Critical History of Mark Twain’s Work

Mark Twain, was an American humorist who lived between 1835 and 1910(Twain and Anthony, 2010). He was famous for the manner in which hedeliberated issues in a humorous way. Quite often, he made fun of hislife in order to pass a point. In the literary world, Mark Twain isrecognized for his numerous works and shaping the humor literature ofAmerica. His prowess was not only felt in America, the King and thequeen of England recognized his work and invited him to dine withthem. Although not many Britons were conversant with his work, he wasstill a renowned humorist among those who were fans of his work. Thisessay seeks to analyze the literary works of Mark Twain from thefollowing perspectives common themes, reception and reputation ofhis work.


Twain developed most of his themes around slavery and racism. Insome of his works, he figuratively pictured slaves rising againsttheir owners (Lathbury 3). His opinion was that slavery and racismwere wrong. He preferred to refer to someone based on his upbringingrather than the color of his skin. Twain’s themes also revolvedaround American imperialism. He often criticized the Americangovernment for wanting to impose its values on other countries.Although the issue of slavery is over in the USA, traces of racismstill exist. The numerous police shootings of unarmed AfricanAmerican males speak volumes. American imperialism is at an all-timehigh. The USA has been involved in most of the foreign wars in recenthistory.

The most common criticism towards Mark Twain’s work was based onthe manner in which he blatantly articulated issues (Balthary 4). Hecensored nothing. More than once, he almost came to a physical fightwith fellow writers after a duel. His attacks on the government alsojeopardized his life. In addition, some publishers declined topublish some of his works directed at the government because they hadtoo much salt. Among the genres that Mark Twain wrote were satire,historical, and political. Satire was his major.


Since Mark Twain rubbed some people the wrong way, most of hiscritics were people whose articles touched. His critics did notreceive his work well. Some of the groups that did not like his workinclude organized religions (Twain and Anthony 34). Although he was aPresbyterian, he did not subscribe to the fundamentals of organizedreligion citing hypocrisy. Religious leaders came out in numbers tocondemn his writings and lectures. His other critics were governmentofficials and farmers. He was never afraid to point out theinadequacies of the American government. The government refuted hiswriting, saying that they were pure malice. The authorities did notlike his support for civil rights. Farmers too disliked his workbecause he was against vivisection. He termed the procedure as verypainful. He also termed the procedure inhuman because it took placewithout the consent of the animal. In general, his critics werepeople that his work rubbed the wrong way. It was therefore expectedof them to dislike his work.

Mark Twain was a popular figure in the American society. The publicloved him for his satirical articles. He was popular among Americansand his work contributed to the popular American library culture. Heoften received invitations for public lectures because of thepopularity of his work. Presidents, students and parents adored himin equal measure. He was a common figure in government events. As alecturer, he was popular among his students. They loved him for hismastery of satire. His lectures were entertaining as well. Being askilled public speaker, Mark twain never failed in the delivery ofhis message through word of mouth. He would leave his audience institches, but his message got across nevertheless. In a nutshell,Mark Twain was well known during his time. He entered the books ofhistory as one of the greatest humorists that ever lived.


According to Stonely (9), Mark Twain left a great legacy behind. Twoyears after his death, Howells published a book- My Mark Twain- inwhich he described Mark Twain as the Lincoln of literature. Later on,another writer, Ernest Hemingway, wrote that Twain’s work was thefoundation on which modern American literature is built. Both writerspraised him for being a socialist humorist and articulating issuesthat touched on the common American who was often neglected in otherliterature during that time.

Twain is also remembered as a moralist (Twain et al 7). Most of histhemes revolved around instituting morality in the society. He spokeagainst racism, vivisection, government imperialism, and slavery.Twain was the first Anglo- American to treat the issues of slaveryand racism with the seriousness they deserve. He used day-to-dayexample to pass his message across. To date, Mark Twain is stillcommemorated as a great humorist. Every30th November, theliterary community celebrates the anniversary of Mark’s birth. Onthis date, numerous online sites and local dailies sing to hislegacy. The literary community also celebrates his death anniversaryevery year.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County


The critics accept that the story was a masterpiece and it marked theonset of Twain’s writing style. However, during the early days ofits publication some critics insisted that the story was highlyborrowed for Southwestern folklore and that many writers in thatregion were already telling it. Based on the argument, it wouldtherefore mean that Twain’s story was not authentic. Other criticsappreciated Twain’s use of humor and understand the story as a trueassertion of American values.

The story is among the many southwestern folk tales, which havethemes related to the shrewdness of characters who outwitted oldgamblers (Twain 8). The theme of the short story is similar to thatof many southwestern folktales. The theme also revolves around therivalry between the East and the west. Since time immemorial, thesecommunities have been rivals in matters glory, sophistication andcivilization. The rivalry and stereotypes about these regions stillpersist


The reception of the story was positive and it was reprinted 10 times(Twain 6). However, Twain was worried that the story made him looklike a western humorist- a claim that he viciously denied. He had towrite his mother a letter to refute the claims.

The short story by Twain was first published on the Saturday Press inDecember 1865 after months of failed attempts to write it to hissatisfaction. The short story is among the best that Twain everwrote. Critics and the public generally liked the story.


After the story’s initial publication, it received massivepopularity from the public (stonely 3). It was republished in otherlanguages including French. The story grew to be one of the bestshort stories by Mark Twain. All along, the story has been accordedthe respect it deserves.

Works Cited

Stoneley, Peter. The Reputations of Mark Twain. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press. Print, Dec, 2010.

Twain, Mark. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.2016. Web, Accessed 3 March, 2015,&lt

Twain, Mark, and Michael Anthony. The Autobiography of Mark Twain.Ed. Charles Neider. California: University of California Press, 2010.

Twain, Mark, Gerald Graff, and James Phelan. Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn. London: Macmillan Education UK, 2005.

Lathbury, Roger, et al. Realism and Regionalism (1860-1910).London: Infobase Publishing, 2010.