Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens: Complex characters
I came to Huck late in life and hope to prevent that from happening to you. Mark Twain's novel is genius, for high school and beyond, and it's an essential read to understand a part of the history of the United States.
Whatever your reason for choosing to write using a pseudonym, a false name, you add complexity to what you write. When a pseudonym overpowers a person's real name, it is a sign of authorial power and weakness, a fictional name replacing the real. The pseudonym also fractures the author, creating two individuals, layers of complexity.
Mark Twain remains among the most famous pseudonyms, as scholars place him among the top American writers, Samuel Clemens long ago receding into the background. The images below capture part of his persona as a unique individual and family man.
Immediately after the Civil War, Twain gained fame, publishing "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" the same year, 1865, the two events marking the beginning of the period of Realism. America, after the horrors of war, was ready for a change from the rosy colored Romanticism that James Fenimore Cooper mastered.
30 years later, Twain openly attacked the Romantic ideal of the hero and magestic nature, ripping apart Cooper's Deerslayer:
A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.
He was hypercritical because that was Twain's nature, and he was making place for a new type of Realistic fiction, the kind he and a few others were receiving recognition for. Twain was feisty by nature, a character trait that turned dark with old age. He intended to depict reality through regional settings and dialects. Twain is best known for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to Tom Sawyer. He was successful in changing the course of American literary history.
Twain depicts reality through complexity
Twain attempted to write with a complexity the reflected real life. Even though this is impossible, this new focus on reality brought a new honesty to fiction. Life for humans is a complex individual and social experience, and Twain's work participated in that complexity.
The infographic that follows illustrates one way of entering the structure of the novel, focusing on the unusual opening of the that lends to its complexity.
The complex introduction of the novel sets up the powerful themes that drive the novel: identity, slavery, freedom, maturity, and honesty. The crux of the novel is captured in this all important passage, where Huck struggles with these issues, deciding not to turn in his friend and escaped slave, Jim.
“It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie--I found that out.
The novel is brilliant and worth a serious read. I hope these materials help you and others enter a great book.
Some useful Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn resources:
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By Darin L. Hammond
Works for BlogCatalog, owns and writes at ZipMinis.com, and freelances as a writer and designer. Darin Publishes across the web on sites like Technorati, BC Blog, Blog Critics, Broowaha, Demand Media Studios, and Social Media Today. Google
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