Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Like most authors of his time, Mark Twain had certain things in common with the Transcendentalists that wrote in the Romanticism period of literature. He shared with the Transcendentalists a deep love for nature, and a great appreciation for the spiritual feelings nature can inspire. He also shared a certain disdain for science that countered a love of nature which was also found in some of Thoreau's writings.

In "Two Views of the River" Mark Twain writes about one twilight he particularly remembers that was viewed from a river boat. He writes about all of the luminescent colors that were reflected on the water, and also about the delicate little agitations on the river's surface. That particular sunset really inspired a great wonder of nature in him, so he always remembered it. The Transcendentalists also had an appreciation for nature, and saw it as a way to go beyond the scences to understand the world (Wayne). They were filled with awe and wonder at it, just as Twain was during the sunset on the river.

After doing his best to describe the memorable sunset and the feelings it inspired in him, Twain wrote about how his view of nature had changed since then. He no longer took notice of briliant colors that painted the surface, and only saw the underwater features of the river when he looked at the disturbances on its top. Learning about how the river workes ruined his wonder at its beauty, because once he knew why it was so, he did not have to wonder over it. At the end he seems to say that he would rather had kept his wonder than gained his knowledge. This is very similar to Transcendentalists, because they were seeking to gain knowledge about life through nature, not knowledge about nature itself. Once Thoreau looked too deeply into the scientific side of nature he had the exulted feeling that comes with a love of nature less and less (Harding).

Harding, Walter. A Thoreau Handbook by Walter Harding: pp. 131-173 (New York University Press, 1959). © 1959 by New York University Press. Quoted as "Thoreau's Ideas" in Harold Bloom, ed. Henry David Thoreau, Bloom's BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2003. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= BCHDT05&SingleRecord=True (accessed February 29, 2012).

Twain, Mark. "Two Views of the River." Web. 29 Feb. 2012. .

Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
ALiterary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.Web. 15 Feb. 2012. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.aspItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin=CCRWE0289&SingleRecord=True.

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