Long sentences containing amusing descriptions, hyperbole, and understatement are typical of Twain’s unique voice and style. Find three sentences that you think are particularly funny or effective. Then,rewrite each sentence in a more straightforward way. Which version do you like better?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter one, the narrator, who is Mark Twain himself, writes of his brother being appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory. Twain is quite envious of his brother's requirement to travel to the West. In one long sentence, he imagines

Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In chapter one, the narrator, who is Mark Twain himself, writes of his brother being appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory. Twain is quite envious of his brother's requirement to travel to the West. In one long sentence, he imagines

Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, and antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all about it, and be a hero.

A way to rewrite this sentence in a more succinct way could be: Soon, he will travel to the west and see new sights, have adventures, possibly face danger, and tell us about it in letters home.

In chapter two, as the narrator and his brother are leaving St. Joseph for Carson City, Nevada, his exhilaration at being on the trip is expressed as:

There was a freshness and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation from all sorts of cares and responsibilities, that almost made us feel that the years we had spent in the close, hot city, toiling and slaving, had been wasted and thrown away.

A more concise and less hyperbolic way of expressing these sentiments could be: We felt free and easy; so much so that our former lives seemed like wasted years.

In chapter five, Twain describes the first time he sees a coyote; it is being pursued in vain by a domestic dog. Using his original spelling, he describes:

The cayote will go swinging gently off on that deceitful trot of his, and every little while he will smile a fraudful smile over his shoulder that will fill that dog entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition, and make him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his neck further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick his tail out straighter behind, and move his furious legs with a yet wilder frenzy, and leave a broader and broader, and higher and denser cloud of desert sand smoking behind, and marking his long wake across the level plain!

To rephrase it, one could write: The coyote is wily and adapted to the desert; dogs are no match for its speed and cunning.

Clearly, all of Twain's lengthy sentences full of imagery, hyperbole, and colorful descriptions make his work a pleasure to read. The fact that it has endured for one hundred and fifty years and still makes readers laugh is evidence of his superior talent and status as America's finest literary humorist.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team