, rescue and anticipation.

The story becomes thrilling as the characters of Robinson, Muff Potter, Injun Joe, Joe Harper and Widow Douglas are put across!

This book is a light read, though with elements of thrill, sarcasm and a lot inspired by American Literature. Many incidences in the story correlate with Twain's own life.

"He had earlier written an unpublished memoir of his own life on the Mississippi and corresponded with a boyhood friend, Will Bowen, that had evoked many memories and was used as a source of material”. - from Wikipedia

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, apart from being one among Twain's much appreciated works has been raved for putting out controversial judgements of society.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Goodreads: 3.8/5


Source: Bleak House Books

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, came out during 1884-1885, not much after its prequel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had been published.

There have been many controversies around this book just as much as it soaked in fame! ;

" In his introduction to The Annotated Huckleberry Finn, Michael Patrick Hearn writes that Twain "could be uninhibitedly vulgar", and quotes critic William Dean Howells, a Twain contemporary, who wrote that the author's "humor was not for most women". However, Hearn…….. due to their use of racial slurs. "

Read More (Wikipedia)

The River Mississippi, doesn't ever miss the conversation around this book, because there is such a beautiful portrayal of it through the story, that the incidences almost begin to feel real!

Huckleberry or 'Huck' is a fictional character, a teenager, around 13 and the protagonist of course!

Characters like Tom Sawyer, Widow Douglas, Robinson and a few others are obvious to have been carried along, in this book.

Widow Douglas's sister, Miss Watson as well as Miss Watson's slave Jim are one of the many highlighted characters in this sequel.

The imaginary town, St Petersburg -- where the whole chunk of the storyline emerges, has acquired inspiration from the actual town Hannibal, located in Missouri!

One of the main or rather engrossing episodes of the story, is when Pap, an alcoholic kidnaps Huck Finn and goes underground.

Later in the story, much after Huck escaped Pap's captivity- Huck and Jim are shown to relate with each other emotionally after a long conversation and hence develop an immediate bonding.

This is followed by the episode of Huck disguising himself as a girl and entering Mrs Loftus's house, a newcomer in the town.

The story recenters itself to the combined struggle of Jim and Huckleberry.

They somehow reach Kentucky and bump into the Grangerford Clan and discover that this clan is rivalled against another clan- the Shepherdsons!

Below are some excerpts from the book:

"I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this trouble for that gang, for not many would a done it. I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead beats is the kind the widow and good people takes the most interest in."

"Them poor things was that glad and happy it made my heart ache to see them getting fooled and lied to so, but I didn’t see no safe way for me to chip in and change the general tune."

The above mentioned, were accounts from some of the initial pages of the book, there's so much for the reader to look upto in this book which makes it a very engaging read.

It addresses ideas and themes of Racism, Slavery, Intellectualism, Morality, Hypocrasy as well as Empathy.

(Know more..)

Both, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were Mark's initial advances into fiction, unlike the ones of the autobiographical or semi-autobiographical situation!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has a wide reach in terms of commercial associations, ranging from adaptations in Films, Television shows, Literary works to even Music!

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