Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 241

The Autobiography of Mark Twain became an American classic for two reasons: First, it summarizes a famous American author’s life, and second, it shows the historical events that challenged the United States to achieve greatness. Twain’s humor, his insights into writing and publishing, and his insights into the human race have also contributed to the book’s fame.

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While most young readers enjoy Twain’s humor and appreciate his accomplishments and struggles, however, they must weed out some passages that appear to wander aimlessly. Twain was reminiscing about his good and bad times, and Neider concluded that Twain’s chief aim was to amuse himself in the dictations from his later years. The trivia that Twain included and the fact that the chapters are not in chronological order may tend to confuse young readers. To alleviate this potential problem, Neider wisely included the date or the year that Twain wrote the chapter.

By relating his life to the historical events of the United States’ development, Twain provided an honest portrait of a famous author’s experiences in a young nation. While Twain admits to the inaccuracies often associated with recollecting a life’s work and occasionally confuses names and dates, other scholarly works attest to the valdity of Twain’s autobiography. The Autobiography of Mark Twain serves as a valuable book for educators and their students who want to know more about Twain’s life and a growing nation.

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Critical Overview