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Read the passage. excerpt from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain Published in 1883, the first half of Mark Twain’s memoir documents his days as a…

Read the passage.

excerpt from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

Published in 1883, the first half of Mark Twain’s memoir documents his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River.

She is long and sharp and trim and pretty; she has two tall, fancy-topped chimneys, with a gilded device of some kind swung between them; a fanciful pilot-house, all glass and “gingerbread,” perched on top of the “texas” deck behind them; the paddle-boxes are gorgeous with a picture or with gilded rays above the boat’s name; the boiler-deck, the hurricane-deck, and the texas deck are fenced and ornamented with clean white railings; there is a flag gallantly flying from the jack-staff; the furnace doors are open and the fires glaring bravely; the upper decks are black with passengers; the captain stands by the big bell, calm, imposing, the envy of all; great volumes of the blackest smoke are rolling and tumbling out of the chimneys a husbanded grandeur created with a bit of pitch-pine just before arriving at a town; the crew are grouped on the forecastle; the broad stage is run far out over the port bow, and an envied deck-hand stands picturesquely on the end of it with a coil of rope in his hand; the pent steam is screaming through the gauge-cocks; the captain lifts his hand, a bell rings, the wheels stop; then they turn back, churning the water to foam, and the steamer is at rest.

gingerbread: wood cut to form a fancy scrolled pattern

boiler-deck: the ship’s boiler, which creates the steam, is located on this deck

jack-staff: pole for a ship’s flag

husbanded: economical; frugal

grandeur: impressiveness

pitch-pine: a short leaved pine tree

gauge-cocks: valves that determined the water level, ensuring a boat does not travel into water that is too shallow

How do phrases such as “port bow” and “gauge-cocks” affect the passage?

  • A) They make a second, symbolic level of meaning that suggests how much of what happens on the ship is merely for show.
  • B) They give the passage authenticity and highlight Twain’s own expertise and knowledge of steamboats.
  • C) They add humor to the passage, highlighting Twain’s understanding that such technical language will confuse the reader.
  • D) They serve to answer questions that Twain knows the reader will have when faced with a passage on steamboats.

 

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