> Personally, I would attribute much of Twain's darkness in his final period
> to the traumatic grief associated with deaths of his family members,
> with his own declining health. That said, I see much evidence for his
> maintaining hope and kindness and joyfulness in those years, some of which
> document in my own book on spiritual crises.
> Dr. Harold K. Bush, Jr., Associate Professor
> Dept. of English
> Saint Louis University
> St. Louis, MO 63108
I'm with Hal on this.
Let's see... You grow up in a racist community and are racist yourself but
overcome it after you see a little of the world, but few among your family
and friends follow you down this path. Your father dies when you are a kid,
possibly of VD, and you perhaps get a peep at his autopsy-in-progress. Your
chosen career, the one you dreamed of when you were a kid, the same career
that killed your beloved brother, is abruptly destroyed by a civil war. But
soon enough you marry happily and your writing career is off and running.
Then your infant son dies and you blame yourself --you tend to blame
yourself for a lot of things. You succeed as a writer but invest your
considerable fortunes in all the wrong things and go bankrupt. Then one of
your daughters dies in her 20s while you are half a world away trying to
make up for your bankruptcy. Then your wife follows her to the grave. You
are constantly called upon to be funny when you'd really like to be taken
more seriously. Your two surviving daughters give you fits as they grow up
and separate from you at a time when you feel you need them the most. Next,
you discover that two trusted members of your household are crooks. To make
matters worse, you were sexually attracted to one of the crooks but that
thought disgusts you so much that you must write a 1,000 page screed to get
this out of your system. Just as your health problems reach a point that
makes clear your days are numbered, one of your daughters (the one who came
back to you despite everything, a blessing, a gift) suddenly dies the
morning before your last Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho!
About 1905, when you had 70 of your 75 years of heartache behind you (but
still some really good heartaches yet to come) you reach the following
conclusion, and jot it down in your notebook: "There is no sadder sight than
a young pessimist, except for an old optimist."
Finally, with only weeks to live, and constantly in pain and an unrelenting
hacking cough, you've hid yourself in a private home in Bermuda, but a
reporter finds you anyway and practically breaks into the house to interview
you. You don't strangle her, as you had every right to do, but instead are
gracious (between those terrible choking coughs and chest pains), and say
that you are doing about as well as could be expected for somebody of your
"age and circumstance." You know you are dying. She hasn't a clue, really,
and you even smile and wave as she leaves with what she came for. Later,
there was some folks said you was downright cynical towards the end.
Kevin Mac Donnell
Austin TX 78730