The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts
The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts are the last collection of works written by
University of California Press
Mark Twain before his death in 1910. This story (No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, Print shop ver.), left unpublished by his death, was never completely finished, but remains the most complete of three other drafts written by Twain (St. Petersburg Fragment, The Chronicle of Young Satan, and Schoolhouse Hill). This collection, published posthumously, includes several different editions attempting to reconstruct Twain’s final work as faithfully as possible (Not in the case of Albert Bigelow Paine’s edition, however, which has “been shown to be a textual fraud”.) The version by the UC at Berkeley press remains as the complete collection of these works.
Number 44, the name by which Twain refers to the protagonist in his manuscripts, has inspired many extremely thorough and well-researched theories by literary scholars throughout the years. I, in my well-meaning enthusiasm, disregarded them all as I embarked on my own curious, poorly-researched inquiry to the significance of the Number 44.
The significance of the number 4 itself (at least in a religious sense) pertains to creation; the fourth day being the day the sun and stars came into existence. Four holds even greater significance as the number by which we (humanity) generally adhere in our lives: four frequently reoccurs in our seasons, cardinal points, phases of the day and night, etc., all of a cyclical nature. Even the four horsemen, said to arise on humanity’s judgement day, function as the conclusion of a cycle. Together these phases function in a harmonious balance of inter-reliance, a wholeness. Given this symbolism, it’s association with God makes sense.
The number 44 immediately brings to mind duplicity and duality. Replicating the number 4 mirrors the symbol of creation, which is inverted into a symbol of destruction. Those two figures of duality, the figure of creation and destruction, also reflect the simultaneous existence of Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain. In his last words to August, No. 44 insistence in life being a dream bring to mind the last few chapters of the Kaplan biography discussing Twain’s preoccupation with the difference between the waking world and the world within his dreams. If No. 44 truly is a part of a “a grotesque and foolish dream”, does this imply that Twain himself, as a creation of Clemens, is a one as well? Perhaps his obsession with altered reality created a distinction between his view of the world through is dreams and his view of the waking world that destabilized his security in being the dual figure of Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain and No. 44 is a reflection of that destabilization.