Why read Mark Twain?

English: Lesson 105

Would you read more of Mark Twain’s writings even if they were not assigned in a course? Why or why not?

Mark Twain is one of those authors that everyone has heard of, whether or not they have read his work or not. But what makes Mark Twain different from the rest is that you actually enjoy his work. You don’t read his stories because you have to, but because you want to. This past week I was assigned to read a few of Mark Twain’s short stories, among them the famous story The Celebrated Jumping From of Calaveras County. I read all the stories because I had to, but unlike a few of the many books I have read this year, I was actually excited to sit down and read them.

I remember when I was little, my father would read to my siblings and I a short story of Mark Twain’s before bed. For most children I don’t think that was a typical bedtime story, but for us it was. One night we read Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning, and it is a story I’ll never forget. My father put in funny voices to each of the characters, and Mrs. McWilliams’ voice that night was a high screech, and every other line had her yelling at the top of her lungs “MORTIMER!” By the end of the 7 page story my father had completely lost his voice and my brother and sister and I were rolling all over our beds laughing.

Mark Twain’s stories could make adults and little children roar with laughter, yet the language he uses is not simple or dumbed down in any way. Often children’s stories are extremely simple with no detail in them at all and the only interesting thing about them are the colourful pictures. But the detail which Mark Twain puts in each of his stories is what makes them come to life and become so memorable. Every word is perfect in its place.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning big and the lightning.” -Mark Twain

The situations that Twain wrote about were something everyone could relate to. The fear of lightning and thunderstorms in Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning was something my siblings and I understood. Twain makes the story hilarious when he makes a grown woman more frightened of lightning than a dog. The stories are familiar because everyone can understand them, and they are a light read, something you go to when you want to feel good afterwards. But most of all, it just good literature. Everything from the plot, the funny characters, attention to detail, perfect words, incredible language, and familiar situations is what makes Mark Twain a brilliant writer and a classic American author. I can say most defiantly that I would read more of his stories.

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