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Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum
120 N. Main St.
Hannibal, MO 63401
We arrived in Hannibal, Missouri, home town to American mythmaker and story telling extraordinaire Mark Twain without incident. Boy, was it without incident. Twain romanticized Missouri, but apparently if you aren't on a raft or riverboat, or fleeing Injun Joe in a cave, it's a fairly dull place. Witness that our cow score remained at 0-0 for the hundred miles or so all the way to the town.
As for Hannibal itself, it's is absolutely what one thinks of when one visualizes a 19th Midwestern town, at least in terms of its extent, rather dignified Main Street buildings. The Twain boyhood home, plus the other buildings that inspired locales in his most famous works (most notably the home of the girl who was the "real life" Becky Thatcher), are reasonably well preserved. But the whole thing is quite commercial and tourist oriented. (Though the visit did give Mary the chance to repeatedly invoke Tom by declaring "My sore toe is mortified!")
The Twain museum has some cartoon like representations of moments from the book, and some merely adequate displays about Twain's life and work, few of which are well organized. The boyhood home is better laid out, and does help demonstrate why Twain remains so beloved and influential. It also points out unexpected parallels between Twain and Lincoln, in that both had poor childhoods and hardscrabble youths, though the latter was a saint compared to the gleeful rapscallion that was Samuel Clemons. Both came to recognize the evils of slavery and addressed the issue in gorgeously simple (but not simplistic) writing. Both suffered numerous family tragedies, and neither has a single living descendent. Both were men who suffered from melancholy, and yet both were so very, very funny, in their own ways.
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