This article attempts to situate Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger1 in the context of American optimism at the onset of the twentieth century. While often considered one of the most pessimistic of Twain's novels, The Mysterious Stranger is portrayed as Twain's engagement with the philosophy of existentialism. Specifically, the article examines the ways that the text engages the existential premises of Jean Paul Sartre. Rather than abandoning his American optimism, Twain essentially destroys the visible world of endless warfare and religious obstruction to allow Americans to reclaim their Emersonian optimism by suggesting that we all 'Dream other dreams and better.' This article argues that the margins of the text suggest an existential attempt to come to terms with the disappointments of the Gilded Age and the inconsistencies of early twentieth-century America and its capitalistic society.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies