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A Comparison of Mark Twain and Kate Chopin’s Writing Styles

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The first story, emulating Mark Twain The town of –Z lay in the end of the middle country, touching the rough grassland with one point and the bleak, gray sea with the other. It was divided into three portions, namely, the rich part, the middle-class part, and the poor part. The rich part was a collection of huge, spacious mansions, rich lawns with all kinds of blooming flowers, and a number of tree-shaded parks in which the wealthy folk liked to take walks in the summer. The middle-class portion was an ordinary enough place—but with this place we have no concern. The poor portion was composed of small, straggly houses, grimy streets and a series of old, gray wharves which subsisted for what seemed like an eternity beside the filthy entrance of the sea. Thus was the town of –Z, in which we find our story. Little Mary was about seventeen years old, a rich girl who lived with rich parents in their luxurious mansion in the upper part of the town –Z. She was a girl of an intelligent, probing nature; though she never had many questions to answer or to think or probe upon.

She was a happy child, had always been a happy child, and who could not be, when surrounded with loving parents and a loving home that had never known shadow or tempest those long, sunny years of her life? The family had several hired servants, a few of whom lived with them at the mansion. Now, this was the reason for the little accident which, though unforgotten and unimportant to many, had such a great impact upon Mary’s life. Little Mary and one of these hired servants were, upon one wild, stormy night, seated in the luxurious parlor, awaiting the arrival of the former’s parents, who had gone out to a dinner dance. The servant, who was considerably bored and somewhat envious of her little master, concocted a tale about Mary’s past. “You was born out of them fishing-folk in the ol’ fishing village,” she whispered. “You never was a child of your now parents.” Not meaning any harm, but seeking a bout of fun, the servant wrote on a blank sheet of white paper an address which she handed over to her little mistress.

“There, now. And you never heard nothin’ from me.” Sleep was never harder to find than on that night. Little Mary lay awake, deep and dark questions surrounding her. She tossed and she turned, but sleep evaded her at every movement. Finally, in the still, dark hours of early morning, she sat up. She had resolved to go and answer her own questions. She dressed quickly and put on her hat and scarf. It was a cold day so she pulled on one of her heavy coats. Then, without hesitating, she made her way to the fishing village, that one part of town she had never seen before. The place she was directed to was a very old, very dirty, very tiny dwelling at the farthest edge of the town. There were no people about that place. A dull shudder passed over Mary as she lifted her hand and applied it to the door in a few resounding knocks. She was greeted with complete silence. No one and nothing stirred within the closed door. She paused for a moment, thinking; then with a deliberate air, she pushed open the door and stepped into the silent house.

The scene which met her questioning eyes took her by some surprise. The house was empty; there was no sign of any life about it. From the gray windows to the dirty floor, she could tell that it had been uninhabited for what could be decades. There was in the air a certain presence of desolation and abandonment which were unmistakable. The scene was enough to satisfy anyone; it was enough to satisfy Mary. With a sigh which sounded like a sigh of relief, she quitted the abandoned house forever. The second story, emulating Kate Chopin The clock was ticking sonorously on the mantelpiece. Somehow, though a high, wild wind was howling in the dark trees outside, the sound of the clock was loud in the large, luxurious parlor of the mansion. Little Mary sighed a little as she closed her book. She had been sitting on the soft, comfortable pillow for over an hour, waiting for her parents, who had gone out to a dinner dance. The hours seemed like days; the storm was raging outside; the impudent little hired servant was gazing at her with a fixed look and an expression she could not read. This servant spoke, suddenly: “You know, you weren’t born here.

You don’t actually belong here, in this rich place.” “What? I don’t believe you. Of course I do belong here. Where else could I belong?” “Well… don’t tell anyone that I told you this. Actually, you belong to that old fishing community by the sea’s opening. You were born there, but saved from there by your parents now, who adopted you. Don’t tell anyone I told you this, will you? It’s been a secret for so long and I wouldn’t want to cause any disturbances.” “Why, how can that be? How did you know such things?” the story impressed Mary with a vague sort of wonder, fear and questioning. “I just know it. I belong to that fishing village, myself. Here, take this address,” and she scribbled something upon a sheet of white paper and handed it to her little mistress. The hours which followed this little interview passed by like a vision for little Mary. She felt like her world had been shaken, shaken as it had never before been. Her life had always been a happy, sunny, presumptuous life and, on that dark, stormy night a long, unknown shadow seemed to be cast upon it.

She received the arrival of her parents without much ado and dragged herself to bed, where she lay a long while, lost in an anguish of thoughts and wonderings. No night seemed longer than that one, and never was sleep so much longed for yet so difficult to get to. Mary tossed and turned yet found no rest for the continual questions in her mind. She had never asked such questions before; nothing in her or out of her pressed her to do so. But now, on this dark, dismal night, something inside of her, something hidden and unknown before rose up and forbade her sleep and forced her to probe more deeply upon the questions in front of her. She had never known that intelligent, probing nature in her before. She had never known that questions in her were impossible to satisfy until answered. But as she lay there in the darkness of that dreadful night, unlit by any light but the cold, dismal one of the garden lamp, she found these things for herself. And when the wild night passed into a bleak, murky and cheerless dawn, her mind was made up. She would find the answers to her questions. It was not easy for Mary to walk down to the fishing village.

