Examining Mark Twain's Work to Determine If He Was Racist Essay

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Examining Mark Twain's Work to Determine If He Was Racist

This paper examines Mark Twain’s work to determine whether or not he was racist. Racism is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as "the belief that one race is superior to others." Unfortunately the issue of race isn’t black or white. There are many shades of gray in racism and even the most progressive thoughts of old seems conservative as progress enlightens new levels of thought. During his time, Twain was a forward thinking author who championed many causes, one of them being fair treatment of the downtrodden and oppressed.

The only example of potential racism is his treatment of the Goshoot Indians in Roughing It. The main body of his work points to innovative
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James L. Johnson dedicated Mark Twain and the Limits of Power to outlining how, like Emerson, Twain’s "solipsism is a fundamental ingredient in much of [his] best work (Johnson 8)." Twain’s characters had or wanted "an extraordinary ability to dominate the worlds in which they find themselves (Johnson 1)." Twain had little faith in a Christian God so he put more faith in the self. Johnson also thought Twain’s bitterness increased as he unearthed that "the larger and more masterful the Self became, the less benevolent he was likely to be (Johnson 7)." Although Twain’s life was common because it had limits he "envisioned a character who might not have to make those accommodations, a hero who might break out of the prison of limitations into a brighter life (Johnson 187)." Frustration with the world, hence a caustic temperament, arose as time wore on but Twain never lost sight and hoped for "mastery over it and freedom (Johnson 189)."

In 1907 Bernard Shaw remarked to Archibald Henderson that, "Mark Twain and I find ourselves in the same position. We have to make people, who would otherwise hang us, believe that we are joking (Clemens 5)." This point is well illustrated by the fearless Twain

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