The Influences of
Thesis: Mark Twain was influential as an author, lecturer and reporter.
I) Mark Twain as an author.
A) Influential through his book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
i) Explained that a white person and a black person have the same things in
B) Influential through his book Pudd‟head Wilson.
i) Informed public about how slaves were really treated.
II) Mark Twain as a lecturer.
A) Influential his speeches about the government and politics.
i) Talked about how the governor hasn‟t done anything for the state, talked about
any thing that he saw going on in everyday life.
B) Spoke in campaign for New York‟s governor.
i) Spoke on the behalf of the anti-Tammany candidate; spoke about how he
opposed supporting stronger government lead by a few wealthy citizens.
III) Mark Twain as a reporter.
A) Worked for the Virginia City Enterprise.
i) Kept the public informed of Nevada‟s Constitutional Convention.
ii) Felt that it was important to keep the public informed.
B) Worked for the Daily Morning Call.
i) Wasn‟t allowed to voice his opinions.
ii) Was disappointed at the police forces for treating the immigrants poorly.
iii) Ended up writing for the Enterprise again to get his point across.
Florida, Missouri, the hometown of one of the most influential writers to ever
live. Samuel Langhorne Clements, also known as Mark Twain, was a very out spoken
child. He exercised his freedoms of speech and press frequently. At the young age of 13
Sam had already began writing for a newspaper. This is where most say Sam got his start
as an author. He contributed reports, poems, and humorous sketches. Most of which he
later found out, the public enjoyed. Sam later went back to writing for numerous
newspapers all over the US. This was when Sam was really noticed by the world.
Towards the end of his life is when he began to write his novels, which is where he was
the most influential. Mark Twain was a very influential person through being an author,
lecturer, and a reporter.
As an author, Mark Twain brought slavery to the spotlight. Slavery was
previously something talked about in small groups and behind closed doors, no one wrote
about it, at least until his story was published. No one would ever think of making it one
of the subjects in a novel. In one of his most prominent novels, The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, published in 1885, brought slavery out front and center when he made
a run-away slave and a young white boy traveling companions. Mark Twain believed
that, “There ain‟t no surer way to find out whether you like people than to travel with
them.” (Smillie, Dedman) The reader is supposed to realize that a black person is truly
just another human being who wants freedom and a family to care for. In the story, as
time passed and the two comrades traveled together and got to know each other better so
did the reader. The run away slave, Jim, talks to Huck about his goal to find work in the
North and get enough money to free his wife and children. He also spends most of his
time looking out for Huck and caring for him. One night, when they lost each other in
the fog, Jim nearly starts to cry because he believes Huck is dead. By writing this Mark
Twain shows society the emotions and feelings of a slave are not so different then their
own. When the book was published in 1885 it was criticized because of the
controversial issue it brought to light. Many of Mark Twain‟s supporters condemned it,
including Louisa May Alcott, the author of books like Little Women, she wrote about
white children growing up together and also directed her books at young adults. Louisa
May Alcott disliked that Mark Twain presented the idea that a white boy and a black man
could become friends. She said, “ „If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to
tell our pure-minded lads and lasses, he best stop writing for them.‟ “(Ward, Duncan 122)
One of his lesser-known works, Pudd‟nhead Wilson, shows slavery through a new
and unconsidered point of view. Mark Twain used a slave named Roxi to show the
physical and even emotional pain a slave has to endure. In the story she had given birth
to a white man‟s child, and the baby‟s appearance was that of a white man. The child
later grew up and, because he was white, became his mother‟s master and abused her.
To add to the abuse he sells her as a slave, after she is freed, to pay back debts that he
owes because of gambling. Mark Twain helped people to see slavery from a slave‟s
point of view.
Mark Twain was a very successful lecturer because he could always make people
laugh. He used his humor to talk openly about government and politics, especially his
disagreements with them. Mark Twain believed that, “Patriotism is supporting your
country all the time and your government when it deserves it.” (Schmidt) He was not
afraid to let others hear the shortcomings of their elected officials and the mistakes of
their government. In his very first public speaking opportunity he addressed a territorial
legislature. Mark Twain criticized citizens, the legislators, and even the governor. He
reminded the audience that Governor Nye had not officially done anything as governor
since he was commissioned three years before. Twain relayed stories from his sit-ins
with the legislature, such as the time when the clerk recorded “d---l” instead of devil
during an angry speech by a legislator. He also told them about the young Mr.
Gillespie‟s unrelenting stare that made even the top legislator‟s squirm. His audience
was in an uproar with laughter and applause, but he did more then just make them laugh.
He talked about certain injustices he saw going on in everyday life. Mark Twain brought
to the public eyes “undertakers who extorted gross profits from mourning families and
prosecuting attorneys who could not tell the difference between their own witnesses from
those of the defense.” (Meltzer 42)
In a campaign for New York‟s governor he spoke on the behalf of an anti-
Tammany candidate who shared his beliefs and opposed a party supporting stronger
government lead by a few wealthy citizens. In the early 1900‟s when the United States
took in the Philippines, Mark Twain was very unhappy. He began speaking at anti-war
rallies during the Spanish-American War, when Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the
United States, because he believed that Imperialism suppressed the countries under
control. Mark Twain believed that any strong nations taking part in Imperialism were
using a “loot-basket and butcher knife.” He spoke so ferociously against imperialism that
people continued to warn him that he might be offending the public. Mark Twain‟s reply
was, “ „I‟m not expecting anything but kicking and scoffing . . . but . . . I will have my
say.‟ ” (Ward, Duncan 202)
While Mark Twain was a reporter he highlighted many social issues. In 1862
Twain became a reporter for the Virginia City Enterprise. He produced a lot of reliable
reports. His reports of the legislature‟s sessions even became the official records. Mark
Twain took the responsibility to keep the public informed of Nevada‟s Constitutional
Convention. In one of his articles he wrote about his disappointment at an official for not
getting out the report. He wrote, “We sent our last report to you by out stirring official,
Gillespie, Secretary of the Convention. I though that might account for you not getting it
. . .” (Twain) Mark Twain felt it was important that the public was kept informed.
After a short time there he moved to San Francisco and worked for the Daily
Morning Call. The Call was much more formal writing than Mark Twain was used to
and he was no longer allowed to voice his opinions. Mark Twain was “revolted by the
brutal treatment of the Chinese in San Francisco, and damned the mobs that hunted them
as victims.” (Meltzer 45) He found that the authorities there did not protect the
immigrants, as they should. The newspaper would not print his views, which were
somewhat negative, of the police and politicians in the area. He found himself sending
them to the Enterprise so the public could find out what was really happening where they
lived. Mark Twain continued to report on San Francisco through the Enterprise, and
because of the magnitude of his attacks of the city‟s corruption the police chief decided to
sue the newspaper for libel.
Mark Twain had a lot of ideas in his lifetime and was happy to share them with
the world. Through his time as an author, lecturer, and reporter Mark Twain helped
society to truly understand the issues that they faced. No matter whether he was in
Hawaii on a vacation or India on a lecturing tour Mark Twain let others know about what
he saw going on. Writer, David McCullough once said, “Real success is finding your
life work in the work that you love.” (Moncur) Mark Twain found real success, and in
doing so, he achieved the true American dream.
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Schmidt. Barbara. Patriotism. April 9, 1997. October 25, 2004.
Smillie, Jenny, and Dedman, Kim. Travel Quotes. December 11, 2000.
October 25, 2004. <http://www.members.tripod.com/jsmillie/quotes.htm>.
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Enterprise. 1863: page 1. Territorial Enterprise. Watertown, WI. October 25,
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