By Harold Bloom
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Additional resources for Mark Twain (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)
It is also in complex ways a justiﬁcation, even a self-justiﬁcation. Its ﬁxed universe, with an endless chain of cause and effect from the beginning of time, permits Mark to compose many variations on the theme of human pettiness, but also it serves to free man of blame—and thus satisﬁes a need deeply buried in Mark’s personal remorse. To this period also belongs Mark Twain’s Autobiography, which serves him as an escape into the security of the boyhood idyl he had made immortal in Tom Sawyer. The need to escape is signiﬁcant, but the release is even more so, for it breaks the obsession signiﬁed by What Is Man?
He is wholly a social being. When there is a secret band to be formed, it is Tom who organizes it and prescribes the rules. Huck Finn is alone: there is no more solitary character in ﬁction. The fact that he has a father only emphasizes his loneliness; and he views his father with a terrifying detachment. So we come to see Huck himself in the end as one of the permanent symbolic ﬁgures of ﬁction; not unworthy to take a place with Ulysses, Faust, Don Introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 35 Quixote, Don Juan, Hamlet and other great discoveries that man has made about himself.
Of his novels only Joan of Arc, The Prince and the Pauper, and Tom Sawyer have structures that have developed from within; signiﬁcantly, all are simple and only one is ﬁrst-rate. Mark lived with his material for a long time, sometimes for many years, but not consciously, not with critical or searching dissatisfaction. A book must come of its own momentum from the unconscious impulse, be it as a whole, as a fragment, or as something that hardly got started before it broke off. This is to say that he had no conscious esthetic.