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Twain, Mark

(US, 1835–1910)

‘Mark Twain’ was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, taken from the call of Mississippi river pilots. His two most famous books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), are both based upon Clemens's own boyhood in Hannibal, Missouri, before the Civil War. Tom Sawyer is a children's classic, detailing adolescent Tom's scrapes involving drunks, criminals, and buried treasure. Huck Finn appears as a fairly minor character. But in the later novel, one of the most influential in American literature, Huck is both narrator and the main protagonist in a wonderfully rich story, its comically offhand manner disguising a great depth of social commentary and incisive folk wisdom. Huck is caught between his own conscience and the claims of society, especially when floating down the river on a raft with runaway slave Jim, and he eventually resolves to escape civilization by ‘lighting out for the territory’.

Life on the Mississippi (1883) is a rewarding collection of travel sketches and stories set in the territory that Twain knew best. Many of Twain's later books show him as an increasingly bitter satirist. In A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889), a blow on the head suffered by Hank Morgan sends him back to sixth-century England, where his attempts to introduce modern American practices and gadgets cause disasters. The title story in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (1900) concerns the ownership of a mysterious bequest of gold coins, dishonestly disputed by the leading citizens of a small town.

Jack London, J. D. Salinger, Jack Kerouac, Charles Dickens.


Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Tr-Z)