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Course Hero. "Roughing It Study Guide." May 7, 2018. Accessed December 14, 2018.


Course Hero, "Roughing It Study Guide," May 7, 2018, accessed December 14, 2018,

Roughing It | Quotes


What I suffered in contemplating his happiness, pen cannot describe.

Mark Twain, Chapter 1

Upon hearing of his brother's appointment as Secretary of Nevada Territory, Twain is jealous of his good fortune and the adventures he will surely have in the West. He is full of youthful exuberance and eager to get out into the world himself, but has not had the means to do so yet.


There was a freshness and breeziness, too, and an exhilarating sense of emancipation from all sorts of cares and responsibilities.

Mark Twain, Chapter 2

Twain's trip to the West feels like a new beginning to him, one of freedom to choose a new path in life. He is leaving city life in "the States" and all of his old troubles behind, and he is ready for whatever adventure may come his way. This is the dream of the traveler, to escape. But Twain's narrative emphasizes the way escape also implies a reprieve from social decorum and a life outside the ruling hand of law and order.


We felt very complacent and conceited ... after we had added it to our list of things which we had seen and ... other people had not.

Mark Twain, Chapter 8

Twain and his fellow passengers come upon a pool of alkali water as they travel overland by stagecoach. Twain's satirical approach to travel and human nature is to characterize travel as being a way people set themselves apart from others. His own journalistic practices belie his approach, democratizing the experience.


We slept, if one might call such a condition by so strong a name—for it was a sleep set with a hair trigger.

Mark Twain, Chapter 9

This exciting detail is part of Twain's story of a stagecoach robbery and murder. This is exactly the type of sensational story his readers might wish to hear about the West. He relieves the mundane travel details of packing, eating, traveling, and sleeping with the more exotic details of guns and robbers to keep the reader interested.


Slade had to kill several men—some say three, others say four, and others six—but the world was the richer for their loss.

Mark Twain, Chapter 10

Twain's exaggerated account of Slade's reputation is excused in a neat double entendre. He implies that the world is a better place for their removal from it, and that Slade is a sort of hero for doing so. But he also suggests that Slade profited from their deaths. In a world outside the ordinary sense of right and wrong, both services are equally valuable, and Slade is to be admired, even though he is a murderer.


Take my word for it, ten or eleven wives is all you need—never go over it.

Brigham Young, Chapter 15

This unverified statement is supposedly made by Brigham Young to Mr. Johnson, who in turn told it to Twain. Twain includes the statement for humor, making Mormons and their practice of polygamy the butt of a joke. He also implies that once a taboo is broken, all bets are off: you may as well kill 100 men as 1. In a civilized society, the difference is of kind, not degree.


Moralizing, I observed, then, that 'all that glitters is not gold.' Mr. Ballou said I could go further than that [and say] that nothing that glitters is gold.

Mark Twain, Chapter 28

A naïve Twain has just shown his first discovery of "gold" to Mr. Ballou, an experienced miner. Ballou sets him straight, saying his find is worthless rock. Twain tries to recover from his embarrassment by offering a nugget of wisdom. Ballou shoots that down, too, with his pragmatic statement. He knows that real gold is actually dull in color when discovered—it doesn't glitter at all—and now Twain knows it, too. One of the few truly valuable lessons Twain shares about travel is the way in which the experience redefines one's expectations.


We had not less than thirty thousand 'feet' apiece in the 'richest mines on earth' ... and were in debt to the butcher.

Mark Twain, Chapter 29

Twain is living on speculation, always expecting to get rich from his investments in various mines, but these ventures never pay off. He owns a potential fortune on paper, but since none of the mines produce, Twain has no actual cash on hand to spend. His riches are an illusion he continues to believe in—a common hope of those who went West to make their fortunes during the gold and silver rushes of the era.


I knew it! We are rich! IT'S A BLIND LEAD!

Higbie, Chapter 40

Twain's mining partner Higbie is excited over discovering a vein of ore that promises to make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. This story, like all the others, ends in disappointment, however, when the men fail to do the work required to retain the claim legally. In this and the subsequent New York anecdote Twain shows both that even in the "lawless" Wild West, laws must still be abided by, and that even in the "law-abiding" East, good fortune can strike suddenly and without warning.


The first twenty-six graves in the Virginia cemetery were occupied by murdered men.

Mark Twain, Chapter 48

Twain highlights the roughness of life in Virginia City by describing the local custom of murder. A man was nobody until he had killed someone, so men killed one another to prove themselves and gain social standing, a cynical statement on how far people will go to prove they belong to high society.


In our day of telegraphs and newspapers his plan compels us to swear in juries composed of fools and rascals.

Mark Twain, Chapter 48

Twain bemoans the judicial system in the West, particularly its ineffective practice of trial by jury. Those selected for jury duty must swear that they are unfamiliar with the case. However, due to the speedy transmission of news, most educated citizens know about the cases and thus are excluded from jury duty. This leaves only a pool of uneducated jurors who are uniformed of events going on around them. "His plan" refers to Alfred the Great, who first introduced trial by jury to England.


Any white man can swear a Chinaman's life away in the courts, but no Chinaman can testify against a white man.

Mark Twain, Chapter 54

Twain points out the unfairness of the legal system, which is slanted in favor of whites and against other races. Twain is particularly affronted by this regarding the Chinese in the West, whom he greatly admires.


They fairly reveled in gold, whiskey, fights, and fandangos, and were unspeakably happy.

Mark Twain, Chapter 57

Twain romanticizes the Californian way of life, making it seem as if it is all high living and excitement. His opinion that the Californians were "unspeakably happy" is a bit of trumpery for the travelogue, intended to continue to lure the reader into the fantasy that life on vacation and away from home is inevitably better.


I felt like the Last Man, neglected of the judgment, and left pinnacled in mid-heaven, a forgotten relic of a vanished world.

Mark Twain, Chapter 76

Twain witnesses a breathtaking sunrise from atop a volcano in Hawaii, an experience that transcends ordinary reality for him. He is above the clouds, and none of the land below is visible except for the crater rim itself. The "Last Man" (1826) is a reference to a little-known novel by Mary Shelley depicting a post-apocalyptic figure stranded on earth following a plague. Twain had little sympathy for the native Hawaiians and the monarchy that ruled them, whom he felt were savage and pagan.


If you are 'no account,' go away from home, and then you will have to work, whether you want to or not.

Mark Twain, Chapter 79

In the last paragraph of the book, Twain delivers its "moral." He recommends that hard-working people stay home and make good there. However, the lazy or useless ("no account") should go out into the world to make their way. In doing so, they will be forced to work hard to survive, despite their own laziness. Of course, this is in opposition to the welcome respite from toil and care he anticipated early in his voyage. Thus, he ensures we treat his work as he intended, satirically.

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