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Realism by Mark Twain
Realism can be defined as the art of representing how different things are in the most practical way or simply applying facts to something happening to bring out the reality of it. As an art, realism helps people understand through different forms of literature as it offers detailed and most accurate knowledge of nature and its depiction. Realism is broad, meaning that it extends all its expertise to different types of cultures and civilizations. Guesswork and imagination are highly discouraged by realism, whose facts and theories are usually based on what is currently happening or what has already happened in the past. Mark Twain uses reality to bring out his ideas and literature understanding through his short stories. This paper will do a thorough investigation to see how realness is emphasized in Mark Twain’s short stories.
In literature, Mark Twain is considered one of the greatest writers who wrote their stories in the natural way of life. The notorious jumping frog of Calaveras County is among the stories that Twain wrote, which brings out different twists and lessons from the life of the characters. Smiley is a character in the story that is termed as the most real because of his habits (Byrne, 16). He is addicted to gambling, and he proudly tells everyone that he can bet on anything. He is a deceiving man who lives by tricking other people into gambling for a living. Smiley sees his life as a joke, comparing it with just a game people play when they are alive. Smiley fits this character as his attitude towards gambling is connected to his real way of living. He believes in gambling so much until one point where life proves to him that he is not always the winner. This time another person cheats on him and destroys his morale for gambling.
Latin American Literature by Cecily Raynor and American Audacity by Christopher Benfey are examples of stories written to describe regionalism and local color, two aspects related to realism in some ways. In Latin American, Cecily reads many stories and books from different writers to study the importance of literature in the lives of people (Weimann, 197). In this book, she uses real-world stories from other books she has read to compile a report that will help readers realize the importance of written literature. She describes regionalism by compelling writings in Spanish, Portuguese, and another language, hence proving how real her work is. Regionalism emphasizes learning cultures or different understanding from people of other races; thus, Cecily tends to fulfill the purpose of this philosophy.
On the other hand, Christopher Benfey gathers information from within American writers, where he analyzes his study among several storytellers, including Dickinson, Millay, and Whitman, among others. The book is written to give an understanding of literature and art but tends to shift its view to American culture and the identity of the writers. Local color is the understanding of art based on a specific culture or group of people who share a common origin. In this book, Christopher focuses on America, unlike Cecily, who went ahead to study the culture of other societies (Brodwin, 57). He uses the behavior of Americans as explained by different writers to explain the features of people living in the country, a form of writing described as local color in literature.
The notorious jumping frog of Calaveras County is not the only story that Twain wrote. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is another fascinating story that he wrote. A mischievous man named Tom Sawyer is used as the main character to show how devoted some people can be in matters of causing unnecessary trouble (Weimann, 189). Tom is described as a romantic, problematic idler who escapes the watch of his aunty Polly to do what he desires most; trouble. He later falls in love with the daughter of a local judge, which sarcastically makes him more ready to play around with people’s minds.
The reality introduced by Twain in his stories made children and other readers get more interested in reading his works as he knew how to capture the audience’s attention. He introduced the real nature in his stories, where the reports he gave out related directly to whatever was happening right then. The third person in Adventures of Tom Sawyer made the story more captivating as the readers get more information now from the characters just as they imagine in their minds.
Innocents Abroad is another story written by Twain, which explains different kinds of fashions in Europe and the Middle East. The book became one of the best-sold writings of his lifetime and the most popular because it brought out several themes concerning several cultures around the world. The book is a real story of his trips to Europe and the Middle East countries where he learned a lot about the fashion and culture of the inhabitants. In every country he visited, the author wrote compiled information about their culture, administration, and political standing (Penrose, 104). He went to the Vatican, where he learned about religion and how the people lived according to their Christianity. He also took a trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Sphinx in Egypt, where he indulged himself in creating comic set-pieces.
Although the book was categorized as a non-fiction one, Twain used facts he obtained from the tour, thus making it look more accurate than the story. Most of the readers criticized him for writing such an inspirational book other than compiling the whole story of the journey. He used the most attention-seeking places to write about experiences; thus, a number of his audience classified it as a fantasy and not reality (Berthoff, 47). The truth is Twain was realistic in whatever he wrote, meaning that he wrote what he saw and felt like it would capture his audience, not just writings that could explain his journey.
Being authentic in all his works made him good in realizing how he could handle his esteemed readers as not everyone could understand his mode of literature. After writing this book, Twain started growing as a young writer thus developed the sense of accepting challenges that will mostly come from his audience concerning his writing (Donald, 78). Writing about his voyage in a book was a different kind of literary work ever done by other writers, an idea which made his book sell out so fast. He confused the readers with the realness in the book and the language he used in it as they were different.
Every explanation he gave about his trip was geographically and historically accurate, an act that confused his readers on whether he was writing about his journey or it was just a literature fantasy. This kind of confusion made his work so famous that most readers got interested in reading a lot about his writing (Byrne, 16). Lastly, being honest in most of his stories made it easier for him to pass intended information to his audience as it was exactly what was happening in the real world. Having written other eleven books whose content is based on truths and not myths made him one of the biggest promoters of realism as a philosophy used in different artworks and literature.
Berthoff, Warner. The Ferment of Realism: American Literature 1884-1919. Cambridge University Press, 1981: 45-76
Brodwin, Stanley. “Wandering Between Two Gods: Theological Realism In Mark Twain’s” A Connecticut Yankee.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 16.2 (1983): 57.
Byrne, William. “Realism, Romanticism, and Politics in Mark Twain.” Humanitas 12.1 (1999): 16.
Donald, Pizer. The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism: From Howells to London. Cambridge University Press, 1995: 78
Penrose, Patricia. “American Realism: 1865-1910.” American Literature Resources (2008): 104
Weimann, Robert. “Realism, Ideology, and the Novel in America (18861896): Changing Perspectives in the Work of Mark Twain, WD Howells, and Henry James.” Revisionary Interventions into the Americanist Canon. Duke University Press, 1994. 189-210.