Doubts and questions haunted her every step of the way. At times, she shuddered and half-turned back, longing to bury those questions forever and continue on with her own happy life. But something within her kept her going, something strong and deliberated, something which forbade her from turning back. Insider her, she knew that she had to answer those questions. The house she came to was quiet and desolate. It was very old, very small, and very dirty; the small strip of land which could have been a garden in another lifetime was littered with all sorts of garbage. Hesitatingly, Mary lifted her hand to the door. It was her last chance to go back, her last chance to turn away and leave all the questions to die unanswered. But she pushed her trembling hand forward and her knocks resounded and echoed in the breathless silence. There was no answer. Shuddering with the cold and something besides, she pushed the door partly open and peered inside.

The house was empty; there was no sign of life anywhere from the dirty floor to the dusty windows. A kind of breathlessness hung over the whole place, the uneasy, apprehensive breathlessness one finds when intruding upon a silent graveyard. Mary stood a long time at the doorway, waves of silent emotion crashing upon her. She felt relief and joy, relief that the story was not so and joy that she had, after all, fought all her desires to turn back and had come to find the answers to her questions. Feeling very light and happy, she made her way back home. Analysis of the first story, emulating Mark Twain The first two paragraphs of this story are devoted to describing the main character, Mary, and the town in which she lived. Some details are given as to what the place was like and what Mary’s life had been like up to that moment when the story assumes its beginning. Some aspects of her character are revealed. She has ‘an intelligent, probing nature.’ Up to now, however, she had never been asked to question anything and lived as a ‘happy child’ as she ‘had always been a happy child.’ In the third paragraph, the hired servant, probably the antagonist of the story – or probably not – is introduced with the explanation that the family kept some hired servants, a few of whom lived at the mansion.

The story then begins there, as the servant tells Mary that she does not actually belong with the family she has lived with all her life and that she was really born in ‘The poor portion… composed of small, straggly houses, grimy streets and a series of old, gray wharves which subsisted for what seemed like an eternity beside the filthy entrance of the sea.’ In the following paragraphs, we find Mary’s reaction and what she did. She could not rest until the answers to the questions were found and she goes herself to the fishing village to find them. What she finds satisfies the questions in her—the house the servant referred to is empty and looks as if it has not been used in decades. With “a sigh which sounded like a sigh of relief” she left the house behind her ‘forever.’ Mary is free from her fears and, in coming to find out the answers to her questions, has freed herself from the many dreams and thoughts that haunted her before she set out on this quest. The analysis of the second story, emulating Kate Chopin The second story begins with a short description of a clock ticking upon the wall, a luscious parlor and a wild, stormy night.

This could be some sort of symbolism, fore- shadowing the events which would soon come to pass. The bright, lavish parlor could stand for Mary’s bright, happy life, the storm could be the dark questions outside which would soon rush into her life within the hour, the ticking of the clock upon the wall. Mary, then, has a conversation with the hired servant who sits in the same room, mending. The servant tells her that she belongs to the fishing village, not to this rich, lavish home. While listening to the story a ‘vague sort of wonder, fear and questioning’ impresses Mary. She is faced with questions she never had to face before. The whole night serves as a difficult time for Mary. She is plagued with these questions and struggles within herself, which leaves her sleepless . She realizes for the first time that she has in herself a questioning, probing nature which cannot simply rest and bury the things that it hasn’t found out. It is a new part of herself that she never found before in her happy, life which was always full of sunshine.

After a long struggle, Mary resolves to find out the answers. She sets out for the fishing village and the house the hired servant pointed out. But, we find out, the battle inside herself is not over yet. Many times, she ‘shuddered and half-turned back, longing to bury those questions forever and continue on with her own happy life.’ She was afraid of what she might find if she went to the house. Still, that questioning, probing nature is victorious. She proceeds on and finds the house. The climax appears as she raises her hand to knock on the door. All the events seem to point to this short moment of time, when she is at the threshold of finding out the truth. This, too, is her last chance to turn back and return to her happy life. She knocks on the door. The struggle is over and she has made her decision. Finding no answer, she pushes the door open and enters. The house is deserted, empty. Her fears are forever behind her and she may walk back home to the happy life she knew up to that time. What more, she is a new person, an older, more mature person, perhaps, a person who has found in herself something which had seemed to be asleep all her life.

