Mark Twain's controversy by mark levin

When people are given information, their perspectives are changed, but in order to have a full understanding of a topic, multiple sources are required. For example, there is much controversy over Mark Twain’s books, but in order to have a fully informed opinion, you have to look at it from multiple perspectives.

Although it made people believe that he was a racist, evidence has been found that Mark Twain merely used racism in his books as a satire to demonstrate the ideas of the time period, and to provide an allegory for human nature.

Mark Twain’s novel, Tom Sawyer is about the strange and intense adventures of a boy living in 1840’s Missouri. The theme of the book is that people who don’t follow the social norm tend to become leaders. Tom Sawyer was one of these people. He didn’t follow orders like the other boys did, so he became a leader to them. Mark Twain was similar, he refused to conform to what others thought he should do. He has always been known to mock human nature, and was thus respected as a leader.

Something commonly seen in the book is that people’s perspectives were very different back then than now. This can spark arguments about the intent of the author. Examples of these perspectives include the strange superstitions that are shown on multiple occasions, and the strange actions of the boys when they were trying to impress others. These may seem strange now, but back then, they were completely normal.

This also appears in other books written by Mark Twain. Specifically, Huckleberry Finn has a lot of controversy over racism. Arguments have spouted up everywhere about when Huckleberry Finn still refers to Jim by an offensive word, even after all that the two had been through together. Some believe that this was a demonstration of Twain's potential racist beliefs. Others think he was mocking the social norm. Still others postulate that he was symbolizing human nature, and that they merely act that way because they are the product of the world that they grew up in.

Many have argued that the reason that the characters acted this way was because of the views of the author. They believe that Mark Twain simply was a racist man. For example, when discussions were circling about renaming Lake Tahoe after Twain, Darrel Cruz, a representative from a local tribe, came forward with a convincing argument against this change.

He claimed that the author had racist views against the Native American tribes in that area. He said, "I read some of his book The Noble Red Man. That's where you can read some of his hard words on Native American people.” He believes that these hard words reflect Twain’s true opinion. He went on to accuse Twain of having referred to the Washoe tribes offensively by calling them "digger tribes." This evidence led him to conclude that Mark Twain did indeed have racist beliefs.

Others think that Twain was merely doing as he was known to do, mocking and demonstrating social norms. Twain was born Samuel Clemens. He grew up and lived in a time when racism was normal, instead of how it is frowned upon today. His father was a judge, who owned slaves. However, his uncle owned many slaves and Samuel witnessed his horrific practices first hand whenever he spent summers with him. He even witnessed a slave being killed by his owner with a rock for doing something in an awkward fashion. Many think that these events scarred him so that he decided that he would despise slavery and mock its practice.

Still others believe that in his books, Twain demonstrates Plato’s allegory of the cave. People’s perspectives are created when their personalities are developing. When situations change, people’s perspectives change more slowly, if at all, and they no longer match the truth. This happens in Huckleberry Finn when despite respecting Jim as a human being and even considering him as a father figure, he still calls all blacks n*****s. This is because he grew up this way and had always heard others calling them this way. He thought the way he was taught to think.

There is evidence to support any of the three sides. Without the words coming from his own mouth, we will probably never know for certain whether Mark Twain was a racist or not. However, given the strength of the arguments between the sides, it may be safe to assume that he was not racist, and was only doing as was his nature, demonstrating social norms and human nature.

Most likely not

Works Cited

Barlow, Dudley. “The Teachers' Lounge.” Education Digest, Sept. 2010,

Https:// “What Did Mark Twain Write About Slavery?” Education, 26 Oct. 2016,

“Mark Twain: Inexcusable Racist or Man of His Time?” Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2014,

Images 272/250x265/Mark%20twain%20racist%20or%20not.JPG


My original topic was more closely associated with the book, Tom Sawyer. However, after research, I found that there really was no conflict or evidence in this topic. Upon discovering this, I decided that there was much controversy over Mark Twain’s books overall, about whether or not they were written with racist intent. With all of the evidence to support each perspective, it was clearly the better choice.


Created with images by skeeze - "mark twain man person" • Gwydion M. Williams - "Tom Sawyer" • Boston Public Library - "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade) [Front cover]"

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