How Did Mark Twain's Life Affect His Writings?

by Jeremy Cato
Mark Twain traveled up and down the Mississippi River as a steamboat pilot.

Mark Twain traveled up and down the Mississippi River as a steamboat pilot.

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Mark Twain is one of the most widely-recognized and celebrated American writers, not only in the United States, but around the world. His renowned novels, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," are considered literary classics. Like many authors, Mark Twain's life had a profound effect on his works.

Early Life

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in the city of Florida, Missouri. He grew up in the town of Hannibal, Missouri, which, at the time, permitted slave labor. Twain's experiences in Hannibal, particularly his viewing of the treatment of slaves and of Native Americans, had a lasting impact on him. He modeled many aspects of his magnum opus, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884), which is about an orphaned boy named Huck and his travels with a freed slave named Jim, after his experiences as a young man.

The Mississippi Years

Mark Twain became a steamboat pilot in his early twenties and spent several years traveling up and down the Mississippi River. He translated many of his experiences during his time on the Mississippi into a work titled "Life on the Mississippi" (1883). His experiences also heavily influenced the novel "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as Huck and Jim spent time floating down the Mississippi River.


Mark Twain was also a travel writer. Both before and after gaining national fame, Twain traveled to many areas of the United States and abroad to England and other countries. He worked as a traveling journalist for his brother Orion's newspaper during the early 1860s, which allowed him to travel west to the Rocky Mountains. This experience inspired his first successful work, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," published in 1865. His other collections of travel writings include "Roughing It"(1867), "The Innocents Abroad" (1869), and "A Tramp Abroad" (1880).

Other Life Influences

Besides his travels, other life experiences may have influenced Twain's writing. His relationships with his family members is one poignant area of influence. His father and several of his siblings died when Twain was still a child. These deaths probably influenced his depiction of death in many of his novels as many of his young male characters, such as Huck Finn, became acquainted with death at an early age.


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