Place is often defined as the physical aspect of the environment at hand. In another sense, we may define place as the environment removed from the speaker or the writer. However, in the literary world, specifically In the short stories of mark twain, Sense of place is combined with time and events which together create a social setting or the social context of the works. According to Lodge, “ The description in a novel is never just a description.” In the short stories of mark twain, dialect, experiences, character personalities are used in the process of forming the sense of place. Mark Twain writes in a manner in which the readers can collect certain characteristics about an area such as cultural values, character experiences and economic gaps based on the sense of place.
In “the story of the bad little boy who did not know grief” and ” The good little boy who didn’t prosper,” with dialect and descriptions of the landscape, readers can automatically gather that the setting is in a small rural town in southern America. This is shown through dialect and descriptions of, fields, the farmer’s trees and dogs “Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn’s apple-tree to steal apples, and the limb didn’t break, and he didn’t fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer’s great dog.” The idea of “ Sunday school books” and activities such as fishing that are looked down upon on sacred days like Sabbath or Sunday indicates that this is a small village of individuals who may share similar values and beliefs, considering all the arguments made regarding the actions of Jim or Jacob were compared to the characters in the “ Sunday school books” and their actions. An example of this is seen as there is a comparison made to the outcome of bad little boy’s in Sunday books who go fishing on Sunday with Jim, “ Oh no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning”. Lodge stated that in the literary world there is ” no attempt to make the see” a place or experience it’s “sensory impact”. Mark twain however used concepts like the Sunday school books to allow the readers see that there is a clear distinction between the cultural norms and reality. Additionally, descriptions of children’s clothing as they attend a funeral may serve as an indication of those who failed to attain prosperity in America, “Children standing around the grave in pantaloons that were too short and bonnets that were too large.”Furthermore, the sense of place in the two stories are used to apprehend the lives and experiences of Jacob and Jim and their journey from their early years to the outcome of their adulthood. The sense of place presented in both stories gave the readers a perspective on Jim and Jacob, the people he Interfaced with and the social environment he is in and how that impacted his life and behaviors.
In Twain’s ” A true story, word for word as I heard it,” the story’s description foreshadows a bigger message then is presented. The story begins with the main character Aunt Rachel sitting on the porch of her owner Misto C’s ( Mark Twain / Narrator)’s farmhouse. Initially, she is presented as sitting “below” Misto C because she is a colored servant “Aunt Rachel was sitting respectfully below our level, on the steps,—for she was our servant, and colored”. From this readers can infer that this is a time in history were African Americans like Aunt Rachel were solely perceived as sorrowful and miserable. Nevertheless, Aunt Rachel’s past and hardships shaped her to be the strong positive woman that allowed her to no longer be sitting under Misto C but has stood up wiser and more experienced.
Overall, Mark Twain has utilized sense of place to demonstrate a character’s complex relationship, identity and connection to a specific place while also incorporating the loss of community that comes from cultural preconceptions that influence the response a person has to a place.
Lodge, David. The art of fiction. Vintage, 2011.
Twain, Mark. The best short stories of Mark Twain. Edited by Lawrence I. Berkove, Modern Library, 2004.