“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
– Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World
Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, certainly knew how to pen fiction full of possibilities. After all, who has not heard of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? For over a century now, Twain’s books have been an integral part of our reading list. They have not lost their relevance with time. His worldview and wry humor can be emulated by very few even today. Mark Twain is rightfully deemed to be the Father of American Literature. After all, his commentary on society, politics, and religion coupled with his humor and real-life experiences gave his work a special edge. Twain never shied away from discussing the issues America faced at the time like racism, class barriers, and educational challenges, among many.
Over his life, Mark Twain has penned a number of significant novels of which the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are the most famous. Let us have a look at some of his other extraordinary novels.
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Year of Publication: 1865
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is the book that first brought popularity to Mark Twain. The short novella centers around a conversation that the narrator has with a man who loves to hear the sound of his own voice. He keeps on droning about one story or another without letting the narrator get a word in. The narrator finds himself stuck with the storyteller till he finds himself listening to yet another seemingly pointless story about a jumping frog. First published as Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is short yet unputdownable.
The Prince and the Pauper
Year of Publication: 1882
Published in 1882, The Prince and the Pauper is a historical classic novel. It chronicles the tale of Tom Canty, a poor urchin, and Prince Edward, the Crown Prince of England. When the two boys switch places, they see life from a different angle, thanks to their changed social circumstances. Set in Tudor Era England, the book satirical book masterfully tackles themes of identity, social strata, and of course empathy.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Year of Publication: 1889
With A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain brings to us a humorous story of time travel. In this satire, Hank Morgan, a modern 19th century engineer, finds himself teleported to King Arthur’s court in 528 AD. The Connecticut Yankee soon makes his place by King Arthur’s side as the court magician. He attempts to use his knowledge of history and modern technology to improve conditions. His antics land him in hot water with the Catholic Church. Underneath its fun demeanor, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is a witty commentary on medieval life that cautions us from romanticizing the past.
Year of Publication: 1894
Pudd’nhead Wilson is one of the most compelling stories penned by Mark Twain. Set in a small town in Missouri, the book revolves around two boys who were switched at birth. Roxy, a slave woman, replaces her master’s child with her own to give him a better shot at life. Soon, their worlds collide. In Pudd’nhead Wilson, Twain strongly advocates against slavery and brings forth the injustices of the class system. He also supports women’s rights. All this is done through a tale that is both dramatic and witty.
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte
Year of Publication: 1896
Joan of Arc was just a teenager when she donned men’s clothes and became a military leader bent on making France win the Hundred Years War against the English. At only nineteen, the young girl was burned at the stake. Mark Twain wrote a fictionalized version of her story from the perspective of Sieur Louis de Conte. In the Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte, Twain adopted a different writing style. He departed from his brand of satire and incorporated a muted version of humor. In fact, the Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte is a well-researched tribute to the French martyr that effectively chronicles the tragic life of the illiterate French girl. It is no wonder that the Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte was Mark Twain’s favorite novel.
Year of Publication: 1906
Eve’s Diary was penned by Mark Twain after the death of the love of his life and wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens. Many consider the short story to be a love letter to her. The book is written in the format of a diary from Eve’s perspective. It chronicles Eve’s life as she meets Adam, builds a life with him in Eden, gets expelled from the garden, and finally gets buried by Adam. The beauty of the book is further enhanced by the inclusion of Lester Ralph’s illustrations, which at the time of publication created a controversy due to the portrayal of nudity. Eve’s Diary is a must-read for anyone who enjoys reading about the loss of innocence.
The Mysterious Stranger
Year of Publication: 1916
The Mysterious Stranger is a novel to which Mark Twain dedicated years. He worked on it from 1897 to 1908. In fact, he penned multiple versions of the story. In the posthumously published version of the story, we are introduced to a group of boys who come across a stranger, who is actually an angel distantly related to the infamous Satan. Set in 16th century Austria, this unfinished novel carefully critiques human nature and its fallacies.
Mark Twain was a brilliant author who kept writing till his death. His contributions to literature are undeniable. The masterful way in which he included colloquial speech and tackled contemporary issues in his works is undeniable. Mark Twain is indeed an author who achieved immortality through his books.
Do comment and let me know your favorite books penned by Mark Twain.