Mark Twain is a central figure in nineteenth-century American literature, and his novels are among the best-known and most often studied texts in the field. This clear and incisive introduction provides a biography of the author and situates his works in the historical and cultural context of his times. Peter Messent gives accessible but penetrating readings of the best-known writings including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He pays particular attention to the way Twain's humour works and how it underpins his prose style. The final chapter provides up-to-date analysis of the recent critical reception of Twain's writing, and summarises the contentious and important debates about his literary and cultural position. The guide to further reading will help those who wish to extend their research and critical work on the author. This book will be of outstanding value to anyone coming to Twain for the first time.