From humor to satire  

Mark Twain:from humor to satire
Abstract:Mark Twain, a mastermind of humor and realism, is seen as a giant in world literature. His humor had great impact on the following men of letters; critics also attached significant importance to it and put forward various interpretations. However,humor could no more be found in Twain's later works. On the contrary, it was replaced by bitter satire. Why did Twain change his writing style as well his attitude towards life?What was the cause of this sharp conversion? Focusing on these questions, the paper tries to analyze the basic elements which affected Twain from social influence and personal encounters respectively, aiming at offering rational analysis of this shift as well as making Twain's works readily understood.

I Introduction
Mark Twain, the pseudonym of Samuel
Langhorne Clemens, is the foreruner and
Reputed realist in the arena of American
literature. Because of his remarkable contribution to the
nation, literary critics spoke highly of his achievements.
For instance, these venerable titles”the Lincoln of
American literarure”,”the true father of our national
literature ,””Mark Twain –mirror of America” are
used to highlight his pinnacles in literature. His faithful
disciple, Ernest Heming way, more over, onve put it,
“all modern literature comes from one book by Mark
Twain ,called Huck lebury Finn..”
As far as a literatry giant is concerned, Twain was

remembered by men of letters firstly as a mastermind
of hunmor and then as bitter satiric writer. In other
words, Twain in his writing career experienced a
change from being cheerful and optimistic to despairing
and pessimistic But what cause his shift from humor
to satir? Personally, both social influence and
personal encounters play critical roles in changing his
writing from humor to satire and his attitude toward
life as well
U Social influences
Both the American Civil war( happened in 1861
and lasted till1865) and the re-construction after the
war greatly affected Twain’s writing style. Mark
Twain was born in Florida, Missouri, on30 November
In 1835,into a lawyer family.With the advent of
the civil war, young Twain in 1856 became a steam-
boat pilot, a profession about which he wrote thirty
years later in the book Life on the Mississippi. Generally
speeking, the American people enjoy regarding
war experience as their cherished and valuable forture,
and Twain was also no exception. As a pilot he
actively participated in the civil war in 1857.The cast of
characters set before hin in his profession was rich and
varied—a cosmos. He took abundantly part in this
life, listening to pilothouse talk of feuds, piracies,
lynchings,medicine shows, and savage waterside slums,
namely, he made himself very much familiar with all
walks of life and each coner of the society.Twain, at
the very begainning,was actually optimistic about what
he saw and what he did .However,he had to leave
the river country in the wake of the end of the civil
war after four and a half years in the steamboat.In
other words, the end of civil war put an end to his life
as a pilot. Then he tried soldiering once again for two
weeks with motley band of confederate guerrillas who
diligently avoided contact with the enemy.Twain quit
after deciding,”I knew more about retreating than
the man that invented retreating”.After that, he made
his mind to estabilish his fame by writing. It was
proved that his pen was really mightier than his pickax .
In 1861 he became a joumalist and adopted
“Mark Twain” as his pen name. Four years later,

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras Coutry
was published “Coleman with his jumping frog-bet
stranger$50—stranger had no frog, and C got him
one—in the meantime, stranger filled C’s frog full
of shot and he couldn’t jump.The stranger’s frog
won.”This sucessful story firmly established his
reputation as a humorist and storyteller.
In fact, the civil war was a turning-point in
Twain’s literary career, and it was also a watershed
between his hunmor and satire.Thus, the war experience
For him was an epoch-making event and it had
far-reaching influence upon his writing .We know,
Twain fully and diligently embraced into the steamboat
pilot on the eve of the civil war . Presumably his orginal
pursuit was fight for peace, freedom,and reunification
of the nation and happiness of American people.
At that time, Twain’s eyes were filled with hops and
opportunities as well as conflicts and fights. He firmly
upheld that he could be self-made and made a fortune
by immersing in the war . However ,only the opposite
was in fact true. It turned out to be that he took
everything for granted at first . Shortly after the war came
to an end, it left nothing but cherished remembrances,
which made him extremely upset and disheartened
fortunately, this four and a half years in the steamboat
made himself educated and acquainted with every
possible type of human nature , and most of which made
him ulimately recognized that his pen would mightier
than his weapons.Without hesitation any more, he
began digging his way to regional fame as a corrspondent
and humorist with rich war experience. Due
to his phonographic memories and dsecriptive genius
he made all happened in the war vividly resurfaced.
Scores of successful works gradually set him apart from
the commom men of letters and it eventually made him
a reputed spokesperson for the realism and a
world-wide remarkable humorist in particular.
As a witness of the civil war, Twain saw clearly
the great changes in nation’s economic development
and political life .With the final victory over the South
the North once again enjoyed its wielding power in
the nation’s administration. Now the acute confilt at
home was undermined and the American people again.

