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Mark Twain was one of the most popular and well-known authors of the 1800s.
He is recognized for being a humorist. He used humor or social satire in his
best works. His writing is known for realism of place and language, memorable
characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression (Mark Twain 1). Mark Twain
was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835. He was born on the
Missouri frontier in a small log village called Florida. His parents had come to
Florida from their former home in Tennessee (Unger 192). When Clemens was four,
he moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri, a port on the Mississippi River
(Mark Twain 1). His father, who had studied law in Kentucky, was a local
magistrate and small merchant (Unger 193). When Samuel was twelve, his father
died. He was then apprenticed to two local printers (Unger 193). When he was
sixteen, Clemens began setting type for the local newspaper Hannibal Journal,
which his older brother Orion managed (Mark Twain 1). In 1853, when Samuel was
eighteen, he left Hannibal for St. Louis (Unger 194). There he became a steam
boat pilot on the Mississippi River. Clemens piloted steamboats until the Civil
War in 1861. Then he served briefly with the Confederate army (Mark Twain 1). In
1862 Clemens became a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City,
Nevada. In 1863 he began signing his articles with the pseudonym Mark Twain, a
Mississippi River phrase meaning two fathoms deep (Bloom 43). In 1865,
Twain reworked a tale he had heard in the California gold fields, and within
months the author and the story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras
County, had become national sensations (Bloom 47). In 1867 Twain lectured in New
York City, and in the same year he visited Europe and Palestine. He wrote of
these travels in The Innocents Abroad. This book exaggerated those aspects of
European culture that impress American tourists (Bain, Flora, and Rubin 103).
Many claim that The Innocents Abroad is Mark Twains second-best book (Unger
198). In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon. After living briefly in Buffalo, New
York, the couple moved to Hartford, Connecticut (Bain, Flora, and Rubin 104).
Much of Mark Twains best work was written in the 1870s and 1880s in
Hartford and during the summers at Quarry Farm, near Elmira, New York (Bain
Flora and Rubin 104). It was at Quarry Farm that he wrote Roughing It in 1872,
which recounts his early adventures as a miner and journalist. While vacationing
in New York one summer in 1876 he wrote his most famous story of all. Mark Twain
wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Bloom 50). It is about Tom Sawyer, who is a
twelve-year-old boy who lives on the Mississippi River. He is mischievous,
adventurous, and humorous. Tom is loved by readers around the world. The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer brought Twain to the top of the best-sellers list,
where he remained for eight weeks (Unger 199). Mark Twain once said that he
liked Tom Sawyer because Tom represented everything that he had loved as a
boy, and because if the world thought like Tom Sawyer, everyone would forget
about their troubles and become happier people (Kunitz 355). Twain wrote the
sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1884. The sequel, The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn is considered by many to be Twains masterpiece (Mark Twain
1). The book is the story of Tom Sawyers best friend, Huck. He flees his
father, the town drunk, by raft down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave,
Jim. The pairs adventures show Huck and the reader the cruelty of which men
and women are capable. Another theme of the novel is the conflict between
Hucks feelings of friendship with Jim, who is one of the few people he can
trust, and his knowledge that he is breaking the laws of the time by helping Jim
escape (Mark Twain 2). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is almost
entirely narrated from Hucks point of view, is noted for its authentic
language and for its deep commitment to freedom (Marshall 232). In 1884, Twain
formed the firm Charles L. Webster and Company to publish his and other
writers works. The most famous books published there were The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn and Personal Memoirs, which was written by American general and
president Ulysses S. Grant (Mark Twain 2). A disastrous investment in an
automatic typesetting machine led to the firms bankruptcy in 1894. A
successful worldwide lecture tour ... more
Find essay on Equator
Moby Dick By Herman Melville
The Characters and Plot
There are numerous characters in Moby Dick, but only a few of them
have any impact on the story. A common sailor named Ishmael is the
narrator. The book, however, focuses on Captain Ahab, the one-legged
commander of the whaling ship Pequod. Ahab has sworn to kill the
gigantic whale Moby Dick, who took away his leg. Starbuck is the
first mate of the Pequod. Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo are the
The story begins with Ishmael becoming restless. He decides to go
out to sea on a whaling ship. In the port of New Bedford, he meets
and shares a room with a harpooner named Queequeg. The two of them
become close friends, and agree to ship out together.
The day after they reach Nantucket, Ishmael begins searching for a
whaling ship preparing to leave harbor. Out of three ships ready to
leave, he chooses the Pequod. The owners of the ship, Captains Peleg
and Bildad are excited to hear of Queequeg from Ishmael and gladly
let him join the crew. They are told the captain of the ship is
named Ahab. Peleg and Bildad say that he is a good man, but because
of some strange illness, he is confined to his cabin.
On Christmas day, and with Ahab still in his cabin, the Pequod sets
sail in the Atlantic. As the weather begins to warm up (several
months after leaving port), Ahab is finally seen on deck. The
strangest thing about Ahab is his leg. Instead of flesh and bone, he
has a white ivory peg leg.
As the weeks wear on, Ahab starts to become friendlier. One day, he
calls the crew before him. He tells them that the sole mission of
the Pequod is to kill Moby Dick. Moby Dick is a gigantic sperm whale
with a crooked jaw and a deformed forehead. He has never been
defeated, and has attacked and sunk entire ships. Ahab admits he
hates Moby Dick for taking his leg away, and wants revenge. The crew
agree to this challenge, and swear to hunt him down. The only who is
not excited about hunting down Moby Dick is first-mate Starbuck.
For many months, the Pequod sails South, through the Atlantic,
around the Cape of Good Hope (the southern tip of Africa), and into
the Indian Ocean. Along the way, they kill and drain the spermaceti
oil from every sperm whale they encounter. Each time they meet
another ship, Ahab begins the conversation with Hast seen the White
Finally, after entering the Japanese sea, the Pequod encounters a
whaling ship named the Enderby. The Enderbys captain had just
recently lost his arm to Moby Dick. Ahab becomes so excited at the
news that he breaks his ivory leg. The ships carpenter builds him a
Once reaching the waters around the equator, the Pequod meets
another whaling ship, the Rachel. They had seen Moby Dick, and had
become separated from one of the whaling boats during the battle.
Ahab refuses to help them look for the missing men.
At last, Moby Dick is spotted by Ahab. In the first day of
fighting, the whale is harpooned many times, but escapes after
smashing Ahabs boat. On the second day, the whale is harpooned
again, but still escapes. On the third day, Ahabs harpoon pierces
the whale, but the rope catches him by the neck and Moby Dick drags
him to the bottom of the sea. An angry Moby Dick rams and sinks the
Pequod. Only Ishmael survives, and he is rescued by the Rachel.
Moby Dick was not the novel I expected. I was under the impression
that it would be about seafaring and the whale Moby Dick. Instead,
Moby Dick is a story about Captain Ahabs obsession. There is very
little in the story about the revenge itself, just about Ahabs
monomania. Out of 465 pages, only forty-two of them deal with the
actual battle between Ahab and Moby Dick.
The novel places very little emphasis on actual seafaring. Ishmael
never even steps on a boat until page seventy-four. Even when the
ship finally leaves port, the mention of anything involving sailing
or the life of sailors is kept to an absolute minimum.
There is, however, plenty of emphasis is on whaling, the anatomy of
whales, and their behavior. The book goes into great detail
describing the whalers of Nantucket, and gives in-depth explanations
of the different types of whales, quoting several outside sources in
the process. The narrator mentions the awesome size of the sperm
whale, ... more
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