Life On The Mississippi
Life on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain detailing his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before and after the American Civil War. The book begins with a brief history of the river. It continues with anecdotes of Twain's training as a steamboat pilot, as the 'cub' of an experienced pilot. He describes, with great affection, the science of navigating the ever-changing Mississippi River. In the second half, the book describes Twain's return, many years later, to travel on a steamboat from St. Louis to New Orleans. He describes the competition from railroads, the new, large cities, and his observations on greed, gullibility, tragedy, and bad architecture. He also tells some stories that are most likely tall tales. Simultaneously published in 1883 in the U.S. and in England, it is said to be the first book composed on a typewriter. (Source: Wikipedia)
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Chapter 1 - The River And Its History
Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, spent the first quarter of his life living near and steamboating up and down the Mississippi River. During his years spent on the river, he developed a strong love for the Mississippi and the interesting people and places he met along the way. This book captures Twain's own experiences on the river as well as the many interesting facts and anecdotes that gave the river its fascinating character. (This annotation contains an image)
A drainage-basin, also called a watershed, is an area of land from which all the streams and rainfall drain to a common outlet, such as a large river. The map below shows the drainage-basin of the Mississippi River. (This annotation contains an image)
The image below gives you an idea of how a cut-off might shorten a river and change boundary lines. The top version of the Mississippi River in 1831 is much longer than the bottom version from 1950. This was all due to Shreve's cut-off indicated in the top picture. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the overall point Twain is trying to make over the last two pages, including the highlighted paragraphs?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Use this feature to help you choose the best paraphrase for the highlighted sentence.
Chapter 2 - The River And Its Explorers
"Mr. Parkman" refers to Francis Parkman, author of the 1869 book, "La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West." Mark Twain obviously read this book and used some of its information to inform his understanding of the history of the Mississippi.
Mark Twain's first person point of view heavily influences his writing. Often, he allows his personal tastes and opinions to intermingle with his commentary. Work to distinguish between fact and opinion as you read. Watch the video below for more information on point of view. (This annotation contains a video)
Note the quotation marks Twain includes here, indicating that these words are not his own. Although he does not cite his source, the quotes probably come from Francis Parkman's book on the discovery of the West.
Which line below expresses a personal opinion of Twain's?
La Salle, being a Frenchman, claimed the Indian territory for France, which was ruled by King Louis XIV at the time. Twain, a critic of imperialism, clearly disapproves of the way early Westerners "took possession of the whole country" in an act of downright "robbery." Twain's disapproval is further revealed in his renaming King Louis "Louis the Putrid." (This annotation contains an image)
Twain begins Life on the Mississippi with the line, "The Mississippi is well worth reading about." How do his first two chapters help to substantiate this opening claim?
Chapter 3 - Frescoes From The Past
The picture below features a flat broadhorn on the left and a keelboat on the right. These slow-moving boats were sailed, rowed, or poled along. Men literally used poles to push off the bottom of the river and move the boats along as the picture shows. (This annotation contains an image)
In addition to his own recollections, Twain includes a number of other sources in his book to give readers a well-rounded picture of life on the Mississippi. You have already seen that he included history passages from Francis Parkman. Now, he is including a literary passage. The selection from the story "Huckleberry Finn" begins after the highlighted dash. As you read, consider what Twain is trying tell his readers about Mississippi life by including this selection.
What can we conclude about Bob and the "Child of Calamity"?
Twain's narration has gotten pretty complicated. Right now we have three levels of narrators, all of whom are actually Mark Twain. Ed is being narrated by Huck, who is being narrated by Twain.
Mark Twain is known for using dialect to realistically depict his characters. Dialect is language as it differs in pronunciation, grammar, and expressions in different regions. The word bar'l, for instance, is spelled as a contraction to reflection the characters' pronunciation of the word. Which other phrase below contains an example of dialect?
Why does Ed tell the story of the haunted barrel?
Below is one of the original illustrations in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," depicting young Huck. Interestingly, this whole Huck scene in "Life on the Mississippi" is similar to some incidents in "Huckleberry Finn," but never actually appears in the book. (This annotation contains an image)
Huck's story ends and Twain's narration resumes at the last two paragraphs of the chapter. What do you think Twain's purpose was in including this long story about the keelboatmen? (Consider what you learned about life on the Mississippi through this excerpt.)
