М. Твен – основоположник реализма в литературе США.
Концепция «естественного человека»; особенности национального юмора.
Realism in American literature developed much later than in English literature. It was because romanticism was the first national literature and it lasted longer and had much more influence on American literature than in English literature. So realism developed after Civil War. By this time some authors have already understood that man is a product of his environment and that had to deal with real facts and actions. The realists saw man on the background of social conflicts of the day and analyzed human nature and human emotions in relation to his background. The American realists rejected sentimentality and the “genteel tradition” in the style of writing. Their portrayal of life is truthful, original and unpolished. Of course, realism developed under the influence of European realism, but it has its own features: the problems of social injustice, the Negro and Indian questions, the fate of young generation and the problem of emancipation of women. Also humour was one of the national features of American literature.
Mark Twain is the founder of realism in American literature. Samuel Clemens (1835 – 1910). He spent his childhood on the banks of Missouri and Mississippi river and we find this reflection in his books of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He began to write sketches and stories for San Francisco newspapers. On his return from Europe he had written and published his book “Innocence Abroad” (1869). The years 1874 to 1885 were the most productive. He published his great works: “the Gilded Age” (1874), “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1876), “A Tramp Abroad” (1880), “The Prince and the Pauper” (1882), “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1885). Twain went many times abroad, already being world-famous. And in 1907 Oxford University announced it would give him an honorary Doctorate of Letters. His last novel “The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg” was published in 1899. He died
The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims' Progress was published in 1869. It is the chronicles of Twain's cruise through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of religious pilgrims.
Twain criticizes various aspects of culture and society he meets while on his journey. His criticisms are based on comparisons between the writings of his contemporaries that were valued by people very much as sources of true information for traveling in famous places in European countries. He tells the readers his own views and perceptions of these places.
Thus a major theme of the book is that of the conflict between history and the modern world; the narrator speaks about particular events in the past. One example may be found in the discussion of the story of Abelard and Heloise, where the skeptical American deconstructs the story and comes to the conclusion that entirely too much fuss has been made about the two lovers.
As for traveling in the Holy Land he speaks of profanation of religious history, and to the shattering of illusions, such as his dismay in finding that the nations described in the Old Testament could easily have fit inside many American states and territories, and that the kings of those nations might very well have ruled over fewer people than could be found in some small towns.
Mark Twain’s two most famous works “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” are written in the central period of his creativity. But there is a ten year period between them and that’s why we consider the first book to be an example of Twain’s optimistic period and the second book is marked by the critics of American society and slavery.
Tom Sawyer was drawn from life and is a combination of three boys whom Twain had known.
Mark Twain gives a realistic portrait of a typical boy: self-indulgent and generous, coolly practical and given to romantic dreaming, mischievous and kind. He envies Huck Finn’s lazy lifestyle and freedom. And it is typical of him that he chooses him as his friend. Tom doesn’t like the new boy with rich clothes and instinctively he is against this finery. Tom can convince everybody and shows this his feature when all the boys want to paint the fence very much and are ready even to pay for this job.
Tom is engaged in and often the organizer of childhood pranks and make-believe games. These games are role-games such as: they played pirates and robbers, pretended to be Robin Hood and his men and hunted for hidden treasure. Even his engagement with Becky Thatcher is a role game of future family relations. It is his romantic protest to the boring adult world and thus it creates this opposition.
This boring adult world is depicted with the help of Tom’s family, especially Aunt Polly and other people who came to the sermon. But even here we seethe mild irony of the author towards the grown-ups: we understand that Aunt Polly is a simple, kindhearted woman who struggles to balance her love for her nephew with her duty to discipline him. She generally fails in her attempts to keep Tom under control because, although she worries about Tom’s safety, she seems to fear constraining him too much. Besides the adherence to the religion but sometimes acting against human’s heart creates this irony. Mary is Tom’s sweet, almost saintly cousin, she is well behaved and she acts out of genuine affection rather than malice. Tom is also opposed to Sid, his half-brother. Sid is a goody-goody who enjoys getting Tom into trouble. He is mean-spirited but presents a superficial show of model behavior. He is thus the opposite of Tom, who is warmhearted but behaves badly. And thus we understand that despite his mischief, Tom has a good heart and a strong moral conscience. The episodes when Tom was punished for Becky are an example to it.
