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Can someone explain the plot and setting of Mark Twain's "A True Story"?

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mlsalcido | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 24, 2009 at 6:37 AM via web

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Can someone explain the plot and setting of Mark Twain's "A True Story"?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 24, 2009 at 7:21 AM (Answer #1)

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The plot of the story, as told by the narrator, is the anecdotal account of Aunt Rachel, a former slave with a terrible past of violence, injustice, racial oppression, separation from family, and heartbreak who despite of her horrible life has put it all in her past, and has become a happy, warm, and loving person with a colorful manner. The importance of this story is that, during the times of Twain, as evidenced in Huckleberry Finn as well, blacks were not seen humanly equal in terms of emotional and psychological capabilities. Hence, her story dissuades the argument that blacks have less feelings than whites- this sounds silly to even suggest but, historically speaking, this was indeed an issue of its time.

The setting of the story is a farmhouse atop a hill and the story fluctuates between accounts of situations that happened in both Virginia and North Carolina.

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 24, 2009 at 7:26 AM (Answer #2)

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Mark Twain's "A True Story" is set on a farm-house porch.  The owner of the house is sitting outside and his "Aunt Rachael, a Black servant is sitting on a step below where he is sitting.  It is summer and warm so everyone, after dinner, moves outside. 

Mr. C- asks Rachel why she has never had any hardships in her life.  She responds to him with a story of her life as a slave.  She tells him that she had a husband and seven children.  She also tells him that she had to watch her husband and children be auctioned away from the plantation where they lived.  Rachel screams when they try to take her youngest son,

"I'll kill de man dat tetch him!' I says. But my little Henry whisper an' sayI gwyne to run away, an' den I work an' buy yo' freedom' Oh, bless de chile, he always so good! But dey got him--dey got him, de men did; but I took and tear de clo'es mos' off of 'em an' beat 'em over de head wid my chain; an' dey give it to me too, but I didn't mine dat." 

Rachel then goes into detail about what happened to her and how she became the head cook in a farm house occupied by Union soldiers and how her son truly did, after many years find her because he had run away, become a barber for the army so he could travel the south in search of his mother.

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