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Reality of a Dream
In the book Roughing It by Mark Twain, Twain gives his account of the West he encountered on his journey across the U.S. Twain depicts many aspects of the west such as outlaws, Indians, Mormons, and miners. All of the mentioned were and still are stereotyped by people not possessing the entire truth. Because of this many of the people are misinformed on the truth of these different sections of the western culture. Twain writes about the miners in Nevada and California. All of the miners were looking for the quick dollar but, most found themselves deeper in the hole. Twain's Roughing It as well as Vardis Fisher and Opal Holmes's Gold Rushes and Mining Camps Of The Early American West both show how miner's in the west were searching for the dream of making it rich and instead finding the harsh reality of chance.
To start the section on mining Twain writes of how he first hears of the fortunes being found. He tells of hearing the story the widow Brewster by saying, "The widow Brewster had struck it rich in the Golden Fleece and sold ten feet for $18,000 - she hadn't money enough to buy a crape bonnet before."(109). To this he replied, " And so on - day in and day out the talk pelted our ears and the excitement waxed hotter around us."(109). What the people were not realizing was the fact that these people finding prosperity were just a fraction of the miners who were not finding anything as Twain would later find out.
The problem of listening to these stories was further enhanced by the prospectors lack of knowledge of what they were about to do and that was mining itself. Twain himself showed his lack of reality when he said, " I confess without shame, that I expected to find masses of silver lying all about the ground."(115). He further showed his lack of knowledge when he brought back to camp a bag of what he thought to be gold. He was so proud of himself until the man he showed it to and asked what he thought of it replied, "I think nothing but a lot of granite rubbish and nasty glittering mica that isn't worth ten cents an acre."(117). Twain was showing how miners in general went out looking for the quick money but did not know exactly what that quick money was.
Not only does Twain show the lack of knowledge of the miners, Twain also depicts the miners looking for the fortune and working the land as if they know for sure their fortune is right where they are digging. Twain expressed this fact when he said, "I met men at every turn who owned from one thousand to thirty thousand feet in underdeveloped silver mines, every single foot of which they believed would shortly be worth from fifty to a thousand dollars- and as often as any they were men who had not twenty five dollars in the world."(121). This depiction of miners has a direct resemblance to the gambling of yesterday and today in the casinos.
Gambling and mining are both ways people look for the quick dollar. People go to Vegas with the hope of winning big. More often than not a person in Las Vegas will lose rather than win. This is just like the mining in the old west, more often than not the miners would not find anything and the money they used (gambled with) to finance themselves was gone. The dreams sought out by the gamblers and miners are often realized by the actual chances of getting their fortune. They are faced with reality and are more often than not sent back to work for money that is guaranteed. Twain touched on this when he described what his partner, in their failed Wide West claim, Higbie did after they lost the claim. Twain said, " after nine or ten years of buffeting and hard striving, he was at last in a position where he had twenty five hundred dollars, and said he meant to go into the fruit business in a modest way."(163).
Many times when the miners or gamblers do find their quick money they get greedy. They get greedy and
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Sagebrush School, Lecturers, Mark Twain, Mississippi River, Redding, Connecticut, American folklore, California Gold Rush, Gold rush, American frontier, Mining, Mark Twain in Nevada
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