I have taught Mark Twain's literature at the high school level some
time ago, and have been a huge fan of his for many, many years. Your letter
asking for thoughts regarding Twain's dislike for slavery while
a prejudiced view of the Native American prompted me to think about it for
the first time.
I would suggest that Twain having grown up smack in the middle of a
slave culture, and knowing many black African slaves and their families
have had much to do with his sympathies regarding their condition. The
segregation of the blacks from the whites that existed in much of the United
States for so many years had one very specific purpose. That purpose was
prevent the social contact that might lead one group to see the other as
human, and deserving of equal treatment and privileges. Sam Clemens had
little or no contact with Native Americans, especially in a setting that
would allow him to come to understand their culture, traditions, and
Sam could see the plight of the Chinese in the West, the Irish in the East,
but for him, the beauty of the Native American culture was probably little
more than an abstraction. Just a thought, but he's reading this right now
from over my shoulder, and nodding his head in agreement.
Larry, does your college offer correspondence courses in the
literature of Mark Twain? Or do you know of any that do? I'd love to take
such a class.