The Autobiography of Mark Twain Analysis

Mark Twain

Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Autobiography of Mark Twain, the famous American author Twain presents young readers with biographical information about his life, insight into how an author thinks and writes, and a description of a young and optimistic United States. The book uses anecdotic forms of recollections to document Twain’s life and shows the influence of a developing nation on this author as well as his influence on the nation. Editor Charles Neider’s 1959 revised edition of Twain’s autobiography contains seventy-nine chapters written by Twain during his earlier years and dictated during his later years. Although the first part of the book begins with his birth and the last tells of the end of his life, The Autobiography of Mark Twain presents events as Twain recollects them, rather than in a chronological format.

While Twain primarily focuses on his own life, he also deals with the lives of friends and relatives as he shows how they affected him and his work. In the preface and in several other places, Twain reminds readers that by speaking “from the grave” he is allowed to write freely when describing the private moments of his life. Twain, claiming his work to be free and frank, tells young readers about his friendships with famous American figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, Bret Harte, and William Dean Howells. Likewise, he discusses the members of his family: his mother and father, brother, wife and children, and even a nephew with whom...

(The entire section is 487 words.)

Historical Context

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

One of the reasons The Autobiography of Mark Twain continues to engage readers is its detailed, first-person account of the historical...

(The entire section is 533 words.)

Literary Style

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Although Charles Neider' s version of the The Autobiography of Mark Twain is organized...

(The entire section is 512 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

1860s: The United States engages in the Civil War, a ground battle that divides the country and claims the lives of more...

(The entire section is 190 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

In his autobiography, Twain admits that he does not always give the correct facts about his life. Write a short biography about your own...

(The entire section is 201 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895) is a classic Civil War novel that claims to gives...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Gay, Robert M., ‘‘The Two Mark Twains,’’ in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 166, December 1940,...

(The entire section is 404 words.)


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Burns, Ken, Dayton Duncan, and Geoffrey C. Ward. Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Camfield, Gregg. The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Emerson, Everett. Mark Twain: A Literary Life. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher, ed. A Historical Guide to Mark Twain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Horn, Jason Gary. Mark Twain: A Descriptive Guide to Biographical Sources. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999.

Kaplan, Fred. The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

Kaplan, Justin. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966.

LeMaster, J. R., and James D. Wilson, eds. The Mark Twain Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993.

Ober, K. Patrick. Mark Twain and Medicine: “Any Mummery Will Cure.” Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003.

Rasmussen, R. Kent. Mark Twain A to Z. New York: Facts On File, 1995.