Chapter 4 - The Boys' Ambition
A packet was a ship that followed a regular schedule of port departures and arrivals. Often these ships carried deliveries of mail and newspapers.
What is one example of hyperbole that Twain uses in the highlighted selection? Explain why it is hyperbole.
Twain tends to exaggerate, or hyperbolize, some of his characters and emotions to add humor to his story. For example, he probably did not really wish this young striker dead. He was simply annoyed by him. Watch the video below for a discussion of hyperbole. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 5 - I Want To Be A Cub-pilot
Mark Twain took passage on the Paul Jones in 1857 at the age of 21. In his description of this time, however, he gives the impression that he was much younger. What details in the highlighted passages suggest that Twain is only a child at this point? Why might Twain have chosen to depict himself this way?
Twain includes many different forms of humor in his stories, but one of his favorite kinds is self-deprecation. Self-deprecating humor is when a person makes a joke at his or her own expense, as Twain does when he reveals himself to be so pathetically gullible. Twain is, of course, happy to makes jokes at anyone's expense, but at least he includes himself in the mix!
Chapter 6 - A Cub-pilot's Experience
What does this subtly self-deprecating passage reveal?
Making reference to this map of ports on the Mississippi may help you sort out the various cities Twain mentions. He began in Louisville on the Ohio River and is now down at New Orleans at the mouth (southern end) of the Mississippi. From here, he will travel up to St. Louis. (This annotation contains an image)
What are two character qualities that Twain demonstrates during his first day as a "cub pilot"? Give examples from the text to support your response.
One characteristic that makes Twain's writing so colorful is his use of figurative language. You have already seen that he uses hyperbole. Now let's take a look at his metaphors. Note his use of the words "boil," "overflow," and "scald" to compare Bixby to a boiling vessel, such as a teapot or (more appropriately) a steam engine. Watch the video below for a review of metaphors and similes. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the metaphor in the highlighted selection compare?
Chapter 7 - A Daring Deed
"Berth" here means a piloting job.
Samuel Clemens's pseudonym, Mark Twain, comes from his experiences on Mississippi steamboats. To sound (measure) the depth of the water, leadsmen would measure by six-foot increments, called fathoms. "Twain" is simply an old-fashioned word for "two," and "mark twain" means that the water is two fathoms, or twelve feet, deep. Click on the link below and study the steamboat diagram and the information about depth sounding. (This annotation contains a link)
According to the diagram you studied, where on a steamboat is the pilot box located? Explain why this is a practical location based on Twain's description of the role of a pilot.
What do these cries indicate? (Refer back to the annotation on depth sounding if need be.)
Twain is not using hyperbole in this passage. He is factually detailing the very real and very extreme dangers of traveling through Hat Island at night. By using a serious tone, rather than an exaggerated and humorous one, Twain reveals his _____ Mr. Bixby.
Chapter 8 - Perplexing Lessons
Based on young Twain's interactions with Bixby so far, how can Bixby best be characterized?
While Twain is learning about the river, take this time to learn a bit about how a steamboat works. the video clip below describes a lake steamer as travelers might have experienced one in the 1840s. The clip provides a few images of the boiler room in which fires heated water to produce the steam which would turn the great wheels and propel the boats. (This annotation contains a video)
Name three challenges that make steamboat piloting a difficult trade to learn.
Chapter 9 - Continued Perplexities
"Having a hail" means someone has asked for the boat to let them off or waved to be let on.
Twain often creates humor through short asides such as this highlighted one. An inquest is a court hearing held in cases requiring an investigation of a death. Twain is hinting at the fact that he is obeying his teacher fully expecting to dash the boat to pieces. He is mentally preparing to blame this on Bixby when he is dragged into court.
What is the main extended metaphor contained in this paragraph?
Which medium do you think is more effective for capturing the beauty of a sunset: Twain's written description or a photograph? Explain your reasoning.
Below is a photograph of a sunset on the Mississippi. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Twain seem to feel about the Mississippi losing its beauty and romance for him after he learned to analyze it like a pilot? Support your answer with specific words or phrases from the highlighted passage.
Chapter 10 - Completing My Education
An alluvial riverbank is one that
A few helpful terms: A falling river is one in which the water levels are decreasing. A rising river is one in which the water levels are increasing. Drawing water refers to how low the boat sits in the water.
What technique does Twain use to create humor in this selection?