Tom is realistic character because he is shown in development. As Tom’s adventures proceed, however, critical moments show Tom moving away from his childhood concerns and making mature, responsible decisions. These moments include Tom’s testimony at Muff Potter’s trial, his saving of Becky from punishment, and his heroic navigation out of the cave. By the end of the novel, Tom is coaxing Huck into staying at the Widow Douglas’s, urging his friend to accept tight collars, Sunday school, and good table manners. He is no longer a disobedient character undermining the adult order, but a defender of respectability and responsibility. In the end, growing up for Tom means sacrificing the freedoms of childhood.
Yet Tom’s development isn’t totally coherent. The novel jumps back and forth among several narrative strands and because of its episodic nature of the plot Tom’s character can seem inconsistent, as it varies depending upon his situation. Tom is a paradoxical figure in some respects—for example, he has no determinate age. Sometimes Tom shows the naïveté of a smaller child, with his interest in make-believe and superstitions. On the other hand, Tom’s romantic interest in Becky and his fascination with Huck’s smoking and drinking seem more the concerns of an adolescent.
Thus, the main themes of this novel are moral and social maturation. Childish games take on more and more gravity. Tom leads himself, Joe Harper, Huck, and, in the cave, Becky Thatcher into increasingly dangerous situations. He also finds himself in predicaments where he must put his concern for others above his concern for himself. As Tom begins to take initiative to help others instead of himself, he shows his increasing maturity, competence, and moral integrity.
Society’s hypocrisy: Twain’s harshest satire exposes the hypocrisy—and often the essential childishness—of social institutions such as school, church, and the law, as well as public opinion. Twain shows that social authority does not always operate on wise, sound, or consistent principles. But sometimes even in the boys’ games we see that they also regulate the rules: Tom is highly concerned with conforming to the codes of behavior that he has learned from reading, and he outlines the various criteria that define a pirate, a Robin Hood, or a circus clown. The boys’ obsession with superstition is likewise an addiction to convention, which also mirrors the adult society’s focus on religion.
Another theme is freedom through social exclusion and Huck represents this way of life in the novel. Huck prefers an independent lifestyle, parents don’t allow their children to communicate with him. But after he saves Widow Douglas and gets rich, the attitude towards him becomes better. But here he is shown as a romantic hero, very attractive to other boys, but the development of his character is presented in the next book.
Of course, there is the antagonist in the novel – Injun Joe. Half Native American and half Caucasian, he was excluded from the society probably because of his race. Injun Joe’s predominant motivation is revenge. Injun Joe undergoes no real character development over the course of the novel. He never seems to repent for his crimes or change his spiteful outlook.
There are some symbols in the novel which refer to the real world and position in the society: the small village of St. Petersburg is a microcosm of the United States or of society in general. All of the major social institutions are present on a small scale in the village and all are susceptible to Twain’s comic treatment.
The storm on Jackson’s Island symbolizes the danger involved in the boys’ removal from society. There are some symbols connected with Tom’s development: The cave represents a trial that Tom has to pass before he can graduate into maturity. The treasure is a symbolic goal that marks the end of the boys’ journey. It becomes a indicator of Tom’s transition into adulthood and Huck’s movement into civilized society. It also symbolizes the boys’ heroism, marking them as exceptional in a world where conformity is the rule.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written in different tone and key and is more serious and less optimistic. First of all, it is the first person narrative and now Huck is the teller of the story, he is the main hero, thus it is his view of the events.
From the beginning of the novel, Twain makes it clear that Huck is a boy who comes from the lowest levels of white society. His father is a drunk and a ruffian who disappears for months on end. Huck himself is dirty and frequently homeless. Although the Widow Douglas attempts to “reform” Huck, he resists her attempts and maintains his independent ways. It is very notable that the community has failed to protect him from his father. Huck’s distance from mainstream society makes him skeptical of the world around him and the ideas it passes on to him.
In this book Huck’s travels represents his development. His strong moral feeling is shown in the situation when he travels with Jim. According to the law, Jim is Miss Watson’s property, but according to Huck’s sense of logic and fairness, it seems “right” to help Jim. All the way he struggles with the inner doubts and prejudices that are in the society. But as he gets to know Jim better, Jim becomes his friend and moreover like a father to him.
