The Treatment of Landscapes and Cityscapes in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Innocents Abroad: Natural and Cultural Spaces in the Old and the New World

Presentation (Handout) 2003 4 Pages

American Studies - Literature


1. Huckleberry Finn and the Mississippi Landscape

As we all know Twain was very familiar with this landscape since he grew up there. In his 3 major Mississippi novels he tries to give the reader an impression of his Mississippi landscape There are various approaches to describe the experience of observing the river and its banks in the dawn, but the one in Huck Finn, which is so to say the third approach seems to be the most successful If one compares some phrases from all three novels describing the same event and the same in Tom Sawyer, the landscape is treated as picturesque painting, mostly described through commonplaces and clichés in Life on the Mississippi, the reporter on the spot gives another formal landscape painting, using familiar phrases from the vocabulary of literature; only the beauty of the river is considered here, its dangerousness is treated in a separate episode distinctiveness of the landscape treatment in Huckleberry Finn:

1. use of familiar phrases from the spoken word
2. the described loveliness of the landscape does not leave out potential dangers and ugliness of some of its components (dangerous snags floating, wood piled by cheats, the smell of dead fish)
3. nature is described as being in process (“the daylight come”, “paleness spreading around”, “river softened up”, “mist curl up”, “the east reddens up”) in common words of a boy talking while experiencing the event

2. Landscapes and Cityscapes in The Innocents Abroad

2.1. De-romanticizing the places in the Old World

Italy / Venice (Chapter 22-23)

“her glory is departed, and with her crumbling grandeur of wharves and palaces about her she sits among her stagnant lagoons, forlorn and beggared” Venice regains its former beauty only at night: “under the charitable moon her stained palaces are white again, their battered sculptures are hidden in shadows, and the old city seems crowned once more with the grandeur that was hers five hundred years ago. [...]In the treacherous sunlight we see Venice decayed, forlorn, poverty-stricken, and commerceless--forgotten and utterly insignificant. But in the moonlight, her fourteen centuries of greatness fling their glories about her, and once more is she the princeliest among the nations of the earth.” moonlight always makes things seem prettier then they are and night is the time generally connected with dreaming – in this case dreaming and fantasizing of the Venice of the past the “real” Venice is not the central issue here, but the power of human mind to adjust the reality to the expectations the magic of Venice is also destroyed by an unflattering comparison to an overflowed Arkansas town, where only mud and rubbish are left on the streets as soon as the river falls

Holy Land / Galilee

Twain ridicules writers who claim that the landscape of Galilee is beautiful, while it is actually rather plane and bare, as he himself describes it

as he draws over this unattractive picture by describing the Sea at night, he merely diverts attention from its present bareness and ugliness to its illustrious past, the fact of its actual unseemliness remains

he tries to make a difference between the Palestine of the imagined past and the one he saw in reality – the Holy Land of the Scripture is a dreamland which has nothing in common with the reality of the 19th century Palestine



ISBN (eBook)
File size
377 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
RWTH Aachen University
Mark Twain Landscapes Huckelberry Finn Innocents Abroad



Title: The Treatment of Landscapes and Cityscapes in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Innocents Abroad: Natural and Cultural Spaces in the Old and the New World