Life on the Mississippi

by Mark Twain
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What is the main idea of the first paragraph? I began timidly to make up to the humblest official connected with the boat-the night watchman.  He said he was the son of an English nobleman-either an earl or an alderman, he could not remember which, but believed was both, his father, the nobleman, loved him, but his mother hated him from the cradle. By and by his father died and his mother seized with property.  And from that point my watchman threw off all trammels of date and locality and branched out into a narrative that bristled all along with incredible adventures; a narrative that was so reeking with bloodshed, and so crammed with hair-bredth escapes and te most engaging and unconscious personal villainies, that I sat speechless, enjoying, shuddering, wondering, worshiping. A.  the night watchman is a kind man b.  the night watchman told incredible stories about himself c.  the night watchman is so brave that he saves the narrator's life d.  the narrator hated listening to thenight watchman ------------------------------------------------------------------- What is the main idea of the second paragraph? It was a sore blight to find out afterward that he was a low, bulgar, ignorant, sentimental, half- witted humbug, and an untraveled native of the wilds of Illinois.  He had absorbed frontier literature and appropriated its marvels, until in time he had woven odds and ends of the mess into this yarn, and then gone on telling it to fledglings like me, until he had come to believe it himself. a.  the night watchman is a fierce frontierman b.  the night watchman had been all over the world c.  the nigh watchman is the son of a nobleman d.  the night watchman is a liar ------------------------------------------------------------------- What are some example of transitional words or phrases Twain uses in both paragraphs? _______________________________________________  Using both paragraphs name two methods other than transitional words that Mark Twain uses to achieve coherence.  Give specific examples of each method. 1.  method:      example: 2.  method:      example  

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     I focus here on time transitions because this conversation is so evocative of whiling away hours on this dock.

     Right from the start he "began" introducing this narrative, "to make up" a sidling place transition which indicates his humility. Soon enough the rambling night watchman "could not remember" a cause transition which establishes the meandering conversation and pushes forward into the story which is vague for a isn't true. "By and By" is a very nice time based transitional phrase which in his story establishes the continuing timeline but in the conversation establishes more rambling having elapsed to get to this point in the story. "And from that point" anchors us to when the mans conversational style changes and is a time transition. "I sat speechless" here shows the protagonists spending some time listening and closes this moment indicating that he sat beyond the explicitly described conversation.

     "It was" to establish that this entire narrative is in the past. Skillfully Twain uses "find out afterward" to show us that he is only just finding out right now and "afterward" to show it is after the previous conversation. He has no need to say how he found out, it is sufficient to say he did and right now which must be after the tall tales. All of these time transitions establish the sequence and longevity of these conversations and epiphanies.

     Moving on to other methods that help with coherence is the change in temperament of our hero from "worshiping" after the first conversation to angry disappointment after the second, this firmly establishes his change of attitude with new information and puts the propositions in order: The apparently tragic hero in the night watchman first and the knowledge that he is a caddish dimwit next. This change in attitude firmly establishes the chain of events.

     Another application of cogency is the scale of rising emotion where it rises into energetic and emotional discourse which the protagonist is left afterward worn out by emotion and then dropped suddenly into disappointment which puts a button on this event. The rise and fall of emotion follows the rising action, climax and falling action of a story making the two paragraphs an entire story together.

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I tend to think that the main idea of the first paragraph revolves around the night watchman and his perceived background.  Accordingly, I think that B) the night watchman told incredible stories about himself would be an accurate answer.  After the analysis of his background, the main of the paragraph revolves around the narrative of the night watchmen and how he "branched out" into the world.  Another approach that could be taken here would be the process of elimination.  We never really gain any insight into the kindness of the watchman.  He might have been dealt a rough hand, but the narrator does not detail any idea of his nice and generous nature, so the first answer can be eliminated.  Nothing is indicated that the night watchman saves the narrator's life and little is also reflective of if the narrator dislikes him, which tosses out the other two options.  I think that Twain establishes a sense of continuity in the paragraph with the use of language such as "And from that point" and "By and by." When Twain employs "And from that point," the transition towards how the life of the watchman changes is evident. It is a transition because it shows progression in a fluid manner.  The same idea is seen in the use of "By and by," which is a transition to show that time has passed.  Another method through which transition is established is through an emotional contrast.  Twain uses emotions as a way to advance the watchman's narrative:"...his father, the nobleman, loved him, but his mother hated him from the cradle. By and by his father died and his mother seized with property."  This emotional contrast creates a transition to develop depth to the watchman's characterization. It is a transition that makes the movement towards the adventures of the watchman plausible and logical.

In the second paragraph, I think that the main idea is that d) the night watchman is a liar.  It becomes clear that the narrator recognizes the qualities he gives the watchman are not accurate.  He has been played through the stories of the watchman.  These become the primary focus of the paragraph. Once again, process of elimination helps to substantiate this.  The "fierce frontiersman" sounds good, but Twain suggests that the watchman only " absorbed frontier literature and appropriated its marvels" and nothing else in terms of actually doing anything related to the tales of the frontier.  The reality is that everything he says is thrown into doubt, from being the son of landed prestige and being around the world.  Twain is able to convey this through the unifying principles of transitions such as  "until in time..." and "until he had..." These transitions convey a sense of whole to the narrative of the watchman as one who had conned the narrator with his stories and his presence.   Another method in which Twain is able to use a sense of transition to advance the focus of the paragraph is through a form of rhetorical undercut.  Twain uses the hope and promise of the previous paragraph only to undercut it in the second.  In use of "It was a sore blight to find out afterward..." Twain maintains a sense of unity and continuance in illuminating hope and optimism in the first paragraph and presents its countervailing force in the second.  In doing this, a sense of transitional continuity is established.

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