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31 votes
Accepted

What does Mark Twain mean by "cheers and a tiger"?

It's mentioned in the The Hawaiian Archipelago (1831–1904). Essentially three cheers followed by a loud growl from the crowd (the "tiger"). On the king's appearance, the cheering was ...
Valorum's user avatar
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29 votes
Accepted

Why couldn't Mr Dobbins become a doctor in "Tom Sawyer"?

Teachers didn't require any training or licensure at this time. The U.S. Department of Education has published a brief paper on the history of teaching in the U.S. here. Since Tom Sawyer takes place ...
indigochild's user avatar
23 votes
Accepted

How does soap undermine the church in "A Connecticut Yankee"?

This is a joke that Mark Twain used more than once. When he satirically wrote of a callow private secretary answering the letters written to a congressman in “The Facts Concerning The Recent ...
Mike's user avatar
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22 votes
Accepted

What specific criticisms did Mark Twain make against Jane Austen's books?

She [Jane Austen] makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book ...
CHEESE's user avatar
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20 votes
Accepted

What does "halter" mean here?

It means "noose" - figuratively, hanging. @BeastlyGerbil's answer is correct, but for completeness I checked for other uses of the word "halter" in the Entire Gutenberg Twain Files (warning: slow to ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
20 votes
Accepted

Understanding a reference to Tom Sawyer in the context of avoiding work

This is referencing the plot of the second chapter of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. In this chapter, Tom tricks the other boys into doing his work for him: “What do you call work?” “...
Mithical's user avatar
  • 25k
19 votes
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Was Twain the first author to write of Zombies?

Zombies go way back, further than 1892. There has been a fear of the undead since caveman times, when some tribes used to tie up corpses to stop them coming back to life. Perhaps the earliest form of ...
Beastly Gerbil's user avatar
16 votes

What was the earlier expose of racism that Twain wrote that was censored?

I think that this references the same incident described by Shelley Fisher Fishkin in her essay Mark Twain, Race, and Huckleberry Finn. Fishkin notes that in Huckleberry Finn, Twain "explored ...
Clara Diaz Sanchez's user avatar
12 votes
Accepted

Was Mark Twain a racist?

As a concise and direct answer to your question, here is a quote from Twain's essay "Concerning the Jews": "I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste ...
B. Clay Shannon-B. Crow Raven's user avatar
12 votes
Accepted

What does "vamos the ranch" mean in this Mark Twain short story?

While vamos in Spanish does mean "let's go!", it took on another meaning in America, and later on a different spelling: vamoose intransitive verb : to depart quickly In the 1820s and '...
muru's user avatar
  • 6,979
12 votes

Is this the longest sentence by Twain?

Project Gutenberg has compiled The Entire Project Gutenberg Works of Mark Twain from over 220 of his works. I downloaded the text (about 16 million bytes) and split it by '. ' (and similar patterns) ...
ShreevatsaR's user avatar
  • 1,382
11 votes
Accepted

Did later literary analysis agree with Mark Twain's criticism of J.F. Cooper?

It appears that most later critics think that Twain's criticism was unfair, and possibly intended as humor. John McWilliams writes: Hilarious though Twain's essay is, it is valid only within its ...
Shokhet's user avatar
  • 5,990
10 votes
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What does Mark Twain mean by "keep hotel"?

The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition for to keep: To carry on and manage, to conduct as one's own (an establishment or business, a school, shop, etc.). This sense of the verb well ...
Laurel's user avatar
  • 1,914
10 votes
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Did Twain mean the coin should be enlarged or not?

Yes. The comma should be there. Let's look at the wider context around that quote: We used to trust in God. I think it was in 1863 that some genius suggested that it be put upon the gold and silver ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
10 votes

What does "halter" mean here?

A halter used to be a rope for hanging people - a noose. Nowadays it has evolved to be a strap around a horse's head, but you can still see the original 'rope around the neck' idea. DLosc in the ...
Beastly Gerbil's user avatar
9 votes

Was Mark Twain actually almost a millionaire twice over, before he became famous?

