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In this description of Twain's childhood and his memories of growing up on the banks of the Mississippi, one of the most powerful memories that Twain has is of the way that a steamboat was greeted with such a flurry of activity and excitement, and how a dead town would suddenly be summoned to life in expectation of the arrival of a steamboat. Note how this transformation is initiated:
Presently a film of dark smoke appears above one of those remote 'points;' instantly a negro drayman, famous for his quick eye and prodigious voice, lifts up the cry, 'S-t-e-a-m-boat a-comin'!' and the scene changes! The town drunkard stirs, the clerks wake up, a furious clatter of drays follows, every house and store pours out a human contribution, and all in a twinkling the dead town is alive and moving.
Note the way that Twain created a contrast between the "dead town" and the sudden movement and activity that occurs with the news that the steamboat is arriving. Even the "town drunkard" is shown to rouse himself, so important is this event. Twain remembers that from "every house and store" people rushed out to greet the steamboat ready to receive and load deliveries. For a riverside community, the steamboats represented news and trade, and so this explains the sudden transformation that occurred everytime a steamboat appeared.
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