Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Nancy Davis, Margaret Bruner, George McCelvey

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Beneath the placid surface of books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there are the seeds of a darker, yet more profound Twain than a cursory reading yields. From a point beginning about 1876 until his death in 1910, there is in Twain's major works a progressively darker, more intensely pessimistic view of the human condition, for Twain increasingly saw man as circumscribed and imprisoned by mechanistic determinism. This study provides a chronological examination of Twain's attempt to resolve the problem of man's sense of moral responsibility in a deterministic world. The development of Twain's thinking or man's conscience and determined behavior falls into three stages that form the basis for the three major chapters of this thesis. In Twain's primary stage he initially grappled with the problem of determinism and moral responsibility. In the second stage Twain recognized the control determinism exercises and the guilt that socially engrained conscience imposes on man, yet he still insisted on man's ability to rise above these things and impose his own concept of morality. In the final stage Twain relinquished the lingering vestiges of his belief in man's control of his life and actions and depicted man as unable to move above his guilt because of circumstances he cannot control.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America