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The Mysterious Stranger

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Overview

In his last years Mark Twain had become a respected literary figure whose opinions were widely sought by the press. He had also suffered a series of painful physical, economic, and emotional losses. The Mysterious Stranger, published posthumously in 1916 and belonging to Twain's "dark" period, belies the popular image of the affable American humorist. In this antireligious tale, Twain denies the existence of a benign Providence, a soul, an afterlife, and even reality itself. As the Stranger in the story asserts, ...
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Overview

In his last years Mark Twain had become a respected literary figure whose opinions were widely sought by the press. He had also suffered a series of painful physical, economic, and emotional losses. The Mysterious Stranger, published posthumously in 1916 and belonging to Twain's "dark" period, belies the popular image of the affable American humorist. In this antireligious tale, Twain denies the existence of a benign Providence, a soul, an afterlife, and even reality itself. As the Stranger in the story asserts, "nothing exists; all is a dream."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781502949431
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/5/2014
  • Pages: 70
  • Sales rank: 308,494
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and died at Redding, Connecticut in 1910. In his person and in his pursuits he was a man of extraordinary contrasts. Although he left school at twelve when his father died, he was eventually awarded honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Missouri, and Oxford University. His career encompassed such varied occupations as printer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, journalist, travel writer, and publisher. He made fortunes from his writing but toward the end of his life he had to resort to lecture tours to pay his debts. He was hot-tempered, profane, and sentimental-and also pessimistic, cynical, and tortured by self-doubt. His nostalgia helped produce some of his best books. He lives in American letters as a great artist, the writer whom William Dean Howells called "the Lincoln of our literature."

Biography

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.

After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.

After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartford, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.

Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces --The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.

For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Samuel Langhorne Clemens (real name); Sieur Louis de Conte
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1835
    2. Place of Birth:
      Florida, Missouri
    1. Date of Death:
      April 21, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Redding, Connecticut

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 27, 2009

    Profound and short enough for a quick read

    The Mysterious Stranger is one of Mark Twain¿s better works¿not as lengthy as Tom Sawyer, and not as boring as Huckleberry Finn. Time will not be wasted if you choose to read this story, especially since it is about 100 pages in a book format.<BR/><BR/>With a direct allusion to Satan, Twain emphasizes the negativity of humans. This emphasis makes us think about ourselves and wonder if we really are that selfish. The boys who mindlessly allow Satan to brainwash them show the naivety of children as well as our selfishness. <BR/><BR/>At the same time, because Satan stresses that he is from Heaven and not Hell, Twain shows his pessimistic view of Christianity in general. He makes us wonder if God is actually someone worthwhile to follow (speaking from a Buddhist perspective). <BR/><BR/>It is entertaining and engaging¿I could not put it down once I started. Even the mere conversations between Satan and the boys seem to hold significant meaning to the story; it is a good story to ponder about.<BR/><BR/>This short story is supposedly unfinished, but it seems to end quite well. If you want a quick insight into Twain¿s views, the Mysterious Stranger is the way to go.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 12, 2011

    Great read!!!

    It is a short book, a quick read, but very good! I highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Mark Twain at his most sarcastic and weird.

    My headline says it all. There's only so much sarcasm I can take -- and these 186 pages were about all I could handle.

    Not my favorite.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2011

    unreadable

    scanned version is unreadable

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 30, 2011

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    Posted December 28, 2008

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    Posted February 23, 2011

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    Posted January 31, 2011

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    Posted July 13, 2013

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    Posted June 17, 2010

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    Posted July 30, 2011

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    Posted August 2, 2010

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