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What Life on the Mississippi Taught Me About American History

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What Life on the Mississippi taught me about American History.

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain gave me an idea of what life was like in America in the nineteenth century. It was written by an eyewitness who led an interesting life that began on the Mississippi River. He went on to become a world-know American author, humorist and lecturer. The main theme of this work is the steamboat and its effect on the lives of people that lived along the great river system in America. This river system is made up mainly of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers.

Mark Twain grew up Samuel Langhorne Clemens on the Mississippi River in the small town of Hannibal, Missouri. Life was lazy and slow paced until a steamboat arrived. “I can picture the old time: the white town drowsing in the sunshine; the streets empty; a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk; lonely piles of freight on the levee; a pile of skids on the wharf, with nobody present to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets on it”.

This scene was quickly transformed into fast paced activity when a steamboat was approaching. “The negro drayman’s cry of “S-t-e-a-m-boat a-comin’” changed everything. Every house and store pours out its human contribution hurrying to a common center, the wharf. Assembled there, all fix their eyes on the coming boat as a wonder they are seeing for the first time.” There is activity concerned with unloading and loading freight and passengers. This was the town’s lifeline for not only trade but for news from other parts. There was no other way to travel as quickly as on the river. There was no other way to learn about what was happening in the world outside of Hannibal. “Ten minutes after the boats leaves, the town is dead again”.

It seemed to be a simple life and everything seemed relaxed. There was no traffic hurrying around and no one seemed to travel very far from home. It was no wonder that kids wanted to get away on a steamboat. They wanted some adventure and to see more of the world. The young Sam Clemens swam out to boats passing on the river to get away for a little while. He listened to

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