This volume in the Critical Insights series, edited by R. Kent Rasmussen, author of Mark Twain A to Z and Critical Companion to Mark Twain, collects a variety of new, classic, and contemporary essays on Twain's life and works.
One hundred years after his death, Mark Twain remains one of America's most beloved literary figures. Eminently quotable, his best writing combines irreverent humor with practical good sense and deep human feeling and, perhaps more so than the work of any other author, defines what it is to be an American. Born in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, Twain watched the country grow up from patchworks of small towns amid unsettled wilderness into sprawling urban centers filled with factories and connected by railroad tracks and telegraph lines. He traveled extensively throughout his life-first within his own country as an itinerant printer, prospector, and newspaperman, then abroad as a travel writer and lecturer-and excitedly took in all of the technological, social, and cultural changes accompanying the approach of the twentieth century. But even as Twain looked toward the future, his most beloved novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a nostalgic paean to a simpler, more innocent America, one in which it is still possible to "light out for the Territory."
1.Career, Life, and Influence
For readers studying Twain for the first time, Rasmussen outlines the essential details of Twain's life. This section discusses Twain's career and certain themes of his writings in fairly broad terms, along with a biography about the man behind the literature. The rest of the text examines the writings of Twain and their growing legacy.
Four new essays provide valuable introductory material. These essays aim to provide a background to the author that is a historical, cultural, and biographical foundation for the reader.
Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the writer can then move on to other original essays that explore a number of schools of thought. These essays utilize common critical approaches to further analyze the author's work, or specific works according to the selected theme. Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
The volume's appendices offer a section of useful reference resources, including:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject index