Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Would Twain Be as Influential in Modern Times?

The few short stories and full length Twain stories we've read have had very similar themes.  Most deal with slavery, racism, titles, birthrights, and peoples roles in society.  In most of the stories, Twain has two characters switch places; sometimes on purpose, and sometimes without either characters knowledge.  The Prince and The Pauper is the first novel that we read that dealt with Tom and Edward switching places, and really learning the lesson that the grass isn't greener on the other side.  The book brings up the fact that relatively no loved ones or family members can tell the difference between either boy.  (Eventually Tom Canty's mother realizes that Edward is not her son, but it does take a while).

"Pudd'N Head Wilson"is the story of two boys and how they deal with growing up, not knowing that they are living lies.  The real Chamber's mother, Roxy, switched the babies at birth so that her son could grow up as a white man and be saved from being sold down the river.  This story is also able to succeed because once again, the father of Tom (the white slaver owner), cannot tell the difference between the two boys.

But as I read these books, and listened to the discussions in class, I was wondering whether Twain would be as effective now-a-days, as he was when these books were released.  He constantly used the twins or people switching places ploy/hoax, to bring about questions of whether a birthright exists, or if people will grow up differently, if they are given different opportunities.  Although he pokes fun at America, and it being the land of opportunity, I feel that most people in modern times have about the same chance as being successful as their neighbor.  This doesn't mean that every person in America has the same chances, but I feel as though the playing field has definitely evened out over the last 50 years or so.

Most of Twain's writing deals with huge themes like slavery and racism, which I mentioned before, and was able to use some very cool plot devices to help readers see things from other angles.  We still have problems within society, but I still don't think that Twain would be as influential if he lived in todays world.  Now, I'm sure that Twain would use different types of story telling to poke fun at the American lifestyle or politics, but I do think that the level of opportunity most Americans have, they can succeed without having to be born into money or status.

Some of the counter arguments to this would be that people who are born into money/higher class status gives them a leg up on other, less fortunate, people.  This is true, but if you look at some of the biggest success stories in recent times, like Bill Gates, JK Rowling, or even Barack Obama, you can see the trend of a person with a huge drive to succeed, struggling with either being poor, or having less opportunity that other, and in these cases, Gates, Rowling and Obama, were able to succeed.

Do you think that in modern times, there is a better chance for people to be successful in their lives. Or do you think that you're born into it?


  1. I think that both statements can be true. Of course, there are always the rags to riches stories that we hear about more often than the people who are born rich and stay rich by making something of themselves. This is because more people would rather hear about inspirational stories where the person who becomes something had to work hard to get there. It gives us the hope that, if we come from a similar background, we could have the same outcome. Even though there are more opportunities available to us now, I think that there is still a social hierarchy (even in grade school when the cool kids are the ones that wear the nicer clothes because they come from money, and the kids that can't afford that aren't really seen as a "popular" kid). Though there are equal opportunities, there are still obstacles that people have to get around to become successful and not all people have the ambition to keep getting up after they get pushed down.

  2. Kind of hard to prove, ya sure more people get the opportunity but America if anything has become more elitist. Inheritance still exists, and that includes property. That said while there is no slavery, the advantages of inheritance apply for all children whos parents are rich usually inherit much. Im sure Bill Gates children will still be very rich.

  3. Well, to tell you the truth it's both (in modern times), one can be born into a "successful" situation and others can acquire it, however, luck is involved in both cases. I do think that Twain does raise issues of social classes and heirarchy that plagues populations around the world, not only in the US.

  4. I think that they could both be true. I believe that there are more opportunities in modern times for success, but I also think that there aren't as many rags to riches stories that we see. We all want the cinderella story, and the truth is that they are rare to come by, but our society focuses on the few stories so that if you come from the same background as the person in the story it gives you hope that maybe one day you'll get the same ending. However, I still believe that most people are just born into success and status in society. Otherwise it is a big mountain to climb and not many people will have the perseverance make it to the top.