American Places, American Lives
Week Two Individual Assignment
October 27, 2014
Ms. Dorothy Barton
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835. He was raised in Hannibal, a small town on the banks of the Mississippi. In 1857, being away from Mississippi for several years, Twain fulfilled his boyhood dream by becoming a pilot on a riverboat. Growing up in Mississippi, Twain’s only ambition was to be a pilot on a riverboat (Twain, p.197).
The town was drowsy in the sunshine of the summer’s morning; the streets were empty; a few clerks sat on splintered chairs outside their stores, with hats over their face while they were ...view middle of the document...
Mr. Bixby told him that he would have to learn the river like he knows his hallway in the dark (Twain, p205). According to Mr. Bixby, “you only learn the shape of the river; and you learn it with such absolute certainty that you can always steer by the shape that’s in your head, and never mind the one that’s before your eyes” (Mr. Bixby, p205).
The local influence was that every boy in town wanted to work on the river. One by one boys left town to work on the river. One became an engineer, two became mud clerks, one became a bar-keeper, and two became pilots (Twain, p 200). Twain saw how the townspeople viewed boatman as heroes.
Twain did not want to return home until he became a pilot. He felt he was bound for mysterious lands and distant climates. When they stopped in villages, he would hang out on deck so he could enjoy the envy from the boys on the bank (Twain, p201).
Twain felt like his American dream was coming true when he felt a strong sense of being part of the boat’s family. He felt like a son to the captain and younger brother to his mates. He took pride in this grandeur and his affections began to grow for these people. When he was on the boat it felt like home (Twain, p201).
Twain loved his region of Mississippi. He left home but stayed in Mississippi. Even his books reflected the love he had for his hometown. “Life on the Mississippi” and Huckleberry Finn” established him as one of American’s supreme autobiographers (Twain, p201).
Alfred Kazin spent his life in New York City, raised by Jewish immigrants from Russia. The relationship between the local contexts and the American identity is about being a Jew in America and being in a city that one loves. Kazin writes about the “immigrant’s sense of being suspended between two worlds”. The modern secular, which is going to the movie theater and the ancient world of Jewish culture, which opposes all forms of modernity (Kazin, p435).
Kazin focused on the movie theater and synagogue. The theater was half-lit, looking and smelling like an Oriental Temple with Persian rugs. These sights and smells prepared him for the magic that was movies (Kazin, p436). The description of his synagogue was without love and excitement. It was dark and had no illusion or indulgence for a boy. It smelled of stale snuff, vinegar, beaten and scarred wood in the pews, the Rebbitsin’s cooking, dusty curtains over the Ark, the gilt brocade in the prayer shawls, and ancient prayer books (Kazin, p436). The effect of these focuses is how Kazin wants to be free and alive at the movies but feels obligated, trapped, and alone when he goes to synagogue.
Kazin’s describes in most detail his obligations and traditions to the synagogue. Kazin only belonged to the synagogue because of his mother. Her wish was for her son to be confirmed in this synagogue when he turned 13 (Kazin, p437).
Kazin’s personal identity comes through when he is at the theater. He feels like he belongs, free, and alive in modern times when...