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Sender: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sun, 31 Mar 1996 17:17:57 -0800
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Reply-To: Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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I have to guess that he used a drunk for the same reason (I think) that
Shakespeare often put truths in the mouths of fools.  Polonius, for
example, has a lot of smart things to say; and he's an old humbug.  In my
experience, a writer who sets up a respectable character (a character who
must also be wise) runs the real risk of letting the story turn into an
essay, or worse, a soapbox.
Also in my experience, if one does have a serious and well-informed
character,
then the whole tale will spin out of control unless the character doubts
himself, or thinks himself suspect even while in the middle of moderate or
mixed success.  If the character knows himself to be good, and just, and
righteous, then he rapidly becomes a pain in everyone's posterior.  This,
I think, is what happens in the end of CY.  There was no way to pull
off a happy ending, even had Twain hoped for one.  The character got
so deeply involved with himself that justification could only come by way
of apocalypse.
        Just a guess, of course.  Someday maybe we could discuss the
fantastical elements in Twain.  Off the top I'd say that the fantastical
in Twain never approaches the standard morality play structures of
traditional pulp horror, or the little 'walks and talks' with righteous
behavior in Star Trek.  I often think that the fantastical gets short
shrift for the very good reason that it's traditionally been suspect.
Yet, Howells wrote at least 1 ghost novel, and Henry James did - so how
respectable can something be?  If we looked at the fantastic as an
attempt at profundity, we might get some new and important takes on CY.
I'm sure some of you have written about this, and I just don't know about
it.  I'd appreciate hearing.
Jack Cady
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On Fri Gregg Camfield wrote (in part)
> Anyway, the relevance of all of this to our conversation is that Hank
> is something of a picaro in that he is an alcoholic bum who trashes the
> aristocracy from the gutter. But, to return to another question raised
> here awhile back, as a demented man, Hank spins a yarn that is neither
> realistic nor naturalistic.  Yet obviously Twain had a substantial
> intellectual and moral investment in this book.  Why, then, the frame's
> suggestion that Hank is a drunk?
>
> Gregg Camfield
>

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