An Analysis of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi

Mark Twain’s memoir, Life on the Mississippi, demonstrates how his experience growing up as a pilot and increase in maturity shaped his perspective on life both negatively and positively using extended metaphors, juxtaposition, a change in tone (as a sarcastic, immature boy to a humble and experienced man), and imagery. Twain utilizes juxtaposition to demonstrate his thought process after he gained his experience. Mark Twain starts to compare the intelligence of an “uneducated passenger” to an “experienced passenger”. He indirectly implies how although the experienced passengers tend to have more knowledge, the beauty of the water disappears.

There are two ideas in this passage that contradict each otheri By constantly using opposite connectors, Twain continues to switch the point of views from an educated man to an amateur in the language of water. As one sees the problems and difficulties, the other is unable to conceive that information and gets distracted by the romance and beauty Twain explains that “all the grace, the beauty, the poetry, had gone out of the majestic river!” The reader can infer that Mark Twain is now experienced and mature Because he notices the deleterious obstacles, he can no longer witness the graceful scenes of nature.

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Although being more educated can be beneficial, it can also be a disadvantage because the innocence has disappeared. For example, “The passenger who could not read it was charmed with a peculiar sort of faint dimple on its surface“ but to the pilot that was an italicized passage”. The faint dimple is a sign of doom to him currently, whereas he would‘ve admired its beauty and grace before he gained experience This demonstrates his development on the Mississippi river through good and bad results, Along with juxtaposition, Mark Twain uses extended metaphors to explain the complicated comparisons through concise terms In his memoir, he continuously compares the vision of an experienced or educated person to that of an inexperienced passenger.

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For example, he uses rhetorical questions such as “What does the lovely flush in a beauty’s cheek mean to a doctor but a “break” that ripples above some deadly disease?” Mark Twain’s use of negative connotation describes his ability to comprehend certain actions. Due to the doctor’s intelligence, he seeks past the lovely flush and translates it into medical terms. This is just another version of Mark Twain‘s life on the Mississippi river, He seeks past the beautiful sunsets and glistening water and analyzes the dangers. He also explains how “the face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book-a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice“ His use of extended metaphor allows the reader to understand that as he gains knowledge, his simplistic view of life transforms for a better comprehension of the observation Creating a true understanding can lead to a change in perception As Mark Twain comes to realize the true beauty of the river, he uses imagery to ividly describe his perceptions using connotations like “graceful” and “brightened ”, hus creating a positive tone. This contradicts his previous assumptions of the river. When he first started out on the boat, he was very sarcastic and naive. However, throughout his life as a boat pilot, he comes to understand “every trifling feature that bordered the great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet”. Twain describes what he came across along the river to the reader, allowing him or her imagine how he perceived things when he was innocent and ignorant, However, as he gained more intelligence, his words became more negatively portrayed, The more ignorant and naive Mark Twain was the more positive the tone was. He supports this when he believes that he “had lost something which could never be restored to me while I lived.” He had lost the beauty of the water. He continuously starts to bring down the mood to a negative feeling and he does this by implying that all of his observations and perceptions are seen in mechanical terms. Throughout his memoir, Twain describes various features of the river through his matured perception.


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An Analysis of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. (2022, Jul 12). Retrieved from

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