Roughing It

The Demythologizing of the American West in Twain's Roughing It

In many of Whitman's Civil War poems, he focuses on dead or wounded soldiers and draws particular attention to grotesque, often disturbing images. In "A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest," he writes, "Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether, the odor of blood / The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms" Whitman's motivation for writing these Civil War poems, which are derived from the notes he took while working as a nurse, was to ensure that the horrors of war would not be lost and forgotten among stories of heroism and glory. By drawing attention to the corporeal and tactile aspects of the war heaps of wounded soldiers and the smell of army hospitals he goes against the human tendency to mythologize. In a similar fashion, Twain uses animals in Roughing It in order to demythologize the idea of the Great American West. Hidden beneath a series of humorous anecdotes lies a serious undertone of disappointment and a loss of innocence. As the narrator encounters animals, he is brought down to a progressively baser level, symbolizing the failure of his expectations and Twain's deflation of the mythic ideal of the West.

At the very beginning of the book, Twain sets forth the myth...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1137 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 8728 literature essays, 2348 sample college application essays, 386 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in