Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In the fifteen chapters of Spunkwater, Spunkwater! A Life of Mark Twain, James Playsted Wood provides an overview of Samuel Langhorne Clemens’s life, focusing on the rich humanity of the man who was to become known as Mark Twain. The book begins with a general overview of Twain’s loves and hates, foreshadowing Wood’s discussion of Twain’s tendency toward strong emotions later in the book.

In a rough chronology, Wood introduces Twain’s family and examines his childhood—especially his carefree and unrestricted days in Hannibal, Missouri, and his early experiences with journalism—with a talent for providing details that will enhance a reader’s understanding of much of Twain’s literary subject matter. Wood provides information about Twain’s apprenticeships to printers; his work for his brother Orion Clemens’ newspaper, the Journal, and for subsequent newspapers; his adventures as a pilot on the steamboat Paul Jones; and his experiences traveling to the Nevada Territory and through much of California. All these experiences contributed to his literary successes, which included “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and Roughing It (1872). Wood also describes the events that led to many of Twain’s other works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).


(The entire section is 465 words.)