Contextualization Copy

MARK TWAIN (1835-1910)


  • The aftermath of the Civil War – the violence and the casualties leave deep marks in the collective consciousness;
  • Increased immigration after the Civil War;
  • Segregation between black and white people;
  • Industrial Revolution in the North;
  • The South continues to rely on agriculture.


  • Massive immigration from Europe and China;
  • Businesses expand;
  • A transport network develops to stimulate trade. Roads, railways, and steamboats are built;
  • Technological inventions: mass production of motorcars (Henry Ford); the invention of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell -1876);
  • By the end of the 19th century, the USA had become a huge, modern, industrialised nation.


Literary trend: REALISM

Principles of Realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • attention to detail;
  • description based on experience, not imagination;
  • lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors.

Realistic novel traits (the novel is the best form of expression for realism, as it describes the world faithfully and doesn’t idealize it):

  • Major theme: the place of the individual in society;
  • Long, dense, with complicated plots;
  • Physical descriptions of characters are realistic;
  • Lots of characters, most of them belong to the middle and lower classes;
  • A new type of character: the one who transcends social barriers through marriage, hard work, or legacies. Characters are motivated by greed, lust, and confusion.


Birth name Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Mark Twain was his pen name.

Considered the greatest humourist in American literature and creator of the American novels;

Worked as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, and journalist;

Invested the money earned from his writing, but lost it.

Overcame his financial difficulties in time.


  • “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”
  • “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”