Is Mark Twain Still Relevant?
April 21, 1910 Mark Twain died.
In my historical fantasies, his death devastated his life-long friend, Samuel McCord.
The ghost of Mark Twain visits my blog so often that I should charge him rent.
Yet, does Mark Twain still
speak to us today?
Samuel Clemens is the great poet of America's longest river,
while his quotes on politics and human nature enjoy a constant half-life as staples among speech-makers.
"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1935.
Most humor does not travel well over time,
Yet Mark Twain's humor goes to the root of human nature which never changes really.
Mark Twain's observations on War still resonate with many of us.
Twain’s words in the following passage have a surprisingly familiar ring
to what political pundits were saying in protest to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
“We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own,
and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial,” wrote Twain.
“It was not to be a government according to our ideas,
but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas.
That would have been a worthy mission for the United States.
But now —
why, we have got into a mess,
a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater.
I’m sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.”
Mark Twain also wrote a chilling piece called The War Prayer,
illustrating how people who oppose foreign wars and government intervention are shamed into silence:
“It was indeed a glad and gracious time,” Twain wrote,
“and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness
straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.”
I have always been more fond of his newspaper articles, essays, lectures, and personal letters than his fiction.
Do any of you still read Mark Twain?