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Life on the Mississippi-Twain

In Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, we are presented with more than the tales and adventures of a young cub-pilot with aspirations of being a steamboatman. For in this particular story we are getting more than fiction from the author, we are getting a personal recollection aided by fiction that takes us deeper into the mind and ideology of the narrator than is typically true with pure fiction. Even though the boy’s father is a justice of the peace with the “power of life and death over all men,” the narrator remains more fascinated over his aspirations to ride the mighty and mysterious Mississippi. Horace Bixby is the riverboat pilot who “learns” the boy the river, a man who is as adept as finding obscured plantations along as the Mississippi as much as spewing forth cuss words in a torrent as raging as any ever whipped up by the river. He tells the boy, who offends him by having no memory of things taught, “You must get a little memorandum-book, and every time I tell you a thing, put it down right away. There’s only one way to be a pilot, and that is to get this entire river by heart. You have to know it just like A B C” (Twain 169). However much the story contains fiction, it also contains an equal dose of reality. Samuel Clemens was a steamboatman as a teenager, and like Clemens the story’s fiction and reality are synonymous with life along the Mississippi. Clemens also kept a “memorandum-book” during his own steamship days, “Ruled for use as a ledger, the notebook also contains the cargo records of a steamboat clerk, suggesting that Clemens probably acquired it in some haste from the clerk” (The Mississippi 1).

Life on the Mississippi is Clemens fullest and most autobiographical work concerning the region and its people. Life on the Mississippi lives and dies with the Mississippi as much as life would do in railroad towns whose existence waxed and waned with the successes or failures ...

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Life on the Mississippi-Twain. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:20, February 24, 2017, from