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Roughing It | Chapter Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • Summer 1861

    Twain departs with his brother from St. Louis, bound for Carson City, Nevada, by stagecoach.

    Chapter 1
  • Six days later

    Twain witnesses a Pony Express rider race past while on route.

    Chapter 8
  • The next night

    Twain's stagecoach is attacked by outlaws and the driver is killed.

    Chapter 9
  • In a few days

    Twain arrives in Salt Lake City and stays for two days, seeing the city and meeting Brigham Young.

    Chapter 13
  • Day nineteen

    Mark Twain crosses the Great American Desert of 40 miles without water.

    Chapter 20
  • The next day, August

    Twain arrives at Carson City, where his brother takes up the post of Secretary of Nevada Territory.

    Chapter 21
  • Late August

    Twain stakes a land claim at Lake Tahoe but accidentally burns it down. He returns to Carson City.

    Chapter 22
  • Some time later

    Mark Twain gets "silver fever" and begins his prospecting career as a miner.

    Chapter 26
  • Some time later

    Twain camps at Mono Lake for a week and nearly gets stranded on an island in the alkali water.

    Chapter 38
  • Not long thereafter

    Twain claims a potentially rich mine but loses it because he doesn't break ground soon enough.

    Chapter 40
  • Fall 1862

    Twain moves to Virginia City to become City Editor for the Virginia Daily Territorial Enterprise.

    Chapter 42
  • Summer 1864

    Mark Twain leaves Virginia City and moves to San Francisco.

    Chapter 55
  • October 8, 1865

    Twain experiences a major earthquake in San Francisco.

    Chapter 58
  • After that

    Twain tries and fails at pocket mining in Tuolumne, California, and elsewhere for three months.

    Chapter 56
  • March 1866

    Mark Twain travels to Hawaii as a newspaper correspondent.

    Chapter 62
  • Six months later

    Twain returns to San Francisco by boat, a trip that takes five weeks.

    Chapter 78
  • October 2, 1866

    Mark Twain gives his first public lecture at a theater, and it is a great success.

    Chapter 78
  • Immediately thereafter

    Mark Twain launches a career as a traveling lecturer in Nevada and California.

    Chapter 79
  • Not long after

    Friends play a trick on Twain, fooling him into thinking he is being robbed at gunpoint.

    Chapter 79
  • Soon after

    Mark Twain returns home to New York after his seven-year absence.

    Chapter 79

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Chapters 1–3 Twain's brother, Orion Clemens (unnamed in the text), is appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory, and Twain is envious... Read More
Chapters 4–6 The men attempt to sleep through the overnight journey but are bounced around as the coach crosses streams with steep ... Read More
Chapters 7–8 At Overland City, the stagecoach is changed out for a "mudwagon" and then continues on, crossing the sandy, shallow So... Read More
Chapters 9–11 The party reaches the Black Hills after passing Fort Laramie (Wyoming) and they are now officially in "hostile Indian ... Read More
Chapters 12–16 Twain's party continues on the overland route, overtaking a wagon train of emigrants and passing various local landmar... Read More
Chapters 17–20 The travelers leave Salt Lake City without satisfactorily understanding the Mormons, for they've heard conflicting sto... Read More
Chapters 21–25 The travelers arrive at Carson City, their final destination. They are introduced to Harris, who excuses himself mid-s... Read More
Chapters 26–28 Eventually, Mark Twain catches "silver fever" and believes that prospecting will bring him the riches he desires. He l... Read More
Chapters 29–33 Mr. Ballou leads the mining expeditions, but the men find no silver and their enthusiasm begins to wane. After much he... Read More
Chapters 34–37 Twain relates how landslides occur as snow melts from the mountains in the spring around Carson City. A bizarre landsl... Read More
Chapters 38–41 Mono Lake, surrounded by desert, is the huge crater of a dormant volcano that has filled with water. It has two barren... Read More
Chapters 42–46 At a loss for what to do next with his life, Mark Twain tells the reader how he had to strike out on his own at age 13... Read More
Chapters 47–51 Funerals, writes Mark Twain, tell a lot about a community, and the most noteworthy funerals in Virginia City are for "... Read More
Chapters 52–55 It is 1863 now and at the height of "flush times" in silver mining country. Mark Twain takes the opportunity to explai... Read More
Chapters 56–58 Mark Twain describes the "grave and somber" landscape of California, with its "monotonous" conifer trees, "imposing" m... Read More
Chapters 59–61 The young Mark Twain stays afloat by selling articles to various publications, but some of them shut down and the work... Read More
Chapters 62–66 A penniless Mark Twain returns to San Francisco and picks up work as the San Francisco correspondent for his old paper... Read More
Chapters 67–71 Mark Twain tells more of the customs and institutions of Hawaii, beginning with its government. The national legislatu... Read More
Chapters 72–77 Twain's party visits the ruined temple of Lono, whose high priest was uncle to Obookia, "a young native of fine mind" ... Read More
Chapters 78–79 Mark Twain boards a ship return to San Francisco "after half a year's luxurious vagrancy" in Hawaii. Their ship hits a... Read More
Appendixes Mormonism is about 40 years old at the time Twain is writing. He explains how Joseph Smith, who discovered the Book of... Read More
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