focused their full attention on re-construction after the
war.Because majority of the slaves were emancipated,
the slave-based economy of the defeated
South had its prosperity became this case,
clusters of groundless southern poor whites and the
newly freed slaves headed directly or indirectely for the
newly-liberated cities to seek opportunities.It may be
called the “Gold Rush” rejuvenated, or rather,it was
so-called the “American Dream” by some critics.
Twain also could not help rushing to the west to will
his American dream.He once believed the idea of
development and industrialization since it would
modernize the young country and encourage the
enterprising spirit of American who had long been
famous for it. He was firmly enthralled by such fever,
so once again he held an optimistic attitude towards
the post-westward expansion. He drew much inspiration
from the unparalleled and magnificent event and spoke
highly of its decision-makers and its people.
Social consciousness roots in social being. As a
kind of social consciouness literature should reflect
the then social reality in which it firmly roots. Being a
realistic literati, Twain gradually noticed the darkness
and he finally found the difference between what he
saw superficially and what they really were in-depth;
he also found the difference between what people
claimed to be and what they really were. He realized
that people became amoral and the ruling classbecame
impotent in the course of material prosperity. Althogh
both the civil war and the re-construction after
the war (aftermath of the westward expasion) enable
him to familiar with people from all walks of
life,to be rich in writing materials which led him to
become American ambassadoralt large, and to acquire
an international reputation as
humoristcum-frontier-philosopher; on the other
hand ,it also tallked him into observing deliberately the
side-effect of industrialization and the darkness of the
society.Namely, the material fulfilment only brought
about spirit vacancy. Because his deep sorry and
increasing dissatisfactiontoward these phenomena,Twain
could not be humorous and opptimistic any more. On
the contrary,Twain in his later works shifted from an

optimist to a misanthrope,from humor to satire.For
instance,in his later works, The Glided Aged and
Pudd’ndiead Wilson, he intensely and fiercely satirized
the rampant evills and darkness of the society. Unlike
the experiences of war and the westward expasion
that made him became quite optimistic, the corruption
and in justice made him became extremely pessimistic
He failed to find ways to eradicate the exacerbated
Social disease; he held a helpless ande elusive attitude
towards life.Thus, Twain became doubtfull about the
idea of development and skeptical of the goodness of
human nature. In Following the Equator and To the
person Sitting in Darkness ,he severely condemned the
nation’s imperia and aggressive behavior to other
countries, especially the Spanish-American War.since
the publication of The Mysterious Stranger in 1916
until his death in 1910,he maintained a bitter satire and
Skepticism to large degree. The Man That Corrupted
Hadleyburg and What is the Man are representatives
of this sort.
V Personal encounters
As I mentioned foregoing,social influence assered
predominat significance over Twain’s coversation
from humor to satire. It is no exaggeration that social
influence of his day,dominantly affected his attitude
towards life, his outlook of society, his writing style
and so on and so forth .However, there is another
element, his personal tragedies which also can’t be
ignored when we tried to analyze his writing style.
Regarded as a giant in both American literature
and world literature, Twain encounted countless
personal hardships and sufferings.It is likely that Twain
is more famous for his personal tragedies than as a
humorist and a representative of realism. It is no wander
that he had to change his humor into satire after ex-
periencing unexpected personal sufferings and
tragedies . In the firstly place, his father died when he
was only twelve and which directly brought about the
end of his found education. However ,Twain we
kown was born in a period that the two sides were
fighting at throat and when the confilt ended the west
was still wide open. The nationwide aftermath of

