What are examples of the technique of speech, actions and interactions of the characters in the short story "Cub Pilot on the Mississippi" that the author Mark Twain uses to bring the characters to...

What are examples of the technique of speech, actions and interactions of the characters in the short story "Cub Pilot on the Mississippi" that the author Mark Twain uses to bring the characters to life?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In his short story "Cub Pilot on the Mississippi," author Mark Twain captures a true moment in his life in which he became a cub pilot, meaning a young person apprenticed to learn how to pilot a steamboat along the Mississippi River. The short story actually consists of chapters 18 and 19 of his memoir titled Life on the Mississippi in which he goes into great detail about learning how to be a steamboat pilot. As in all of his literature, Twain both captures and parodies culture. Chapters 18 and 19 are some of the most serious sections in his work; in these chapters, he shows just how trying culture on the river can be by showing how much abuse he endured from the pilot Mr. Brown. To capture the abusive Mr. Brown, whose abuses were fairly characteristic of steamboatmen, Twain carefully mimics Mr. Brown's insults and expletives, which serve to bring Mr. Brown's character to life by parodying him.

One example of Twain capturing Mr. Brown's abusiveness can be seen in Mr. Brown's early lines in which he responds to Twain's comment that he is sitting on board doing nothing because he has "had no orders." Mr. Brown's furious and sarcastic remark shows how much he contrasts himself to Twain because Twain is an educated Southern gentlemen, not just a cub pilot:

You've had no ORDERS! My, what a fine bird we are! We must have ORDERS! Our father was a GENTLEMAN--owned slaves--and we've been to SCHOOL.

In other words, Mr. Brown is mocking Twain for behaving like a gentleman by feeling the need to be requested to do something before doing it. Yet, Mr. Brown's response says a lot about culture on the river. The culture is not civilized; it also demands constant hard work. In addition, though we see Mr. Brown's response to Twain is uncivilized and harsh, Twain's ability to mimic Mr. Brown through capitalized words, exclamation points, and later expletive slang, such as "Dod dern my skin," creates comedy. Hence, we see that, even though these chapters discuss serious matters, Twain is portraying these serious matters through parody, and his parody of Mr. Brown brings his character to life.

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