Like car accidents today, boat accidents on a heavily trafficked river like the Mississippi were common occurrences in the 1800s. Steamboats came with many dangers. In addition to navigating difficult river conditions, steamboat staff had to look out for other crafts on the river and safely tend fires in the boiler room. Improperly regulated pressure frequently resulted in explosions. Visit the link below for a list of just some of the known accidents documented on the Mississippi. (This annotation contains a link)
Chapter 11 - The River Rises
Did Twain coax a small chuckle out of you with this oxymoron? An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two adjacent words seem to contradict each other. Twain's oxymoronic description of boatsmen politely greeting each other with curses is intended to be comical.
Some of the ways Twain creates humor are more complex than simple oxymorons or hyperbole. Twain's next anecdote uses a particular predictable structure to create humor. Watch the video below to see an explanation of this two-step way to build humor before you continue reading. (This annotation contains a video)
Given the set-up to this story, can you predict the "switcheroo"?
What is the completely unexpected twist (switcheroo) at the end of this anecdote that creates the humor?
Chapter 12 - Sounding
How does Twain indirectly characterize his "cub" self through this discussion of sounding?
Twain describes this frightening boat accident with a relatively factual tone. He saves his stronger emotions to express his younger self's frustration with Tom G. View the video below for a reminder of the distinction between tone and mood. (This annotation contains a video)
Twain moves seamlessly between voices in these selected paragraphs. The first captures the point of view of his 21-year-old cub self, the second the point of view of his middle-aged writer self. Which adjectives below best capture the shift in tone between the two voices?
Chapter 13 - A Pilot's Needs
What is Twain's tone as he describes a pilot's memory?
Twain was a great observer of human behavior. He used his time on the Mississippi to take note of the many different types of people the world presented. Often, his anecdotes in "Life on the Mississippi" simply reflect the idiosyncrasies of human nature that amused or amazed Twain.
What does Twain's use of the adjective "sham" reveal to his readers?
What are the two main topics around which this chapter is structured?
Chapter 14 - Rank And Dignity Of Piloting
Twain says that pilots were "the only unfettered and entirely independent human beings that lived in the earth." Although this is hyperbole, Twain does not intend it to have comedic effect. What is Twain's purpose in emphasizing and even exaggerating a pilot's "absolute" freedom?
Below you can get a photographic glimpse of the Aleck Scott. Twain served on it under Horace Bixby from December 1858 to April 1859. (This annotation contains an image)
"Close place" is a delicate way of saying Stephen was low on money and struggling to support himself.
Why did the captain in this anecdote think he could get away with paying Stephen such a low wage?
Chapter 15 - The Pilots' Monopoly
What does the Pilots' Benefit Association most closely resemble?
This image shows a Pilots' Association lapel pin. (This annotation contains an image)
The underwriters were the financial backers of the steamships.
Which of the following best captures the overall sequence of events that brought about the pilots' association monopoly?
Chapter 16 - Racing Days
What do Twain's references to the "old times" and the "flush times of steam boating" suggest?
The the amount of water a boat drew referred to how deep a boat sat in the water, this could be adjusted by adjusting the weight of a boat's cargo.
The rest of this chapter is a list of steamship speed records between various well-known ports. Twain may have studied these statistics the way many sports fans study athletes' records today. The image below shows the original organization of the table. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think is Twain's purpose in including these statistics in the body of his book rather than in an appendix? Are they designed to impress, to inform, or something else?
Chapter 17 - Cut-offs And Stephen
Visit the link below for a helpful GIF of a river forming a natural cutoff and thereby shortening its length. (This annotation contains a link)
Why does Twain include superstitious legends like this one about a phantom steamer in the midst of his factual histories?
Twain emphasizes this detail because it is critical to the set-up of this humorous anecdote.
Chapter 18 - I Take A Few Extra Lessons
Read the selected paragraph and watch the video at the link below before answering the following question: In what sense was the Mississippi Twain's "Harvard and his Yale"?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Btbwl1Rduh0&list=PL0831A1FE1C4C997F&index=12
What does Brown's dialogue reveal about his character?
Chapter 19 - Brown And I Exchange Compliments
Twain gives very little detail here, but the brother he refers to is Henry Clemens. Henry was two years younger than Twain and was working as an apprentice clerk on board the "Pennsylvania" with Twain at the time of this incident.
How does Twain's diction in this paragraph seem to distance his relationship with Henry?
Below is an illustration of this scene from an early edition of "Life on the Mississippi." (This annotation contains an image)
Twain has tended to portray his "cub" self as immature and ignorant. How does this incident seem to indicate that young Twain is maturing?