Nevertheless, Huck is still a boy, and is influenced by others, particularly by his imaginative friend, Tom. And he is ready to follow Tom Sawyer’s lead. But even these failures are part of what makes Huck appealing and sympathetic. And here Twain depicts the difference between two boys: while for Tom rescuing Jim is another game which they should play according to all the rules, most of which have more to do with style than with morality or anyone’s welfare. for Huck it is real life in which he fears for his friend’s fate. Two friends are opposed each other: Tom is everything that Huck is not. Tom knows all along that Miss Watson has died and that Jim is now a free man, yet he is willing to allow Jim to remain a captive while he entertains himself with fantastic escape plans. Tom embodies what a young, well-to-do white man is raised to become in the society of his time: self-centered with dominion over all.
By depicting these two characters Twain introduces the theme of intellectual and moral education. Huck questions many of the teachings that he has received, especially regarding race and slavery. More than once, we see Huck choose to “go to hell” rather than go along with the rules and follow what he has been taught. Huck bases these decisions on his experiences, his own sense of logic. By the novel’s end, Huck has learned to “read” the world around him, to distinguish good, bad, right, wrong, menace, friend, and so on. While Tom Sawyer is influenced by a bizarre mix of adventure novels and Sunday-school teachings, thus he lead to doing harm to other people, even if he doesn’t intend to.
The other main themes in the novel are also quite realistic: it is racism and slavery. Although Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, America—and especially the South—was still struggling with racism and the aftereffects of slavery. Although Twain wrote the novel after slavery was abolished, he set it several decades earlier, when slavery was still a fact of life. We might read Twain’s depiction of slavery as an allegorical representation of the condition of blacks in the United States even after the abolition of slavery. In Huckleberry Finn, Twain demonstrates how racism distorts the oppressors as much as it does those who are oppressed. The result is a world of moral confusion, in which seemingly “good” white people such as Miss Watson and Sally Phelps express no concern about the injustice of slavery or the cruelty of separating Jim from his family.
On the other hand Twain drew a portrait of a negro who is a man of remarkable intelligence and compassion. At first glance, Jim seems to be superstitious to the point of idiocy, but a careful reading of the time that Huck and Jim spend on Jackson’s Island reveals that Jim’s superstitions conceal a deep knowledge of the natural world and represent an alternate form of “truth” or intelligence. This is the concept of so-called natural man, and at some point Huck is very close to Jim. Besides Jim is also the one who has his own family and then he becomes family for Huck, being a friend and a father. Even that Jim can’t find ways out from his realistic situation, Jim could be described as the only real adult in the novel, and the only one who provides a positive, respectable example for Huck to follow.
The Hypocrisy of “Civilized” Society
Throughout the novel, Twain depicts the society that surrounds Huck as little more than a collection of degraded rules and precepts that defy logic. The law can’t protect Huck from his Pap. There are positive characters in the novel, but they are also prejudiced: Widow Douglas is gentler with Huck and has more patience than Mrs. Watson. Essentially good people, Silas and Sally Phelpses nevertheless hold Jim in custody and try to return him to his rightful owner.
The duke and the dauphin are a pair of con men whom Huck and Jim rescue as they are being run out of a river town. The older man (70) says he is the son of King Louis XVI and heir to the French throne. The younger man (30) says Duke of Bridgewater. Although Huck quickly realizes the men are frauds, he and Jim remain at their mercy, as Huck is only a child and Jim is a runaway slave. These two cheats people in order to get more money, they deceive the Wilks sisters and etc. it may seem to Huck that telling lies can be good, depending on its purpose, but anyway Huck chooses to be honest. The other two families are The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. Twain uses the two families to mock and overly romanticizes ideas about family honor. As a result, many members of two families are killed. Besides, these two families remind us of the Capulet and Montague families which end in similar ways. On the whole Twain uses allusions to other very famous romances and writers (Shakespeare, Robin Hood, Quixote and his friend).
The most important symbol in the novel is The Mississippi River – the symbol of freedom. They flow to Free states and from Huck’s father. Much like the river itself, Huck and Jim are in flux, willing to change their attitudes about each other with little prompting. But even here they are not completely free, and they overcome several obstacles (criminals, flood, wrecks) because of which they miss the mouth of the Ohio River, which was to be their route to freedom. As Huck and Jim’s journey progresses, the river, which once seemed a paradise and a source of freedom, becomes merely a short-term means of escape that nonetheless pushes Huck and Jim ever further toward danger and destruction.
Twain thought that the humour is only a decoration in literature. It must preach some idea, teach something that the writer wanted the reader to understand and respond to. Used hyperbole and allegory.
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