Skip to comments.President Trump & Mark Twain: Master Pilots on America's Great River
Posted on 08/18/2019 4:25:35 PM PDT by poconopunditEdited on 08/18/2019 5:00:24 PM PDT by Admin Moderator. [history]
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Wow! ...and thanks, mod.
President Trump & Mark Twain: Master Pilots on America's Great River
Free Republic ^ | 8/18/2019 | PoconoPundit
Thank you, poconopundit.
My experience as a youth reading Huckleberry Finn, however, differed greatly from yours:
Unlike your experience, I was utterly "thrilled" by Huckleberry Finn as a prepubescent kid when I read it several times. I've picked it up again many times and and I am unfailingly thrilled again as a grown man. I disagree with you, it is indeed a brilliant kids' book that every boy who fidgets in the constraints of school can immediately identify with. But, as you say, it is also in adults' book. That is the genius of the book, it forces us to a new vision of our world by making us see the world through the eyes of a boy, a technique not unlike that used by science fiction writers who create a new paradigm to expose old myths. Mark Twain was so brilliant that he could write a book for two very different audiences yet captivate each. In doing so, Mark Twain tackled the most important issue in American history.
Life on the Mississippi is an evocative book of an age gone by, brilliantly, nostalgically, realistically written but it simply does not soar to the level of the Great American novel as does Huckleberry Finn
From a 13-year-old reply of mine:
a masterpiece of American letters. Huckleberry Finn is arguably the greatest American novel ever written.
The irony of all this is that Mark Twain in this uniquely American work has undertaken seriously and sensitively to deal with the unique American original sin. As I have observed in my about page, the sin of slavery and, after the war, the sin of racism was in effect papered over in the Declaration of Independence and compromised away in the Constitution. Mark Twain deals with this uniquely American history in a uniquely American book, written in the uniquely American idiom. [That is why I also take issue with your description of Huckleberry Finn as a book of "American-slang." The use of the American idiom is absolutely critical to the fundamental historic question that has challenged the American ethos to this very day]. That idiom, to be truly American, requires the use in that context of the word nigger. Moreover, both plot and character developement - which is the awakening of tolerance personified in Huck Finn-require the sensitive use of the word. If Huckleberry Finn were not a bigot to begin with, he would have no need to be edified. Both he and America would have learned nothing.
No one who boasts of any acquaintanceship whatever with American letters can have failed to have read, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Chapter 31 of the novel makes the ultimate argument against slavery and against racism, done in the American idiom, and sent in time and place. It is the essence of the novel and it is the essence of America's moral struggle:
Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.
I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
"All right, then, I'll go to hell"- and tore it up.
It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
As to comparisons of Twain to Trump, I would simply observe that Twain was at heart certainly no conservative, at best he might be described a modern day libertarian. Probably he might in some respect be likened to the curmudgeonly Baltimore columnist, HL Mencken. This from a reply in 2015:
Twain was certainly an iconoclast and rebel his entire life.
He was a deserter from service in the Confederate militia in the Civil War and fled to the far West. Even his earliest writings reflect an ability to see the mirror image of life. I think Twain was, as he suggests, a pessimist. Certainly, personal tragedies such as the death of his child deepened his darkest perceptions.
If one looks at Huckleberry Finn which is a searing indictment of slavery, its brilliance lies partly in the fact that Twain works his magic by writing the mirror image of his intended result. For example, Huck Finn's decision that he will commit a mortal sin and go to hell by being a friend to "Nigger Jim" leaves the reader to reverse the logic and in doing so penetrate the veil of rationalization which had sustained slavery and Jim Crow.
Huckleberry Finn is perhaps the great American novel as Hemmingway said (I agree) because Twain makes the reader really part of the process of grappling with America's original sin but he gives the devil every advantage yet still succeeds in making all of us believers.
The irony of modern race baiters agitating to remove Huckleberry Finn from libraries because it contains the word "Nigger" is very sad.
