Mark Twain's diminishment of man: moral, intellectual, and physical aspects



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Texas Tech University


After years of controversy between adherents and scoffers, the reputation of Mark Twain as a writer continues to grow. He is no longer known simply as an American frontier humorist, but is now firmly acknowledged as a critic of all humanity, as well as of his own "Gilded Age." Mark Twain's scope was not always apparent, and a balanced critical acclaim was a long time in coming. During his own lifetime, most commentators denied his reputation as a satirist. Vernon Parrington sums up the attitude of many of Twain's co temporary critics who thought Twain "little more than a buffoon, an extravagant fun-maker with a broad streak of western coarseness." Indeed, the eastern culture refused to accept Twain as a serious satirist until long after he had been accepted in Europe and the rest of the world. His friend William Dean Howells was one of the first to compare Twain to Cervantes and Swift, and later George Bernard Shaw likened him to Voltaire, but not many in Twain's own time were ready to recognize him as anything other than a "funny fellow" or at most the author of nostalgic "boy books." By 192 0 Van Wyck Brooks had concluded that Twain's popularity was attributable only to the personality of the man himself and not to his works at all.