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In a still puritanical nation, Twain reminded adults that children were not angels, but fellow human beings, and perhaps all the more lovable for their imperfections and bad grooming.Neither American literature nor America has ever been the same.
Mark Twain was a man ahead of his time from the day he was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, fully two months early, in tiny Florida, Missouri.
Not surprising for a preemie, a profound sense of mortality shadowed him all his life.
Aunt Polly is always measuring Tom against him even though he's a shameless tattletale, a worrywart, and a crybaby.
The Adults Aunt Polly has taken care of Tom since his mother died.
Her rigidly scheduled life rubs him the wrong way, and only Tom has any luck talking him into staying. He's not an evil man exactly but weak, cowardly, and ripe for anyone to come along and take advantage of him.
Injun Joe embodies all the fear of the unknown that a small town might feel on the edge of a great unsettled wilderness.Nowhere do these flipsides of Twain's productively riven personality bob up more conspicuously than at two moments common to each novel: when both title characters attend their own funerals, and when each novel ends with a shaky vow of reform.In both books the hero gets to live out perhaps every morbid, underappreciated kid's greatest fantasy: to spy on his own mourners and hear how sorry everybody is, and then to come back from the dead to a hero's welcome."She would be sorry some day," Tom says of Becky, "maybe when it was too late. " Typically, Tom lucks into his version of this fantasy.Huck, on the other hand, deliberately fakes his own death to escape his father. In —yet look closer and see if it isn't a flaw common to every imperfect life. He published his best book at 50 but lived to nearly 75.She's flirty and headstrong, sometimes manipulative, but brave enough with Tom by her side.Sid Sawyer, Tom's half-brother, is the most disgusting goody two-shoes on two legs.In addition, Twain survived a youth marked by deaths both sudden and grisly.Not only did his forbidding father, Judge John Marshall Clemens, die of pneumonia when Twain was 11, but Twain is said to have witnessed the autopsy through a keyhole.Huck and Jim have gone wrong after the fork, they've overshot something crucial, they've lost their way and don't know how to get back. Seen this way, Tom and Huck's Mississippi River becomes an endlessly renewable metaphor.Twain saw as clearly as anybody that as Americans we're all on this raft together, afloat between oceans, crewed by oarsmen of more than one color, tippy but not aground, not yet.