Ad Hoc Short Story Week featuring Mark Twain: Day 5
“A Day at Niagara” completes this week of Mark Twain stories and this one happens to be my favorite Twain story I’ve read so far. Twain’s fictionalized version of himself takes a trip to Niagara Falls and expresses his comments along the way. His attitude toward the touristy area is similar to the attitude I have had on occasion toward Disney World. I was surprised as he described the Falls area with all of the hotels, gift shops, restaurants, and special tours at how much it sounded like a tourist attraction today as opposed to 1869 when the story was published.
One of Twain’s more famous stories is “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. I read this in Junior High as an example of how well Twain wrote in a dialect or accent. Much of that story was told by a narrator with a thick southern accent. Stories like that make me want to read it out loud to get the full effect. “A Day At Niagara” makes use of dialects in an incredibly funny manner (although probably politically incorrect by today’s standards). As the narrator visits some of the gift shops where Native Americans are making jewelry, he attempts to talk to them in their own “dialect”. Of course this could come off completely offensive if it wasn’t for the fact that the “Native Americans” respond back to him in their own accent and dialect – and it’s by no means Native American.
In my opinion this story better illustrates how the writing of dialect and accents can make a story brilliant. And I have a feeling that writing in various accents isn’t as easy as Twain makes it look.