Chapter 20 - A Catastrophe
The captain is remaining loyal to Twain, but still requires a fully fledged pilot. Since Brown refuses to work with Twain, the captain arranges for Twain to work on the ship the "A. T. Lacey" until Brown can be replaced, whereupon Twain will resume training on the "Pennsylvania."
Which line below contains foreshadowing?
Twain does not indicate whether Henry's exertions in his wounded state increased the damages he suffered in the explosion. Henry's actions are nonetheless selfless and heroic.
Chapter 21 - A Section In My Biography
This one-page chapter marks a transition in the novel. After this chapter, Twain continues the story from his current adult point of view. Why might he have chosen to end the youthful part of his story with his brother’s death?
Chapter 22 - I Return To My Muttons
Twain took this journey in 1882 at the age of 47.
Paraphrase the essence of the highlighted sentence.
The themes of the second half of this book build off of ideas established in the first half. Look for passages that relate to the theme of change and growth of America in the upcoming pages. Watch the video below for a reminder on how to discern theme. (This annotation contains a video)
How has St. Louis changed since Twain last saw it?
This, to Twain, is the most important change that the Mississippi region has undergone: the end of the steamboat era. Twain is genuinely saddened by this. In a sense, this whole book is a nostalgic ode to the dying way of the steamboat.
Chapter 23 - Traveling Incognito
What extended metaphor does Twain use to criticize the condition of the Grand Tower packet ship? Explain how this metaphor is also an example of hyperbole.
Part of the reason for this trip seems to be to allow Twain to test the memory he developed during his pilot days.
Chapter 24 - My Incognito Is Exploded
What is the best paraphrase for the highlighted line?
Alligators are certainly present in the southern end of the Mississippi, but they are not as thick as this pilot claims. (This annotation contains an image)
Considering that Robert is making this up on the spot, he proves himself to be a very quick and creative thinker!
A good deal of the humor in the latter half of "Life on the Mississippi" relies on irony. Watch the video below for an explanation of irony. (This annotation contains a video)
What is ironic about Robert's criticism of Tom Ballou's lies?
Remember, this name would be Sam (Samuel Clemens).
Chapter 25 - From Cairo To Hickman
Below is a uniformed steamboat pilot of the Mississippi. His hat clearly identifies his role to passengers and others on the boat. (This annotation contains an image)
What type of figurative language does Twain use to comedic effect in the highlighted sentence?
What are four changes that Twain has encountered in his travels thus far?
Chapter 26 - Under Fire
The Civil War between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) lasted from 1861 to 1865. The Mississippi River became a battleground during the Civil War as both sides battled for control of the river, which was vital to supply lines and to winning the war. The picture below shows a warship on the Mississippi River during the war. (This annotation contains an image)
What connection does this battle story have with Twain's purported topic of life on the Mississippi?
What aspect of the Darnell Watson feud is ironic?
How does Twain feel about Southerners' improper grammar?
Chapter 27 - Some Imported Articles
This passage is one of Twain's very few forays into the sentimental. Sentimental literature was a characteristic of the Romantic era. This literature emphasized the importance of feelings, often by exaggerating them with dramatic events and overblown language. Twain scorned this literature and worked to lend a sense of realism to most of his works.
What do all the historical accounts of the Mississippi quoted here have in common?
Chapter 28 - Uncle Mumford Unloads
Twain's uses the word romance to mean excitement or color. Do you agree with Twain that the new improvements to boating have "knocked the romance out of piloting"? Why or why not?
What theme do the many improvements mentioned in this chapter seem to be pointing to?
For today's readers, all the various theories for the improvement of the Mississippi are things of the past. At the time of Twain's writing, however, these issues were still being debated and this chapter thus serves to educate Americans on an important political and economic issue.
Chapter 29 - A Few Specimen Bricks
No known picture of Murel exists, but he and his gang are well documented. You can explore the link below if you are interested in learning more. (This annotation contains a link)
What may have been Twain's purpose in including this extract concerning the outlaw Murel?
Another theme that Twain's accounts address is the ups and downs of human existence. Through joys and sorrows, triumphs and trials, human society pushes forward and life marches on.
What did the "etc." stand for?
Chapter 30 - Sketches By The Way
This is not the first time that Twain has stood by and allowed a man to tell him "whoppers" (lies). As a youngster, Twain was simply gullible and naive. What aspect of Twain's adult character makes it easy for him to fall into listening to these tall tales?
