Mark Twain’s Personality Revealed in His WritingLiterary artists refuse to be categorized, defined, and completely fathomed by any standardized paradigm, but a writer’s work exhibits his or her personality traits. Though authors are incapable of being defined by mere personality traits, literary accomplishments, and literary criticisms, an author’s personality can be used to sketch a limited definition of his or her literature. Mark Twain’s literature manifests his personality’s candor, graphicness, humor, and criticalness that William Dean Howells describes in “My Mark Twain.” These attributes are evident in “Old Times on the Mississippi,” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” “Fennimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses,” and “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.” Howells’ portrayal of Twain facilitates some understanding of Twain’s fiction, but by no means is Mark Twain’s literature as simple as four personality traits. The traits of Twain’s literature transcend simple entertainment, and he enlightens the reader about the need to reform literature, religion, society, and the individual.
In the midst of the dishonesty, greed, and corruption of his time, Mark Twain’s characters and stories display great candor. Candor is the ability to express frankly, openly, and unabashedly an opinion or depict a situation, and the letters that William Dean Howells received from Twain are brimming with candor. Howells recounts, “He has the Southwestern, the Lincolnian, the Elizabethan breadth of parlance which I suppose one ought not to call coarse without calling one’s self prudish [. . .]” (351). As Twain’s stories unfold, he realistically and vibrantly describes outrageous events with an unbl…
…he refused to acquiesce to convention in his writings. Though he viciously attacked the wrongs that permeated his world, he did not solve the problems of humanity with his literature. But the vital voice of his literature is not dead, and it offers guidance for those seeking to fathom Twain’s mark.
McQuade, Donald, et al., eds. The Harper American Literature. 2nd ed. 2 vols. NewYork: Addison-Wesley, 1993.
Howells, William Dean. “My Mark Twain.” McQuade, et al. 2: 351-52.
Twain, Mark. “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” McQuade, et al. 2: 302-11.
-. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Dell, 1960.
-. “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.” McQuade, et al. 2: 311-42.
-. “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” McQuade, et al. 2: 269-73.
-. Old Times on the Mississippi. McQuade, et al. 2: 273-84.