Twain’s Life: An Influence on Writing the Adventur Essay

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Twain’s Life: An Influence on Writing the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn



English 2A


17 May 2003


Because of Mark Twain’s satirist and humorous point of views, he was able to create
characters and situations in his writing that reflected real-life people and events. He
was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri. Mr. Clemens’s own boyhood life at
Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, and his years as a pilot on the same river,
gave him a vivid background and a close familiarity with various southwestern types that
proved invaluable in the production of such a book as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(Matthews 79).



Clemens, the first great American author, had a rough start in life- his early years were
plagued by frequent illness. His family moved to Hannibal, Missouri to open up a general
store. Hannibal provided the setting for much of Clemens’ fiction. Hannibal’s fictional
name in the novel was St. Petersburg (Moss and Wilson 19). He developed his pen name Mark
Twain from working on a steamboat. This name would be used as his signature name for all
of his works. Although the family’s fortune’s continued to decline, the next few years
gave young Sam the childhood he would later chronicle (with a few changes of course) in
the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Matthews 16). The language reflected in Twain’s Huck
Finn depicts the realistic colloquialism of the south during that time. Twain was raised
in a racist society and the language he used accurately reflects the attitudes of that
society (Matthews 13). Many people have had problems accepting the language and use of
words in the novel because they find it offensive to all of society, but Twain was a
realist and only wrote from societies point of view. Mark Twain was raised with slaves
(Matthews 12). He actually developed a pretty close relationship with one when he was a
young boy. Twain was taught that slavery was good, approved by both God and man (Matthews
12). In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain was actually making fun of the idea of
slavery, saying that it contradicted the whole idea of American freedom.



Twain drew on experiences and viewpoints he encountered later in life as well, merging
them into events in the novel (Moss and Wilson 19). In 1857 he became a steamboat pilot on
the Mississippi (Moss and Wilson 19-20). He was an apprentice of one of the greatest
steamboat pilots, Horace Bixby. Bixby would train Clemens (prior to adoption of pen name
Twain) for four years. He soon thereafter became a licensed steamboat pilot. During his
training, he learned the Mississippi River’s patterns and shape. Becoming a pilot and
meeting a wide variety of interesting river men provided him with invaluable knowledge,
insight, and sources of inspiration. Twain’s river boating gave him an intimate knowledge
of the Mississippi, evident in the pages of Huckleberry Finn (Moss and Wilson 20). Because
of Twain’s knowledge of the river, he was able to take Huck and Jim on an adventure,
allowing them to have encounters with real places along the river.



Twain believed every fictional character had its real-life source (Moss and Wilson 19). In
fact, most of the characters in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were developed from
Twain’s real-life encounters. Over the years he kept notebooks describing people and
places that found there way into Huckleberry Finn (Moss and Wilson 19). The two most
pivotal characters in the novel are taken from real-life characters. Huck and Jim are
modeled on real-life characters Tom Blankenship and Uncle Dan’l (Moss and Wilson 19). Miss
Watson, the fictional name, was taken from Mary Ann Newcomb who was Twain’s schoolteacher
(Moss and Wilson 19). When Mark Twain’s father died, he began having a closer relationship
with his mother, who became the inspiration for Aunt Polly in Huck Finn. Jane Lampton
Clemens, Twain’s mother, is fictionalized in Huck Finn as Aunt Polly (Moss and Wilson 19).
Phelp’s farm is where a lot of the novel takes place. Phelp’s farm was modeled from
Twain’s Uncle John Quarle’s farm (Moss and Wilson 19). Jackson’s Island was really
Glassock’s Island- located near Hannibal, Missouri (Moss and Wilson 19). Pap Finn, who was
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