He really did engage in silver mine prospecting while he lived in Nevada, though he wasn't one to really pick up a shovel and pick and do much actual work. Almost a millionaire twice. In the first ...
Jack B Nimble's user avatar
8 votes

Why couldn't Mr Dobbins become a doctor in "Tom Sawyer"?

Attending medical school would have required him to pay tuition and living expenses. Furthermore, earning income while attending medical school would have been difficult if not impossible. You didn't ...
Mary's user avatar
  • 6,055
7 votes

What does Pudd'nhead Wilson's joke about half a dog mean?

The part about "half" a dog is to lure the townspeople into the joke. If he had just said he wished to own the dog, it would have been too obvious, and not interesting enough. This way of phrasing ...
Chris Sunami's user avatar
  • 2,366
7 votes
Accepted

What do "Sedgemoor trade-mark" and "white-sleeve badge" mean?

You need to understand the historical context for this. It all goes back to the various struggles and civil wars which took place in seventeenth-century England. Essentially the whole chapter is a "...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
7 votes

According to Twain, what literary offenses did Fenimore Cooper not commit?

In "Fenimore Cooper’s Further Literary Offenses" (pp. 299-300), Twain singles out a passage of The Deerslayer, chapter XXX. It concerns this page and the following. The passage begins with &...
henryflower's user avatar
  • 1,036
6 votes

Was Théoden's revival inspired by Mark Twain?

Was he familiar with Twain? While I really couldn't find much on this topic, here is what I found. As a comment mentioned, there's Clyde Kilby's observation that he "was pleasantly surprised at ...
auden's user avatar
  • 4,792
6 votes
Accepted

Is this the longest sentence by Twain?

At 419 words, this whopper may indeed be the longest sentence Twain ever wrote. Searching the internet for references to longest Mark Twain sentences, the best I found was this 262-worder from The ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
5 votes
Accepted

How is it 1100 miles from Hannibal to southern Arkansas in Huck Finn?

As mentioned by the OP in a comment, the answer may be found in the article Sherwood Cummings, "Mark Twain's Moveable Farm and the Evasion", American Literature 63(3) (1991), pp. 440-458, which may be ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.6k
5 votes

Why does Tom Sawyer forget what "ransom" means?

While I think this is just authorial convenience for the exchanges he wanted the characters to have in each instance, and didn't want to be cheated of the second because he'd already done the first, ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
5 votes

Never the Twain shall meet – conflicting accounts of sewing practices

The simplest explanation is the following: one should not confuse a book's narrator with the biographical author, i.e. in this case, Mark Twain. Narrators can espouse views that are not shared by the ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
  • 44.8k
5 votes
Accepted

Did Mark Twain say the two most important days of our life are the day we're born and the day we find out why?

This was investigated in 2016 by Garson O’Toole (aka ‘Quote Investigator’) who traced the quotation back to a 1970 sermon by Ernest Campbell: It has been said that the two most important days of a ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 57.8k
5 votes

A question about sewing a collar in Tom Sawyer

Despite rigorous searches of the internet for details of rural boy's clothing from mid 1800s Missouri, I've found no suggestion of daily sewing of collars to be a standard approach to the garmenting ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
4 votes

Was Twain the first author to write of Zombies?

Zombies are also found elsewhere in Norse mythology; during Ragnarök, the unworthy dead return from Hel to fight the Norse gods (and the Einherjar). I read about this recently in Neil Gaiman's Norse ...
Shokhet's user avatar
  • 5,990
4 votes

Was Mark Twain a racist?

There's a serious mistake in the accepted answer. The first quote from "Concerning the Jews" is not correct, and Mark Twain indeed admits that he holds one racial prejudice, which I'm almost ...
Thierry's user avatar
  • 149
4 votes

Why do we say “write any quote and sign by Mark Twain’s name and no one would object”?

I think this is referring to the fact that many of the famous quotes attributed to Mark Twain weren't actually his. (He did come up with a remarkable number of funny sayings.) So write anything you ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
  • 12.7k

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