Better Then Twain

English L85 Essay

The autobiography of Mark Twain although incredibly popular, could be used as an example of what should not be done when writing. This book was highly disjointed, skipping important events that could better help the reader to understand the story, and focused on the individual activities he participated in while not relating those efforts to the immediate context in which they existed. “The Autobiography of Mark Twain” reads more like a series of unrelated short fables than a single connected chronicle of one man’s life.  In order to not make some of the mistakes that Mark Twain did, I will recommend the following advice in order to prepare you to write your own autobiography.

  1. Expect your autobiography to be enjoyable.  If you were to write an autobiography, you should require that it be better than Mark Twain’s. Some people write autobiographies that are never publicized and are simply enjoyed by family and close friends. Even if this is true for you, you still want to make sure that all the people who read your autobiography, understand what it contains, and perhaps learn something from your life experiences. It will also be highly important for you to make connections to the experiences you have to the events that occur in the world around you.  Include major events that have moved and shaped the world we live in. There’s always something to learn in life. The best part about learning from your mistakes is passing on that knowledge to others so that they will not make the same mistakes that you or I could and have made. This is what I want to be true for me, and I hope this is what you want too. If your autobiography tells a continuous story, you have already surpassed Twain in capturing you audience.  Twain was at the end of his life when he finally got around to writing his autobiography.  Apparently he expressed severe anxiety that someone would read this work before it was prepared for publication, in case of his death.  This personal fear is evident in his writing especially when huge pieces of his story seem to be missing, and the flow is stunted.
  2. Find a balance in your story.  When writing your autobiography you have to find a balance between telling about yourself, what life was like when and where you lived, and what current events were going on around you. Twain’s autobiography is emphatically lacking in details of major events. Despite being a master story teller, Twain doesn’t tell his own story, instead he tells a collection of stories he participated in. Twain spends much of his book emphasizing minor events and details in his life, and in some cases ignoring major and historic events.  For Twain, when making up stories, all events became fact, and those facts could remain relevant to a particular character while remaining divorced from reality.  The problem for Twain arose when telling his own story, suddenly there was no more fiction to spin, and the details of his story actually occurred in American History.  The amount of time he spent thinking about real life events becomes evident when he has to place himself back into a historical situation.
  3. Tell your story chronologically.  In order to write an autobiography superior to Mark Twain’s, you must outline a clear chronology, recognize major personal milestones in your life, organize your memories and spend time explaining them, but mostly ignore the inconsequential.  If your story follow the course of history while also following your own personal growth, the two will be a compliment and will be much easier for your audience.  This ability to maintain chronology will give people more of a idea about how history has effected your growth, and hopefully how you effected history as well.  Twain’s autobiography performs poorly in all of these criteria. His autobiography jump from stories as a 40 year old man to coming back to stories of his younger years.  This keeps the audience completely off-balance and never able to understand the development of Twain’s life story.

If you can proficiently execute the above mentioned points, your autobiography will surpass Mark Twain’s. Writing you story can both help others, and help you better live your life in the future. I would encourage everyone to do this, it will befit you in more ways then one.









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