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Life on the Mississippi
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AMERICAN HISTORY > 8. HF - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI - CHAPTERS 44 - 49 (230 - 255) (12/12/11 - 12/18/12) No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 39957 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

This is a memoir of the steamboat era on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War by Mark Twain, published in 1883.

The book begins with a brief history of the river from its discovery by Hernando de Soto in 1541. Chapters 4-22 describe Twain's career as a Mississippi steamboat pilot, the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

The second half of Life on the Mississippi tells of Twain's return, many years after, to travel the river from St. Louis to New Orleans. By then the competition from railroads had made steamboats passe, in spite of improvements in navigation and boat construction. Twain sees new, large cities on the river, and records his observations on greed, gullibility, tragedy, and bad architecture."

About the Author:

Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, led one of the most exciting of literary lives. Raised in the river town of Hannibal, Missouri, Twain had to leave school at age 12 and was successively a journeyman printer, a steamboat pilot, a halfhearted Confederate soldier, and a prospector, miner, and reporter in the western territories.

His experiences furnished him with a wide knowledge of humanity, as well as with the perfect grasp of local customs and speech which manifests itself in his writing.

With the publication in 1865 of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Twain gained national attention as a frontier humorist, and the bestselling Innocents Abroad solidified his fame. But it wasn't until Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), that he was recognized by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.

Week Eight:

During the week of December 12th through December 18th, we are reading pages 230 - 255:

WEEK 8 - DEC 12 - 18
Chapter 44 - City Sights p230
Chapter 45 - Souther Sports p235
Chapter 46 - Enchantments and Enchanters p241
Chapter 47 - Uncle Remus and Mr. Cable p244
Chapter 48 - Sugar and Postage p246
Chapter 49 - Episodes in Pilot Life p252


Remember, these weekly non spoiler threads are just that - non spoiler. There are many other threads where "spoiler information" can be placed including the glossary and any of the other supplemental threads.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we have done for other spotlighted reads.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, on iTunes for the iPad, etc. However, be careful, some audible formats are abridged and not unabridged.

There is still time remaining to obtain the book and get started. There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Alisa will be moderating this book and discussion.

Welcome,

Bentley


This is a link to the complete table of contents and syllabus thread:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/6...

TO SEE ALL WEEK'S THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Life on the Mississippi (Signet Classics) by Mark Twain by Mark TwainMark Twain

Remember this is a non spoiler thread.


Alisa (mstaz) "City Sights," Twain writes about the South and particularly Southern speech. He missed it, and makes note of particular aspects of the speech and the grammar he finds notable (if not always charming), including the substitution of Ys for Rs and using "went" instead of "gone."

"Southern Sports," describes three Southern occupations. The first is war talk, which Twain finds more appropriate in the South than in the North, because more people were involved. The second is his first cock fight, which he finds disgusting and does not stay to see the end. Finally, he goes to the mule races, which he adores.

Enchantments and Enchanters," Twain writes about Mardi Gras, which he is sad to have missed in the South. In addition, he writes about the spell Sir Walter Scott has cast on the South and how they admire his work, romanticizing the Middle Ages.

"Uncle Remus and Mr. Cable," discusses Twain's acquaintance with a writer named Uncle Remus, who is very shy and turned out to be white and red-haired, to everyone's surprise. Twain also writes about a strange name he and a collaborator used for a book, which nevertheless later had to be changed after the owner brought a libel suit against the writers.

"Sugar and Postage," Twain sees Bixby on the street and is delighted to find him exactly the same. During the rest of the chapter, he describes a man who supposedly sent on correspondence from the spirit world, which Twain very much doubted.

"Episodes in Pilot Life," describes what happened to many of the pilots Twain had known as a young man. Many of them had become farmers; Bixby had been blown up but was all right; many had become heroes, including a man named Ritchie, who was disabled. Twain ends the chapter with a story of a man who married a girl because they thought they would inherit some money, only to find out they were wrong.


Alisa (mstaz) Mr. Bixby reappears! How do you think he describes his encounter with his old mentor? I'm never sure if he sees him for who he is or romanticizes a bit his admiration of him. What do you think?


☯Emily Twain seems to blame Sir Walter Scott for the South's adherence to traditions instead of focusing on the South's mindset and the reasons why they persisted in the old ways even when it was detrimental to them. He always has a snide comment aimed at Scott that hints of professional jealousy.


Alisa (mstaz) Well said Emily. He was harsh on Sir Walter, just seemed to have nothing good to say about him and blamed all that was wrong about the south at his doorstep.


message 6: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Alisa wrote: ""City Sights," Twain writes about the South and particularly Southern speech. He missed it, and makes note of particular aspects of the speech and the grammar he finds notable (if not always charmi..."

New Orleans doesn't have a traditional southern accent. The New Orlean accent is much closer to New Jersey for some reason instead of Alabama or Mississippi.


☯Emily Interesting because I am from New Jersey and New Orleans residents don't sound like me. That being said, I didn't notice the pronounced drawl that I hear in MS and TX. I suspect it is because of the various languages that have been spoken there over the centuries.


