Spunkwater, Spunkwater! Critical Context - Essay

James Playsted Wood

Critical Context

By discussing and analyzing humor’s role in daily life, Wood enables readers to discover someone who embodied all that nineteenth century Americans desired to be. Life was truly a struggle in the 1800’s, yet it was also permeated with hope made tangible through Twain’s humor. The entertainer thumbed his nose at dignitaries he did not trust, yet he was honest and honorable when necessary. He was full of contradictions like any human, and thus became for the masses the symbol of what life could be. Wood’s ability to balance Twain’s shortcomings with his successes helps to shatter common misconceptions about literary greats and the dull or bookish lives that they are thought to live.

Because Wood’s biography, which has been critically reviewed by Horn Book and Best Sellers, is a candid discussion of Twain’s personality, and because he does not hesitate to include a discussion of Twain’s volatile side, Wood becomes a credible researcher, one whom young adult readers can trust. Wood, a prolific author of material for young adults, perceptively views young people as honest and thus attempts to be clear and honest in his writing also; the author is not as interested in critic’s comments as he is in writing to please himself and others. Readers will find that Spunkwater, Spunkwater! is historically accurate, entertaining, and informative.