Saturday, November 15, 2008
Mark Twain: American Cynic
Mark Twain: American Cynic: Twain, whose birth name was Samuel Clemens, once said that "No one but the dead have free speech." Through his notebook, which was published posthumously in 1935, one can peer into the mind of probably the most cynical American literary in the nineteenth century. Some people consider his work to be quite humorous while others find it somewhat troubling. Either way, Twain had a knack for systematically dissecting whatever was most common in American folkways and laying them out for all to see their true colors. Any conventional pattern of behavior or quirky mannerism that held some peculiar value in American society was up for criticism and scrutiny from Twain. Perhaps Twain's staunch cynicism was precisely what drove his literary genius forward. It was undoubtedly the prime catalyzing force behind his 1873 satirical play entitled The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today whereby he sought to expose the vast extent to which avarice had infected postbellum America. In a way, Twain was a true activist. Even though his cynicism was what encouraged him to act in many instances, he certainly did possess the proper intentions when attacking a particular social stigma. And given that Twain lived in what was possibly the most dynamic period of change in American culture, one can better understand his avid skepticism. With so much change, there was bound to be those who doubted and scrutinized; Twain simply made a living out of it.