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Two Views Of The Mississippi By Mark Twain

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Jerry Bradshaw

Assignment #1

ENG 112


Two Views of the Mississippi

One may argue that certain learned abilities become instinctual over time and through repeated practice. I do not believe there could be any solid proof for this theory. Instinct can be defined as something that we do without even thinking about it, yet when we are in a panicked state, we usually tend to forget some of those learned habits and react in a way that truly is pure instinct, having nothing to do with anything we had previously learned.

Mark Twain writes of ceasing to note the beauty of the river while steamboating, implying that once you have learned certain practices, they become almost innate qualities. That is not to say that they become instinct, only that one has mastered this ability. When any individual begins a journey of learning a new trade, ability or experiencing a new discovery вЂ" initial rapture almost always ensues.

Twain uses figurative language to effectively describe his sense of rapture and awe of the river when he is beginning his journey on the road to knowledge of steamboating. Twain gives the river human characteristics and even its own вЂ?language’. Describing the river as having “turned to blood” or a log that was “solitary…black and conspicuous” breathed life into his view of the Mississippi.

Twain’s use of figurative language places the reader inside his mind during this exciting experience he once had. The wonder and pure awe of this beautiful scene are painted beautifully with his use of simile, “boiling rings that were as many-tinted as an opal” and other variations of personification of the river. In his writing about the river, he has the trees waving, the river dancing and the surroundings of the water glowing, shining “like silver” and radiating warm colors and beauty.

When anyone takes on a new learning experience, many times details that are initially noticed or celebrated become old hat, so to speak. My first bread machine gave me an air of excitement that was very much like Christmas morning when I was 5 years old. I could describe in vivid detail that first loaf of bread I baked. After about half a dozen loaves, I was bored and ready to buy Aunt Millie’s all over again. The intricate details of recipe, water temperature and other variants became something I memorized. It no longer took any measure of time or celebratory ritual to do what once was so exciting.

Twain discusses his loss of excitement of what was once new and exciting. He gives the reader a chance to take in his first reaction and then he repeats his memory of that very same scene вЂ" only now he uses his current reaction. The second description is void of all poetic language. The river no longer has any human characteristics. Twain’s second description reads like a book of directions or an employee handbook.

Twain’s use of language is quite effective in differentiating his newly acquired view of the once marvelous scenes he beheld. The beautiful “splendor that was flowing from the sun” is now only an indicator that this particular sun “means we are going to have wind tomorrow” . The “black and conspicuous” log is now just an indicator that the river is rising.

An interesting distinction between descriptions in this piece appears in Twain’s use of the phrase “boiling tumbling rings” when talking about his first glimpse of them. In his practical view of the river he actually places the word вЂ?boils’ within quotations, whereas his first description leaves the word boiling just the way it is вЂ" to imply that this river was indeed boiling to his naked eye. The second time



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