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Jim Zwick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Sun, 1 Sep 1996 13:21:53 +0000
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One study I've found intriguing is Frederic Cople Jaher, _Doubters
and Dissenters: Cataclysmic Thought in America, 1885-1918_ (London:
Free Press of Glencoe, Macmillan, 1964).  Jaher discusses a number of
Twain's contemporaries, including many of his associates in the
mugwump and anti-imperialist movements, but differentiates Twain from
them by claiming (in a good short statement of the critical tradition in
area) that "Twain's estrangement . . . was personal. He had never
joined abortive crusades or belonged to defeated movements -- his
tragedy was death, illness in the family, and financial failure."  In fact,
Twain did join "abortive crusades" and "defeated movements," and he
identified with them.  I think such works as "The Secret History of
Eddypus, The World Empire," and, in particular, "Passage from
'Outlines of History,'" as well as many of his more personally
focused later stories with cataclysmic endings involving families
(collected in Tuckey's _Which Was the Dream_) could be
reinterpreted by putting Twain back in among the cataclysmic
thinkers of his time.  This depersonalizes the question of Twain's
cynicism quite a bit by placing it within a broader social trend within
Gilded Age/Progressive Era America.  At the same time, it provides a
way of looking at a wide range of his writings as sharing a common
underlying theme.

Jim Zwick