Alisa (mstaz) Patricrk wrote: "Alisa wrote: ""City Sights," Twain writes about the South and particularly Southern speech. He missed it, and makes note of particular aspects of the speech and the grammar he finds notable (if not..."

The first time I heard a native New Orleanean speak I thought they were from Jersey. Odd how different parts of the south have different speach influences.


Alisa (mstaz) Emily wrote: "Interesting because I am from New Jersey and New Orleans residents don't sound like me. That being said, I didn't notice the pronounced drawl that I hear in MS and TX. I suspect it is because of ..."

People don't hear their own accents as much as others, right, you sound like you sound. I think that is true for a lot of people. To the untrained ear the New Orleans and New Jersey accents sound very similar, but oddly once you hear enough of both you can distinguish them. At least from my perspective as someone who is not from either location. I think to many people there is 'the southern accent' but to southerners there is a lot of distinction between the various locales.


☯Emily There are parts of the South that I can not understand what is being said, while other places the accents are not noticeable.


Alisa (mstaz) I'm with you on that one! The colloquialisms on top of the accent and then if they talk fast watch out!


message 12: by Patricrk (last edited Dec 13, 2011 10:44AM) (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Alisa wrote: "I'm with you on that one! The colloquialisms on top of the accent and then if they talk fast watch out! "

I'm a slow talking Texan and before we became empty nesters I would often have to ask my own daughters to slow down so I could understand what they were saying.


☯Emily My son goes to school at A&M and whenever I visit the area, I am asked to slow down when speaking.


message 14: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Emily wrote: "My son goes to school at A&M and whenever I visit the area, I am asked to slow down when speaking."

That is where one of my daughters went. She really enjoyed her time there.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Dec 13, 2011 05:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 39957 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "Interesting because I am from New Jersey and New Orleans residents don't sound like me. That being said, I didn't notice the pronounced drawl that I hear in MS and TX. I suspect it is because of ..."

Emily, having visited New Orleans this year; I can say assuredly they do not sound like any of my family members either (smile).


☯Emily Chapter 48 has the following quote about Andrew Jackson and his victory over the British in New Orleans: "The war had ended, the two nations were at peace, but the news had not yet reached New Orleans. If we had had the cable telegraph in those days, this blood would not have been spilt, those lives would not have been wasted; and better still, Jackson would probably never have been President. We have gotten over the harms done us by the War of 1812, but not over some of those done us by Jackson's presidency."

What harms do you think Twain is referring to? Do you agree with Twain's assessment? If you think Jackson's presidency did harm to the country, do you think it still has an negative impact today?


Alisa (mstaz) Interesting thought Emily. I wondered as well about Twain's reference. He was talking about the battle of New Orleans. Perhaps he was addressing the casualities in the aftermath. Here is an excerpt from wikipedia:

From December 25, 1814 to January 26, 1815, British casualties during the Louisiana Campaign, apart from the assault on January 8, were 49 killed, 87 wounded and 4 missing. These losses, together with those incurred on December 23 and January 8, added up to 386 killed, 1,521 wounded and 552 missing for the whole campaign. General Jackson reported a grand total of 55 killed, 185 wounded and 93 missing for the entire siege, including December 23 and January 8.

Although the engagement was small compared to other contemporary battles such as the Battle of Waterloo, it was important for the meaning applied to it by Americans in general and Andrew Jackson in particular.

Americans believed that a vastly powerful British fleet and army had sailed for New Orleans (Jackson himself thought 25,000 troops were coming), and most expected the worst. The news of victory, one man recalled, "came upon the country like a clap of thunder in the clear azure vault of the firmament, and traveled with electromagnetic velocity, throughout the confines of the land." The battle boosted the reputation of Andrew Jackson and helped to propel him to the White House. The anniversary of the battle was celebrated for many years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_o...


☯Emily I think Twain is referring to the harms that he believes Jackson's presidency did to the nation. I believe that Jackson did great harm to this country as President, but I would like to see if others agree with Twain's statement or if they even know to what he is referring.


message 19: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Emily wrote: "I think Twain is referring to the harms that he believes Jackson's presidency did to the nation. I believe that Jackson did great harm to this country as President, but I would like to see if othe..."

Jackson is considered one of the USA's defining presidents. My guess is that Twain is referring to Jackson's position against a states right to secession. I don't think Twain would have been against his indian policy and his pro-expansion policies. But this is my guess.


message 20: by FrankH (new)

FrankH | 76 comments Twain's attack on Scott -- 'sham...grandeur..gauds and chivalries..' comes from the same place as his criticism of Cooper and other 'romantic' writers. A humorist, anchored in a realistic world view like Twain, feeds upon the excesses found in books like 'Ivanhoe' or 'The Last of the Mohicans' (See 'The Literary Offences of James Fenimore Cooper' by Twain). Of course, claiming that Scott may have been the cause of the Civil War is stretching it a bit...(not sure I quite got Twain's point about why there's a difference between the Southern Colonial Slave Owner and the Southern Civil War Slave Owner, other than the influence of Sir Walter!) It makes sense to me that Twain would go after Scott; but the attack on President Jackson is perplexing. BTW, the discussion on Southern slow-talking reminds me of an old Bob and Ray radio-skit 'interview' with the 'President of the Slow Talkers of America'. There was nothing regional about this. Bob was finishing Ray's sentences for him -- or vice versa. Funny stuff.