Comparison of the two stories and their significances The first story is shorter than the second, but it gives much space to describe Mary’s town and Mary herself. Mark Twain’s stories often begin with descriptions of places and things. It seems that, to him, the setting is a very important part of his story. We see why that is so when we remember that he loved to write satires, which are humorous stories that point out the defects or follies of individuals or situations. In describing well the setting and characters, he could relate them to the world around him and the objects of his criticisms. The second story begins immediately with the scene of action; the protagonist’s character is left to unfold as the story itself unfolds. Kate Chopin often chooses not to describe the person’s character at the beginning. Her stories are more of character studies, which show a person against himself/herself conflict. There are person against person conflicts in these stories but the primary battle is usually fought within. The protagonist may or may not find himself/herself different at the end of the narrative. This shows why a definite description of a person at the start of the story is not often given.

The symbols of the first story are few—the attention seems to be on what can be seen, on the real world, on the action going on. Mark Twain’s writings were often like this. He did not use many images and symbols. Rather, his work, even the language he used, was down-to-earth and almost bluntly realistic. He painted his stories in the same colors as the world is really painted, compelling many to connect with the people and events there. In comparison, the second story has some realities with deeper meanings, types of symbolism. The first scene of the luscious parlor and the stormy night seem to symbolizes the events that follow—the storm of dark questions into a bright, cloudless life; and the moment when Mary stands at the door of the old house symbolizes her standing between her happy innocence and the darkness of what could be if she seeks to pursue the answers to her questions. Kate Chopin uses many symbols in her stories. She uses these points to add meaning to a text or to underline some subtle point in it. (Wyatt np) She uses real images to direct her readers to the things which cannot be seen—inward battles within, unspoken realities, unseen truths.

The first story relates action swiftly and almost briefly. Not much of what goes on in Mary’s mind is related; the struggle seems to be a person against person, or a person against situation struggle. Mary decides on something; Mary acts on her decision; Mary finds out the result to her satisfaction and leaves the old house happier than she was before she came to it. In the second story, we find a series of inward battles, showing a person against herself conflict. The second story shows more of what goes on within than without. Mary is torn between two horrendous decisions; she is unable to sleep that night and, as a result, finds out in herself some-thing she never knew she had—a deep, probing and questioning nature. She decides to answer the call of that newly found nature, yet as she goes along, she still fights many difficult battles. As she stands at the door, the final battle is fought and she knocks, choosing to settle the questions whether it be for good or evil. Her decision turns out well; the house is abandoned and seems to have been for years and she is free.

These two portions of the story again show the differences of the two writers’ focus and the differences in their story plot and style. Mark Twain writes in a swift, down-to-earth way while Kate Chopin shows, in pictures that can be understood by any reader, the struggles that go within the mind and the results of those struggles in the individual. To the attitudes and philosophies conclusion Put all together, we see a vast difference between the two writers, Mark Twain and Kate Chopin. Mark Twain was a humorist and he wrote many stories pointing out, with his humor, the things he could see which others could not, such as the follies and the flaws of people or society. To do this, he wrote in a way that was “closer to the speech of the average American,” (Lennon, np) which immediately connected him with those Americans and made his stories and their meanings as clear as crystal.

Kate Chopin wrote her stories at the time when the world was changing drastically. (Wyatt, np) “That was a time of tension between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern.” (Wyatt, np) In the midst of these turbulent times, Kate Chopin wrote her stories, stories which, more or less, reflected her own life, her struggles, and the lives and struggles of those around her as they adjusted to the change that went on in the world (Wyatt, np) Kate Chopin, moreover, was a woman who embraced self and the life within. Many of her stories show personal struggles, enlightenments, battles. It is ‘the winning of a soul, the keeping of it.’(Howard, np) Thus this shows why her studies, or stories, are more of character studies than otherwise. She describes many of the thoughts, feelings and emotions of a human being, why they think those thoughts, why they feel those things and the struggles they go through as change after change comes upon them.


Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Chicago, New York: Herbert S. Stone & Co., 1899 Internet School Library Media Center. nd. Kate Chopin (1850-1904) Teacher Resource File. 12 May 2008. http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/index.html Lennon, Nigey. Mark Twain as Literary Whipping Boy. 1996. The Boston Book Review. 12 May 2008. http://www.bookwire.com/bbr/interviews/v3/twain.html The West Film Project. Mark Twain and the American West, a Lesson Plan. 2001. Public Broadcasting Service. 12 May 2008. http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/lesson_plans/lesson02.htm Twain, Mark. Pudd’nhead Wilson. Bantam Classics, Random House Inc. 1984. Twain, Mark. The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson. 2004. Page By Page Books. 12 May 2008. http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Mark_Twain/The_Tragedy_of_Pudd_n head Wilson/ Woodlief, Ann M, instructor. Exploring Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. 2001. Engl/Est 384, Women Writers. 12 May 2008. http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/ Wyatt, Neil. Symbols in the Awakening. 1995. Eng/Wst 384 (section 01, Writing Intensive) http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/symbols.htm Youth Media International. A Report from the 21st Century, Classroom Activities. 2008. Public Broadcasting Service. 12 May 2008. http://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/activities_report.html

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