America's Mark Twain Critical Essays

May McNeer


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In America’s Mark Twain, McNeer uses several techniques to make this biography appealing to juvenile readers. She invents dialogue for the characters that includes general statements such as “Steamboat a-com-in!” as well as specific conversations between the characters, particularly between the young Samuel Clemens and his mother, Jane. With this method of inventing dialogue, the author is able to hold the attention of a young audience by keeping the biography lively and understandable. In an effort to capture Twain’s feelings and emotions, McNeer assumes the writer’s perspective throughout the biography. For example, McNeer states that Twain “felt like an awkward youth again as he took the hand of Olivia Langdon.” McNeer also emphasizes that, although Twain was extremely successful, he had insecurities. For example, when he was scheduled to give a lecture at Cooper Union, the largest hall in New York City, Twain gave away a large number of free tickets to schoolteachers, because he was terrified at the thought that the hall might be empty when he came out onstage. Despite Twain’s insecurities, however, his lectures were always full beyond capacity. McNeer’s ability to assume Twain’s perspective allows young audiences to identify with the human side of this legendary author.

McNeer effectively traces the development of Twain’s sensitive conscience. She cites the fact that Twain went to work as a printer’s apprentice at the age of eleven in order to support his family after his father died. Twain’s honesty is emphasized when McNeer cites the fact that, as a youth, Twain turned in a fifty-dollar...

(The entire section is 672 words.)