Alisa (mstaz) FrankH your description of Twain's attack is pretty funny. He really has a way when he gets into it. He doesn't give us much of a clue as to why he thinks so poorly of Andrew Jackson, maybe we'll see the reference again.

Remember when you are citing other books to do so using the club guidelines. We all want to see what you are talking about!
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott Walter ScottWalter Scott
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper James Fenimore CooperJames Fenimore Cooper


message 22: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 117 comments I've been struck by how bold Twain is in giving his opinions. Blaming Sir Walter Scott for the Civil War is a dramatic instance of that, over the top though it is. Given the duel and honour culture of the time that he describes, I suppose there's a certain amount of courage in being so blunt. One certainly knows where he stands. I wonder how much hate mail he got and how often he was yelled at on the street. Outweighed by his many fans?


message 23: by Kris (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kris Fernandez-Everett (baby_lemonade) the first two chapters in this set had me pretty captivated... i've always been partial to history of the south -- and as a history postgrad student who was really studying british history, i snuck into quite a few classes and colloquia on southern intellectual history and the southern identity (that a friend of mine happened to be teaching)... i giggled at the 'blame' walter scott had to take here -- in a way, i can see where the comparison would be made, but that's a fleeting and kind of empty statement... the focus on the war, on 'otherness', and on the lost cause/special purpose of the south would have, i would have thought, intrigued twain much more than just blaming the whole thing on 'ivanhoe' and 'rob roy' ;-)...


Alisa (mstaz) It seems quite intriguing the way he paints Sir Walter as the embodiment of evil almost. I think he fiercely protects what he thinks is the ideal southern life, before the demise of the steamboat. maybe that is why he is focusing so much on lamenting how much things changed over his brief career on the water.


Alisa (mstaz) I do like the description of lagniappe, the New Orleans version of 'a little something extra.' Twain gives is a wry twist, very clever. It seems like his smart way with the language and custom of the times.


message 26: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 435 comments Alisa wrote: "I do like the description of lagniappe, the New Orleans version of 'a little something extra.' Twain gives is a wry twist, very clever. It seems like his smart way with the language and custom of..."

The word is still current in New Orleans and the surrounding area.


message 27: by Dick (last edited Dec 17, 2011 08:37PM) (new)

Dick Edwards (RamblinWreck) | 10 comments This is in reply to FrankH message 20: I'm glad someone remembers Bob and Ray. They came on the radio at midnight in Atlanta GA c.1950, and I used to stay up to listen to them. Their standard sign-off was, "Write if you get work, and hang by your thumbs."


Alisa (mstaz) Patricrk, the first time i heard it used it completely caught me off guard, a local later explained it to me. Twain's description made me laugh.


☯Emily Patricrk wrote: "Emily wrote: "I think Twain is referring to the harms that he believes Jackson's presidency did to the nation. I believe that Jackson did great harm to this country as President, but I would like ..."

Although Twain was not sympathetic to the Indian's plight early in his career, he later spoke out on many civil rights issues, including rights for women. He knew Harriet Beecher Stowe Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington Booker T. Washington.

Later in his career, he wrote in Following the Equator (1897) that in colonized lands all over the world, "savages" have always been wronged by "whites" in the most merciless ways, such as "robbery, humiliation, and slow, slow murder, through poverty and the white man's whiskey"; his conclusion is that "there are many humorous things in this world; among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages."[77]

Based on what Twain later believed, I think he is referring to Andrew Jackson's policy towards the Indians. It was a big issue during the time of Mark Twain and the consequences are still with us today.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain


Alisa (mstaz) That is an interesting perspective Emily, thanks for sharing it. He really doesn't offer a reason in the book why he did not like Jackson, so we are left to speculate. That could certainly be one reason.


Cheryl (Cheryl319) | 372 comments I would make the safe assumption that Twain did not agree with Jackson's politics, and venture a guess that Emily's suggestion about the treatment of the indians isn't far off. As Twain had a low opinion of politicians in general ( in Chapter 44 he suggests a man was more respected for being a pirate than for being an alderman), I would also guess that Twain was not a great fan of the 'spoils system' either.

I enjoyed the return of Bixby to the narrative too! I think Twain does see him for who he is - or his perspective would have been changed by the passing of years upon seeing him again. Giving Twain's further bashing of Sir Walter Scott, I think the last thing anyone can accuse Twain of is romanticizing!


Alisa (mstaz) I wonder if enough time had passed since he had last seen Bixby that he was simply more mature and thus had a more realistic perspective of his old mentor.

He certainly has no love lost for Sir Walter Scott.


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