Perhaps this book would have been more accurately entitled "Life and Death on the Mississippi." The book is scattered with descriptions of danger and death. Watch the video below for a discussion of the dark streak in Twain's writing. Do you agree, like the commentator, that the darker incidents in Twain's narrative give "depth" to his writing? (This annotation contains a video)
What is one way a city's size and importance could be measured in the 1880s?
Chapter 31 - A Thumb-print And What Came Of It
Munich is in the southern part of Germany, near the Bavarian Alps.
What can we infer from the German's strange behavior whenever anyone's wife or child was mentioned?
Use the word vendetta to write a one-sentence summary of the highlighted paragraph.
Tinted glasses were often recommended by doctors in the 1800s for patients with weak eyes. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted text refers to the idea of identifying an individual by his or her fingerprints. This concept was very new in the late 1800s and thus not widely understood. Twain seems interested by this concept as he has the main character in his book "Pudd'nhead Wilson" solve a crime using this novel technique.
What is the significance of Kugler's silver watch?
The practice of tying corpses' fingers to bell pulls was an actual practice put in place to prevent people from being buried alive. Some communities went ahead and buried the person, connecting the string from inside the coffin to a bell beside the grave.
How does the murder of his family reshape Ritter's character? Provide evidence from Adler's death scene to support your answer.
How convenient! Does this story strike you as realistic or invented?
Chapter 32 - The Disposal Of A Bonanza
This scene includes one of the rare references Twain makes to his two traveling companions, the poet and the stenographer.
A chromo, short for chromolithograph, was a type of reproducible print like the picture below. (This annotation contains an image)
This story was a classic example of the two-step humor story. It required a long setup in order for the "switcheroo" to have its impact.
Throughout his narrative, Twain has included anecdotes from a number of untrustworthy sources. All along, though, his accounts of his own life (as the writer Twain) have seemed truthful, if a bit biased at times. Now, however, Twain seems to have crossed a line. Do you believe he is telling the truth about the Ritter incident? If not, how does that change his credibility as a narrator?
Chapter 33 - Refreshments And Ethics
What the effect of Twain's use of the informal word "chap" rather than a more formal word like "man"?
Twain is very interested in the expansion of business and population along the Mississippi. Such growth was not unique to the Mississippi region, however. By 1882, America had fully entered into the Gilded Age, a time of rapid economic growth and industrialization. Watch the video below to learn about Twain's opinions of this period. (This annotation contains a video)
What is contradictory about Twain's opinions and actions during the Gilded Age?
In most of his writings, Twain is critical of slavery and racial hypocrisy. His book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is well-known for emphasizing the goodness and humanity of Jim, the main black character. Like many people of the 19th century, however, Twain's vision of racial justice would probably not measure up to our modern ideals. In recounting stories and writing in dialect, he often included words and prejudices that readers today find offensive. This allows us an undiluted glimpse into America of the 1880s.
Chapter 34 - Tough Yarns
Explain what makes Mr. H's claim about his ear ironic.
Chapter 35 - Vicksburg During The Trouble
After the Union victory at Vicksburg, what did Lincoln mean when he said, "the father of the waters rolls unvexed to the sea."
Follow the link below for brief video on the important Siege of Vicksburg. (This annotation contains a link)
Although Twain's book does not purport to do so, it actually contains quite a bit of history. Twain tends to color the history with his own comments and opinions, but the modern reader can still learn something about life in the 1800s. What did you learn from this account of life under the Vicksburg siege?
How does Twains description of the war monument in this selection help advance the theme of "civilization marches on"?
This comment could probably apply to at least a dozen other stories in this book!
Chapter 36 - The Professor's Yarn
Have you been wondering how Twain remembers these stories so well? Remember that he brought a stenographer with him. A stenographer's job was to take down dictation in shorthand.
Twain says you meet all kinds of humanity on a steamboat. Explain how the story of Backus supports Twain's claim.
Chapter 37 - The End Of The 'Gold Dust'
Despite the many advances in riverboat safety, it seems that steamboating could still be a dangerous profession in the 1880s.
Chapter 38 - The House Beautiful
Despite the exhausting level of detail with which Twain describes these "finest mansions," he claims that such a house is "easy to describe." This is another way of saying that all these houses were alike and the articles he lists are a sampling of what can likely be found in any "fine mansion" of the region.
