Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In eleven chapters, Jeanette Eaton cogently details the major episodes in the life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who came into the world with the appearance of Halley’s comet in 1835 and left it upon the return of this famous astronomical display seventy-five years later in 1910. The first three chapters are filled with the playful adventures and exciting experiences of Clemens’ boyhood. Eaton then dedicates a chapter to each of the other segments of Clemens’ life, not only recounting the major personal events of that period but also tracing the development of Clemens from printer to reporter to author, lecturer, and businessman.

After describing Clemens’ stint as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, followed by an abortive enrollment in a volunteer infantry company that was soon disbanded, Eaton shows that Clemens’ entry into a writing career was almost by accident, coming only after disastrous failures as a prospector in the Humboldt, Esmeralda, and Comstock mines. The success of his humorous descriptions of the people he observed during these years earned him a job as reporter with the pen name “Mark Twain” and resulted in a decade of reporting for various newspapers. During this period of his life, Twain began the practice of touring and reporting, either seriously or with humorous aplomb, on the people and places that he visited. These tours also provided material for such books as Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing...

(The entire section is 445 words.)