Mark Twain

Why Was He So Influential?

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Famous Quote(s)

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

I have never let schooling interfere with my education.

I am not an American, I am the American.

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Significant Contributions

Mark Twain's literature is his most significant contribution to the world. His books The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are his most famous. These novels are American classics and exemplify Twain's satirical, humorous, colloquial style. Today, more than a hundred years later, these books are part of the classic literature that are still read in schools and enjoyed by adults. Its humor has survived the test of time. While the humor of contemporary works has long been forgotten, Twain has a special skill in reaching universal questions through his humor, thus allowing it to last more than a century later. He addresses the hypocrisies and greed of society in a light and playful way, allowing him to reach and enlighten many people. Within these books, Twain also captures the essence of Southern society in his portrayal of the towns from his boyhood.

Influence Upon History

Mark Twain played a major role in revolutionizing American literature. Ernest Hemingway, a renowned and remarkable author himself, acknowledges that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." Twain had a profound influence on literature through his style. Twain used simple words and simple sentences to portray simple characters that had deep insights on the nature of humanity and the various corruptions on society. This was a major turn from the flowery and formal literature that Americans had borrowed from Great Britain before. Twain gave American culture its first novels that it could claim as its own and take pride in. He established a style that influenced many subsequent authors including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ralph Ellison, Arthur Miller, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and more.

Feel the Twain

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Round 1

  • Literary Influence Ernest Hemingway explains that "all American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn..." Twain set this foundation by embracing the colloquial expressions and slang that was normal for Americans. His relaxed style influenced future writers including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller, Ellison, Faulkner, and more.
  • Civil Rights Twain grew up surrounded by slaves, so they were some the most influential and vivid storytellers in his life. When Twain began writing he incorporated their voices in his stories by making them characters in his novels. His novels often voiced the views of blacks and addressed the racism of society. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of Twain's renowned works and brings to light the issue of slavery and racial discrimination.
  • Human Nature Twain brought to light the hypocrisies and greed of human nature. He was able to effectively communicate to his readers through his sarcasm and humor. People would often read his works and think "that's funny," but still discover some universal truth embodied within. Thus Twain brought a new light to how people saw the world.
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Round 2

  • Literary Influence William Faulkner calls Twain "the father of American literature... the first truly American writer, and all of since then are his heirs." Twain's departure from the conventional flowery language was unprecedented. Faulkner is regarded as the greatest American author since Mark Twain. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the most prestigious literary award in the world. He attributes a great debt to Twain.
  • Labor Movement: Supported the labor movement and the unions within it. He gave a speech to one in particular, the Knights of Labor, motivating them to fight their oppressors.
  • Civil Rights: Supported the abolition of slavery and the freedom of slaves. He exposed about the rights of non-whites. He supported blacks getting education financially by paying for one black person to attend Yale and another to attend a Southern school in pursuit of becoming a minister.

Round 3

  • Literary Influence Twain's departure from the common conventions at his time contributed to the sense of nationalism within America. Before him, Americans typically resorted to British literature, mosty because they felt they had no other options. Twain's creation of good literature gave Americans some cultural element which they could grasp onto, thus forming a sense of nationalism.
  • anti imperialist influence: Declared that America ought not expand in the context of the Philippine-American war.
  • Native American rights: Captured the Indian experience in his writing and condemned the white man saying that Natives have always been wronged by whites.

Round 4

  • Literary Influence Ralph Ellison, who authored Invisible Man, a novel considered as one of the greatest pieces of American literature since World War 2, shares how much Twain means to him in an essay saying, "Mark Twain... transformed elements of regional vernacular speech into a medium of uniquely American literary expression and thus taught us how to capture that which is essentially American in our folkways and manners. For indeed the vernacular process is a way of establishing and discovering our national identity."
  • Introduced the typewriter as a tool for authors. He used it to write The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer
  • Science and Technology Friends with Tesla and Edison. Patented three inventions including "Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" and a history trivia game.

Round 5

  • Literary Influence: Novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court highlights a time traveller introducing modern technologies to King Arthur and his men. This storyline influenced later writings and inspired science fiction, an alternate history.
  • Vivisection: Wrote against the vivisection practices of his time, objecting it on the basis of the pain inflicted on the animal. He took an ethical stance rather than a scientific one.
  • Women's Rights: Gave a "Vote for Women" speech advocating for female suffrage. This speech is regarded as one of the most famous in history.