How does Twain's description of a typical steamboat here differ from his description of a typical fine house?
Chapter 39 - Manufactures And Miscreants
Here is a reminder of the location of Natchez. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the Natchez ice factory a sign of?
Chapter 40 - Castles And Culture
The Southern code of honor and chivalry included a general emphasis on the following: protection and idealization of women, defense of honor (often through violence such as duels or war), and structure of society according to a rigid hierarchy (with the wealthy plantation elite in roles much like the lender gentry of Europe).
The picture below shows the old Baton Rouge capital building. (This annotation contains an image)
How might the idea of castles reinforce an undemocratic type of romanticism?
How does Twain seem to view these duels which he recounts?
Chapter 41 - The Metropolis Of The South
What are three words in this paragraph with negative connotations? How do these help establish Twain's opinion of New Orleans architecture?
One way writers express their opinions is through their diction, or word choice. Words with strong connotations convey the writer's opinions and create the tone of a passage. A connotation is the emotional or cultural association of a word. The word "talk" is neutral, for example, while "gossip" has a negative connotation, and "orate" has a positive one.
Chapter 42 - Hygiene And Sentiment
Because much of New Orleans is below sea level, the ground is generally too wet to bury bodies in.
Most modern scientists disagree with Le Moyne's contention. This means that
Chapter 43 - The Art Of Inhumation
What might be Twain's goal in emphasizing the prodigious expense of coffins?
What is one example of Irish dialect Twain uses to depict his characters more vividly?
Chapter 44 - City Sights
"The Grandissimes" is an 1880s novel by George Washington Cable which depicts race and class relations in New Orleans in the early 1800s. (This annotation contains an image)
The Broom Brigade in 1886. (This annotation contains an image)
Twain is referring to the painting below, by Everett B.D. Fabrino Julio. (This annotation contains an image)
Twain's discussion of the unclear event in the Lee and Jackson painting is his way of undermining the importance of the two men. What does this suggest about his opinion of these leaders?
Which word below is the best synonym for infelicities?
Chapter 45 - Southern Sports
Does Twain seem to find Southerners' obsession with the war tragic or comic? Support your answer with evidence from the text. Do you agree with Twain's interpretation?
In French, to "assist" at something means to watch or witness it.
Note that Twain entitles this chapter "Southern Sports." In it, he discusses cock fighting, mule racing, and the constant talk of the war. Do you think he is jokingly implying that the Southerner's favorite sport is swapping war stories?
Chapter 46 - Enchantments And Enchanters
Twain believes that Mardi Gras thrives in New Orleans due to the Southerners' love of romantic ideas like kings, knights, and nobles made popular by the author, Sir Walter Scott. Walter Scott was a well-known Scottish writer who published, among other texts, "Ivanhoe" and "The Lady of the Lake." (This annotation contains an image)
Twain believes that romanticism is the ____ to progress.
Chapter 47 - Uncle Remus And Mr. Cable
Today the "Uncle Remus" stories have become controversial. The very dialect that Twain praises as realistic African American dialect has been called demeaning and stereotypical by modern readers.
Chapter 48 - Sugar And Postage
Have you been wondering whether Twain ever paid Bixby that $500? In a New York Times interview from 1902, Bixby revealed that Twain paid $300 of it, and they called the other $200 off when the war came. Read more at the link below (This annotation contains a link)
List three details about the sugar plantation and refinery that reflect the historical progress and industrialization of the American economy during the Gilded Age.
New Orleans, even today, is known for is high population of mediums or fortune tellers. This is, in part, tied to a history of voodoo practices developed in the city.
Through his criticism of the medium and romantic ideas in general, what character qualities does Twain reveal?
Chapter 49 - Episodes In Pilot Life
How is this incident consistent with what you've learned about pilots through Twain's narration?
It is clear that acting as a pilot was more than a way of earning a living; it was an entire lifestyle and mindset.
Compare and contrast Lincoln's tone and purpose with Twain's tone and purpose in their comments on about those who have died.
Twain seems to be running down a list of his many friends and acquaintances who have died. Twenty years before Twain published "Life on the Mississippi," Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address to honor those soldiers who died during the Battle of Gettysburg. Read the text of this speech at the link below and consider how Lincoln's attitude toward the dead compares to Twain's. (This annotation contains a link)
Chapter 50 - The 'Original Jacobs'
Which words in the highlighted passage help to hyperbolize Captain Sellers's impressiveness?
