Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Mark Twain in his travel narrative Roughing It presents a naive, innocent narrator from the East who ventures forth into the largely uncivilized Western frontier during the exciting silver mining boom of the 1860's. In his sojourn the innocent narrator encounters many people, places, customs, values, and experiences that are unfamiliar to him, and because of his status as a tenderfoot unacquainted with the frontier, he is often made a dupe by the mischievous old-timers in the West.
The innocent narrator must go through numerous initiations before he is accepted as a member of the vernacular community. In these various confronting experiences with Western values and customs, he cannot help but feel like a misplaced outsider unaccustomed to the freedom inherent in an uncivilized society. Often the tenderfoot is ridiculed and made ludicrous for pretentious behavior, an inflated opinion of himself, as in the sketches involving animal similes, metaphors, and anecdotes. These sketches are of the bootblack, the Sphinx, the coyote, the genuine Mexican plug, and the governmental official. Often the old-timers in the community make sport of the greenhorn for his own education and for their amusement, as in the sketches of the bootblack, Jim Blaine and his grandfather's ram, and the horse auctioneer.
Twain manages the narrative from the perspective of a first person narrator who assumes the two-fold stance of a veteran looking back upon his days as a tenderfoot in the West. The naivete of the narrator is deliberately exaggerated for the sake of comedy; he is presented as an individual who seldom confronts any outside force which he thinks he cannot recognize, distinguish, and overcome, and it is the juxtaposition of these innocent, romantic views with reality that is a prime source of comedy for Twain in Roughing It.
The education of the innocent narrator is desirable and necessary, for not until he is initiated into the customs and values of the West is he able to enjoy the varied and vast freedoms that the frontier has to offer. Before his education he was ignorant and naive, but after his transformation from greenhorn to old-timer, he learns the sciences necessary in order to survive in the West, and he is now able to fully participate in the glories that the frontier has to offer.
Fisher, John R., "The Innocent Narrator in Mark Twain's Roughing It" (1980). Masters Theses. 3084.
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