By Peter Messent (auth.)
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But the content of the episode has additional interest. The conflicts over property and title described, the social and legal confusion that occurs as one layer of land covers up another, and the comic chaos suggested in the idea of digging one ranch out from beneath the other, implicitly interrogates the neat and ordered process Turner implied in the 'law of continuity and development' he proposed for western history. 7 The idea of an evolutionary shape to history can accommodate temporary confusion along its way.
I briefly suggest, at the end of my third section, how a similar sense of unmooring inhabits this book. I am also interested here in Twain's use of genre. As my book proceeds, I show how the thematic contradictions and instabilities 26 Mark Twain in his work relate to his formal practice: the organisation of his texts and the generic shifts within and between them. The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It (1872), the next book I discuss, are travel narratives, and this form particularly suited Twain's artistic methods.
The figurative link is then reinforced as he strips to his underclothes, not quite naked but nearly so, to increase comfort in the womb-like interior of the vehicle: 'as "dark as the inside of a cow," as the conductor phrased it in his picturesque way' (pp. 65-6). Roughing It, then, initially appears to be structured round the idea of the restorative return to the primitive. Jeffrey Steinbrink, accordingly, describes the first stages of the trip West as 'a flight from civilization to conditions more ...