westward movement once again full of chances and
opportunites and he therefore was utterly delighted
with the fresh land and invigorated by the poineering
spirit.Chances are that his father’s death did not make
difference upon hin emotion.Life was bright for hin,
filled with its mysteries alarmed by its terrors,and
amused by its contrast. Thus he was able to laugh with
lightness as great humorist in the Pacific slope.
However,when the aged Twain ultimately realized
that the material wealth only resulted in corruption and
injustice instead of man’s morallity improvement,his
humor and laugh were replaced by bitter sneer and
satire .In the second place,When he bacame sophisticated
he was once again haunted in the consistent deaths of
his loved ones;his borther Henry was killed by
a steamboat explosin; his eldest daughter Susy died of
spinal meningitis; Mrs Clenments succumbed to a heat
attack in Florence; and youngest daughter Jean an
epileptio drawned in an upstairs bathtub.Such trgic
encounters Twain experienced is really like the de-
cription in Mark Twain Mirror of A merican “Bit-
terness fed on the man who had made the world
laugh .The moralizing of his eariler writing had been
well padded with humor .Now the gloves came off
with bitter satire” .The last but not the least reason
why Twain turned humor into satire in his later works
is that the total failure of his type-setting and pub-
lishing company in 1894 .The failure in bussiness and
the deaths of loved ones made Twain maintained a
bitter skepticism in his later part life .Twain felt so de-
spaired and frustrated that he was deeply invovled in
skepticism and predestination .Just as he put in his
own autobiogrph;”…they vanish from a world
where they were of no consequences;where they
achieved nothing ;where they were a mistake and a
failure and foolishness,where they have left no sign
that they have existed-a world which will lament
them a day and forget them forever.”
In the word ,Mark Twain ‘s later years was full of
total failure in frequent fiinancial speculation-the speculation
both in type-setting and publishing companies
and his personal bereavement-the beloved ones died

one after anther.Unlike Shakespeare still could write
out some comedies after his forur greatest
world-known trgedies Twain changed his writing
style into bitter satire after making the worle laugh by
his humor .his last years were filled with acute
pessimicm,strong skepticism and bitter staire.Twain died
on April 21,1910, at age of sevety-five.
W Conclusion
To sum up , fundamentally ,Twain is a great
humist.He once said “there are several kinds of stories”
But only one difficult-the humorous,. So to be
humorous in his writing I venture to say is his lifelong
pursuit .it is also undeniable that Twain is the only
giant who had brought both local colorism and humor
to world fame. Meanwhile he once claimed that he
was a serious writer and was actively concerned with
moral ideas in many ways. On this point, Twain was
by no means shallow or frivolous and we can’t simply
call him a humorist or an ironic writer .in fact, most
of Twain’s works are the combination of both humor
and satrie and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
was a case in point.On the one hand ,it is his master-
piece as a humorist while the novel also can be eyed as
a satire on sentimentality and Romanticism on the
other.Roughly speaking Twain’humor deeply rooted
in social changes and his personal sufferings .When
he thought life was bright for him and full of chances
and if everything went smoothly , he was quite optimistic
and hunmorous . However ,when he found the
darkness corruption, injustice and personal tragic encounters
he had to withstand in paticular , he became
firstly serious and the bitter ironic.It follows
therefore that we should take these elements into
considerations when analyzing Twain’s writing characteristics
reality and the unpredictable personal tragedies directly
and eventually resulted in his change from humor to satire

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