A final personal word, on an early visit to Germany I was kindly put up by a German family overnight in their spare attic bedroom where I came across A Tramp Abroad and found the essay The Awful German Language which set me howling with laughter because I was then in the throes of trying to master that awful, fascinating language. Later, I discovered that there was a recording rendered by a German and free for the listening under the Gutenberg Press website but decided that an American version of "American-slang" was the way an essay about an American amusingly stepping all over himself trying to master a difficult language, while at the same time shifting all of the blame from himself onto the language itself, deserved an attempt by an American so I recorded it.
The Awful German Language offers another reversal, a writing technique of which Twain was an absolute master. The entire theme of Huckleberry Finn culminates in the reversal in the mind of Huckleberry Finn as quoted above.
“The irony of modern race baiters agitating to remove Huckleberry Finn from libraries because it contains the word “Nigger” is very sad.”
Yep - makes me wonder if they ever read the book. Two friends, willing to do what it took for each other, regardless of the consequences, and regardless of the color of their skin. And - just a really fun book full of adventure!
I read it twice to my son when he was a child, just starting to read. When we got to the word nigger I told him that was a word used back then - but today it is considered a bad word. So we could either use it knowing that, or replace it with another word.
I think he decided that we should use “slave” instead.
Master pilots is correct....
“Twain” literally means “two.” As a riverboat pilot, Clemens would have heard the term, “Mark Twain,” which means “two fathoms,” on a regular basis. According to the UC Berkeley Library, Clemens first used this pseudonym in 1863, when he was working as a newspaper reporter in Nevada, long after his riverboat days.
Bookmarked AND saved! Thank you.
In Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 7, there's a story about how Horace Bixby, the master pilot who trained Mark Twain, and his skill in crossing a reef.
The leadsmen (men dropping a lead line into the water to measure the depth) call out their readings:
'M-a-r-k three!... M-a-r-k three!... Quarter-less three!... Half twain!... Quarter twain!... M-a-r-k twain!... Quarter-less'
I also ran across Tramp Abroad on audio at my local library and enjoyed hearing about Twain's adventures in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and so forth.
Great to hear both your scholarly and teenage-reader impressions of Twain.
When I watched the McCain funeral it showcased the elitist shallowness of Washington DC... the opposite of the Trump effect... Out-of-touch elites showing up in their finery for McCain, ensconced in a cold elegant cathedral clutching speeches written by others... But there were no citizens lining the streets - no one saying their good byes as the hearse drove by - - either in Arizona or DC...
When Trump dies ‘the elites’ and their speech writers will be absent but the people will line every street with love and respect and sorrow.
Mark Twain's funeral was a celebration of his life by people from all walks of life:
When the people had been filing past only a few minutes it could be seen that almost every nationality was represented. There were several negroes. Jervis Langdon, who was standing near the head of the coffin, was much interested in one of the persons who passed him. He said that the man looked the very picture of tramphood, but his bearing was easy, and he seemed to be unconscious of his tattered clothes, stopping for along look at he face of Mark Twain. Mr. Paine also saw him, and said he was probably some one who had seen better days, in which he had read Mark Twain and conceived a liking for his work. All religions were represented. Some of those who passed crossed themselves as they did so.
Thanks for a nice comparison, GOPJ.
Certain people in history have moved people with their character and ability to relate to the common man. Churchill, Ghandi, Twain, Trump, Pope John Paul.
We are so fortunate to have this man at this critical hour in our Republic.
Bravada, did you ever hear back from the White House for your letter?
I’ll note that when I was a young boy of 10 years old, I memorized Kennedy’s Inaugural Address and my Dad would have me recite it when folks would come to visit.
We had a summer apartment attached to our house on Cape Cod, and one time we a Secret Service agent assigned to the President staying with his family at that apartment.
I gave the address to him and about 4 weeks later, he had mailed a beautiful poster for the address and a personal typed letter signed by Jackie Kennedy.
My Mom and Dad had that suitably framed. And it’s since been lost. But at that time I was well aware that good Public Relations was being done in the White House.
Hey EveningStar. Another one for your collection...
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