Samuel Clemens was born two months premature on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri, and became an adult as our nation was both expanding, and threatening to come apart. As an adult he would become known by his professional name of Mark Twain. One of Twain's most significant achievements was in going against the grain of the conventional New England literary culture, and leading a movement that would revolutionize American literature.
Twain's married into a prominent and wealthy family, and he considered the leading figures of the so-called "Gilded Age" to be his best friends. Twain was a multi-layered, and complex man, and although he was an optimist, he was also susceptible to bouts of depression and angst.
Mark Twain personified the America of the late 19th century. He was divided, just as our nation was still divided from the Civil War. He possessed wealth, but it spent it recklessly and quickly, which served as a perfect metaphor for the Gilded Age. He was every bit as wild and forceful as the Mississippi River, which was such a major character in his stories.
This report prepared by Nathaniel Ford
Ron Powers writes about the man, the writer, the journalist, the husband and father, the fledgling entrepreneur, the social critic. Powers begins with Twain's birth in the humble backwater of Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River and traces his evolution as a writer: novelist, short story writer, humorist, and, later in life, biting social critic. In addition to providing the details of his long and busy life, he describes the background and composition of all of Twain's major works.
This report prepared by James Keenley