Mark Twain and the Bible

Mark Twain and the Bible

Allison Ensor
Copyright Date: 1969
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Mark Twain and the Bible
    Book Description:

    Mark Twain enthusiasts will welcome this study of the great writer's attitude toward the Bible -- and of the influence of Holy Writ upon both the man and the artist. While the theological beliefs of Twain have been well documented, Mr. Ensor's study is the first to consider only his familiarity with the Bible and the extensive use of it in his writings.

    The Bible elicited by turns pious, skeptical, comical, and even hostile reactions in Twain, but he could not ignore it. Mr. Ensor examines manifestations of these conflicting impulses from the early newspaper articles to the autobiographical dictations; he suggests that from the Bible Twain may have derived three images that recur in his works: the Prodigal Son (Twain often saw himself in the Bad Boy pose); Adam (representing for Twain an unjust loss of innocence he shared with all mankind); and Noah (Twain saw himself as a prophet warning civilization of impending doom).

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6263-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1. The Writer & The Bible
    (pp. 1-14)

    Mark twain once claimed that at the age of two weeks he knew the Bible well enough to protest being named Samuel after a boy whom the Lord “had to call ... a couple of times before he would come!”¹ If that was, as Huck Finn would say, “a stretcher,” it is true that Samuel Clemens came to know the Bible early and that it exerted a powerful influence upon him all his life. There are those who love the Bible, those who hate it, and still others who simply ignore it. Twain raged against it as wicked, obscene, and...

  5. 2. To The Holy Land
    (pp. 15-28)

    On june 8, 1867, the steamshipQuaker Citysailed from New York on what was perhaps the first pleasure excursion by American tourists to Europe and the Holy Land. Although the passenger list was originally to have included such men as Henry Ward Beecher and William Tecumseh Sherman, Mark Twain found himself the closest thing to a real celebrity on board. Thirty-one years old, chiefly known as a lecturer and author of “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” he had been hired as newspaper correspondent for the San FranciscoAlta Californiaand the New YorkTribuneand assigned to send...

  6. 3. Three Biblical Images
    (pp. 29-72)

    Fictional parallels to biblical characters frequently recur in Twain’s writings. Occasionally the characters themselves point out the resemblance, as when the Connecticut Yankee compares his rise in the kingdom with that of Joseph (Writings,XVI, 64). Twain scholars have recognized several less explicit parallels. Paschal Covici, for example, analyzes the “Legend of the Spectacular Ruin” inA Tramp Abroad,showing its relationship to the story of Christ and to that of David and Goliath.¹ Albert E. Stone finds two parallels with the story of Christ: inThe Prince and the Pauper,Tom Canty spurns his mother with words suggesting Peter’s...

  7. 4. The Attack On The Bible
    (pp. 73-93)

    The bible, Mark Twain wrote in the year before his death, “is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies” (LE,14). In this one statement as perhaps nowhere else Twain expressed his final attitude toward the Bible. It never failed to arouse his interest and in some respects his admiration, but for him its bad points so heavily outweighed the good that he came to rage against it with increasing fervor as he neared the...

  8. 5. Conclusion
    (pp. 94-104)

    The present generation has discovered a new Mark Twain. No longer is he merely the nostalgic recaller of the past, the teller of tall tales, the producer of humorous quips. No one today would describe him in the terms used by Stuart P. Sherman in his sketch for theCambridge History of American Literature:“Mark Twain is one of our great representative men. He is a fulfilled promise of American life. He proves the virtues of the land and the society in which he was born and fostered. He incarnates the spirit of an epoch of American history when the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 105-122)
  10. Index
    (pp. 123-130)