Life on the Mississippi
After all these years I can picture that old time to myself now, just as it was then: the white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer’s morning; the streets empty, or pretty nearly so; one or two clerks sitting in front of the Water Street stores, with their splint-bottomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breasts, hats slouched over their faces, asleep– with shingle-shavings enough around to show what broke them down;
A sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds; two or three lonely little freight piles scattered about the ‘levee;’ a pile of ‘skids’ on the slope of the stone-paved wharf, and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of them; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf, but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets against them; the great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun; the dense forest away on the other side; the ‘point’ above the town, and the ‘point’ below, bounding the river-glimpse and turning it into a sort of sea, and withal a very still and brilliant and lonely one.
Life on the Mississippi Essay Example
Presently a film of dark smoke appears above one of those remote ‘points;’ instantly a negro drayman, famous for his quick eye and prodigious voice, lifts up the cry, ‘S-t-e-a-m-boat a-comin’! ‘ and the scene changes! The town drunkard stirs, the clerks wake up, a furious clatter of drays follows, every house and store pours out a human contribution, and all in a twinkling the dead town is alive and moving. ” This perfectly describes the setting in which young boys would live. Next is keen awareness of culture, or “local flavor” and an example of this in the story is, “Boy after boy managed to get on the river. The minister’s son became an engineer.
The doctor’s and the post-master’s sons became ‘mud clerks;’ the wholesale liquor dealer’s son became a barkeeper on a boat; four sons of the chief merchant, and two sons of the county judge, became pilots. Pilot was the grandest position of all. The pilot, even in those days of trivial wages, had a princely salary–from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty dollars a month, and no board to pay. Two months of his wages would pay a preacher’s salary for a year. Now some of us were left disconsolate. We could not get on the river– at least our parents would not let us. ” This tells us the culture in which the boys lived and how they handled situations. Next the final point in realism; an example from the text is, “’Come! turn out! ‘ And then he left.
I could not understand this extraordinary procedure; so I presently gave up trying to, and dozed off to sleep. Pretty soon the watchman was back again, and this time he was gruff. I was annoyed. I said:–‘What do you want to come bothering around here in the middle of the night for. Now as like as not I’ll not get to sleep again to-night. ‘ The watchman said– ‘Well, if this an’t good, I’m blest. ‘ The ‘off-watch’ was just turning in, and I heard some brutal laughter from them, and such remarks as ‘Hello, watchman! an’t the new cub turned out yet? He’s delicate, likely.
Give him some sugar in a rag and send for the chambermaid to sing rock-a-by-baby to him. ” Continuing with, “This manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before. ‘Well, you’re a smart one,’ said Mr. Bixby. ‘What’s the name of the NEXT point? ‘ Once more I didn’t know. ‘Well, this beats anything. Tell me the name of ANY point or place I told you. ‘ I studied a while and decided that I couldn’t. ‘Look here! What do you start out from, above Twelve-Mile Point, to cross over? ‘ ‘I–I– don’t know. ‘ ‘You–you–don’t know? ‘ mimicking my drawling manner of speech. ‘What DO you know? ” “I–I– nothing, for certain. ”
This example provides detailed speech of how people of that time talked. Humor was very prominent in Twain’s work and it shows in this quote, “WHEN I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient. 2. “When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first negro minstrel show that came to our section left us all suffering to try that kind of life; now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained. This shows the humor in Twain’s work.
Additionally, this also shows humor, “I soon discovered two things. One was that a vessel would not be likely to sail for the mouth of the Amazon under ten or twelve years; and the other was that the nine or ten dollars still left in my pocket would not suffice for so imposing an exploration as I had planned, even if I could afford to wait for a ship. Therefore, it followed that I must contrive a new career. ” 3. “The ‘Paul Jones’ was now bound for St. Louis. I planned a siege against my pilot, and at the end of three hard days he surrendered. He agreed to teach me the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St.
Louis for five hundred dollars, payable out of the first wages I should receive after graduating. I entered upon the small enterprise of ‘learning’ twelve or thirteen hundred miles of the great Mississippi River with the easy confidence of my time of life. If I had really known what I was about to require of my faculties, I should not have had the courage to begin. I supposed that all a pilot had to do was to keep his boat in the river, and I did not consider that that could be much of a trick, since it was so wide. ” This shows his humor because of the situations and thought process of the character. He uses exaggeration in these comments, “Give him some sugar in a rag and send for the chambermaid to sing rock-a-by-baby to him.
This example is acceptable because in Mark Twain’s work he creates his characters to speak exaggeratedly when they could easily say something simple and quickly understood. Furthermore, another exaggeration is, ‘Here, take her; shave those steamships as close as you’d peel an apple. ‘ Examples of understatements in his work are, “Mr. Bixby was close behind, commenting. Here was something fresh–this thing of getting up in the middle of the night to go to work. It was a detail in piloting that had never occurred to me at all. ” Additionally, another one is, “It seemed to me that I had put my life in the keeping of a peculiarly reckless outcast. ” Twain’s attitude toward God is rejecting his sovereignty and judges him as being unjust and unruly.
Twain also judges the church and other religious authorities as being strict, unmerciful, and unable to allow change that hinders what they think is right. One example of emphasis on the individual is, “The minister’s son became an engineer. The doctor’s and the post-master’s sons became ‘mud clerks;’ the wholesale liquor dealer’s son became a barkeeper on a boat; four sons of the chief merchant, and two sons of the county judge, became pilots. Pilot was the grandest position of all. ” This represents transcendentalism by all the sons rejecting their father’s legacy and finding their own.
Rejection of traditional authority is very prominent in Twain’s story and example of it is, “We could not get on the river–at least our parents would not let us. So by and by I ran away. Finally the last point in transcendentalism is reached, living a life attuned to nature; examples for this in Twain’s writing are, “WHAT with lying on the rocks four days at Louisville, and some other delays, the poor old ‘Paul Jones’ fooled away about two weeks in making the voyage from Cincinnati to New Orleans. This gave me a chance to get acquainted with one of the pilots, and he taught me how to steer the boat, and thus made the fascination of river life more potent than ever for me. ” Additionally, another one is, “I entered upon the small enterprise of ‘learning’ twelve or thirteen hundred miles of the great Mississippi River with the easy confidence of my time of life. ”