What did Twain do to earn Captain Sellers's hatred?
This monument still stands today. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 51 - Reminiscences
As we near the end of the book, this anecdote adds a bit of symmetry to the story.
What seems to be the purpose of this paragraph?
Twain's frank recital of his desertion of the riot corps reveals that
Chapter 52 - A Burning Brand
Many of Twain’s anecdotes and facts seem only loosely connected, if related at all. Make a comparison between the structure of Life on the Mississippi and the meandering structure of the Mississippi itself.
Who originally inspired Hunt to reform?
Which of the following words suggests that Twain was impressed by the letter?
Twain's seemingly genuine desire to print the letter is more indication of his admiration for the letter writer. Does it seem uncharacteristic of Twain to admire such a "romantic" story?
At the beginning of the chapter, Twain warns us that his story concerns a base thief "with a mine of pure gold hidden away in him." What does Twain see as metaphorical gold? What does this indicate about Twain's character?
Chapter 53 - My Boyhood's Home
This photo shows Twain standing in front of his childhood home in Hannibal, MO. (This annotation contains an image)
Twain's nostalgia is strong in this chapter. How do the strong emotions he expresses in this highlighted paragraph contribute to the power of his book? Consider how his personal history fits into his records of life along the Mississippi.
Here's another instance of Twain's self-deprecating humor. He could easily have left this detail out, but it adds a comic zing to the end of this chapter.
The many different fates of Twain's childhood acquaintances suggests what additional theme of this book?
Chapter 54 - Past And Present
What can we infer about Lem by Twain's easy assumption that he is "in the fire" (hell).
Note the humorous exaggeration of Twain's childish fears to comedic effect.
Duchy's death may well be the most horrible death in the whole book. Whether because of Duchy's youth and innocence, the tragic details of the drowning, or Twain's own close connection to the death, the story is quite disturbing. It reinforces the dangers that everyday life brought for 19th century Americans.
"He succeeded in life" and "it was a disappointment" create _____ in their juxtaposition.
Chapter 55 - A Vendetta And Other Things
The "Jibbenainosay" was a popular adventure story in Twain's youth. (This annotation contains an image)
According to Twain's implied hyperbole, how was the gorge between Lover's Leap and the hill west of it created?
Chapter 56 - A Question Of Law
If you have ever read "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" or "Tom Sayer," you will probably have noticed many similar characters and stories in Twain's memoirs. His sleepless nights as a result of witnessing a death and feeling guilty resemble Tom Sawyer's sleepless nights after witnessing the murder of Dr. Robinson.
Twain consistently refuses to romanticize his own virtues. Instead, he tends to portray himself in rather unflattering lights. Here, he suggests that his only compunction over the burnt man's death was his fear of reprisal. Once he finds another boy to blame, he callously forgets about the poor man's death.
Chapter 57 - An Archangel
The image shows the Keokuk Canal in 1870. The canal was a giant, concrete sign of the progress of civilization. (This annotation contains an image)
Twain's assertion that prohibition in Burlington was approved by "all the rational people" suggests that he
Chapter 58 - On The Upper River
Twain is unabashedly contradictory in his treatment of "romance." While he criticizes SIr Walter Scott's version of romance, he seems to long for the kind of adventurous romance he once experienced on the Mississippi.
Twain seems enamored with the Upper Mississippi and the progress he sees in the burgeoning cities along its banks. Click on the link below to view the famous painting "American Progress" by John Gast. Compare Twain's take on American expansion with Gast's. What does progress consist of according to each man, and how do Gast and Twain seem to feel about it?http://faculty.uml.edu/sgallagher/americ1.jpg
Chapter 59 - Legends And Scenery
Twain's sudden interruption of the speaker's high-flown description is comical in its abruptness. A panorama is basically an art display of pictures capturing a landscape or scene. Twain believes the man sounds like he gives landscape lectures routinely.
What does this legend explain?
Chapter 60 - Speculations And Conclusions
This is an allusion to Emanuel Leutze's painting "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way" shown below. (This annotation contains a link)
Of course, Twain includes this legend because of its entertainment value, but there may be more to his focus on Native Americans in this last chapter. Twain began his discussion of the Mississippi River with the story of La Salle and his men claiming the natives' territory for their own. Perhaps it is fitting that he returns to this topic at the close of his book. What do you think?