Mark Twain, the writer of the book “The two views of the Mississippi” talks of the two sides of the Mississippi river; however, Twain uses ‘Mississippi’ symbolically to represent life. The short story underscores how individuals lose the ability to see beauty in common place especially in workplace; what appears as beauty to a common person appears dangerous to a profession in a particular work.
The first phase of the story opens with writer being so fresh to his environments with the river being central to his discussion. The magnificent, cool waters seem inseparable from the eyes of the writer. Something new and worthwhile came forth every time he looked at the river, what a wonderful sight; Twain notes, “And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day” (119).
The journey through the waters is an eye gluing one. Everything seems to catch his attention and he enjoys the scenes as those of a romantic play. The second phase of the story contrasts the first one. The phase starts with the writer acknowledging that something good has died in him. He ceased to see the beauty of the river.
The writer is full of knowledge of the river and no longer anxious of its beauty. His major focus changes to the safety it offers to his sailing. In the contrast, the writer brings out the secrets of the journey to knowledge. Twain says, “In truth, the passenger who could not read this book saw nothing but all manner of pretty pictures in it…whereas to the trained eye these were not pictures at all, but the grimmest and most dead-earnest of reading-matter” (119) which contrasts the knowledgeable and the unskilled.
The writer describes contrast between the views of the two that is, the passenger and the pilot. To both, the river is like a book, which only the pilot seems to understand the language used. The pilot understands the readings of the book and can interpret it either to suit his piloting or to portray danger to lives.
On the other hand, the passenger can only enjoy the pictures of the book, as its language is hard for him to comprehend. Not only is the language difficulty, but also like a child, he does not bother. As one grows daily to gain knowledge and specialize in a particular thing, so do innate qualities of the subject fade away. Little things matter to little minds while great minds think about great things.
The writer uses similes as tools of literature to capture the attention of the reader. Similes such as “great river as familiarly as I knew the letters of the alphabet” (Twain 120), underscores this assertion. This simile shows the extent to which the river has become familiar to Twain. Other tools used are figurative languages and personification of the river. Finally, Twain, says that he pities doctors; “What does the lovely flush in a beauty’s cheek mean to a doctor but a ‘break’ that ripples above some deadly disease?”(121).
A doctor will fail to see the beauty of a sick beautiful woman because he handles many of them and has gotten used to seeing the same. S/he will instead focus on the symptoms and condition of her health. Therefore, as explored in the examples given, Twain makes it clear that people have differing views in life depending on an individual.
Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. New York: Harper & brothers, 1901.