Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Le Tour Eiffel

This is an essay I wrote about Mark Twain a little while back. He was a cool guy. Anyway, enjoys.

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 out of over ten thousand tons of steel connected by 2.5 million rivets (Identity n. pag.). The structure itself, including the flagpole at its apex, is 324 meters tall and took more than two years to build (Identity n. pag.). This goliath of steel is known worldwide and is the best-known landmark of France. Every five years, the building needs to be repainted (Facts n. pag.), which is, suprisingly, the very reason for this building’s existence.

“If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno…” (Twain 226). Mark Twain used this simile as a way to sum up his opinion in “I. Was the World Made for Man,” a short article in The Damned Human Race, a collection of similar articles that can be found in Letters From the Earth: Uncensored Writings. However, this statement is not meant to be taken literally. Twain did not even agree with it or even agree with the rest of his article.

A fleck of paint is approximately a millimeter thick, the Eiffel Tower is 324,000 times taller than one. The difference is so significant that the fleck of paint could be considered completely devoid of any value compared to the rest of the tower. Would the fleck of paint at the top of the tower matter, even if it was a massive dent? As shown in the image to the left, no one at the bottom of the tower would see the minor impurity; anyone flying above the tower would be too far away to notice.

Since Twain said that the paint fleck was as man is on the geologic time scale, and it turns out that a paint fleck is insignificant anyway, syllogism shows that Twain was saying that man was insignificant. This contradicts the rest of the article, though, which declares that every animal on earth evolved to serve man in someway. The Eiffel Tower statement completely flips everything he had written on end and turns it into one big sarcastic remark.

Twain hated the French with a passion. Throughout Letters from the Earth, Twain denounces the people of France. The entire article “The French and the Comanches”(Twain 191 – 197) discusses how the French consume all their resources to slaughter their brethren, something even Native Americans are too civilized to do. After insulting the entire human race in “V. The Lowest Animal,” (Twain 232 – 242) another article in The Damned Human Race, Twain remarks, “Below [man] – nothing. Nothing but the Frenchman…” (Twain 239). This is another cold blow against the people of France. This brings up another question: why would he use the symbol of France, the Eiffel Tower, to defend an argument if he himself hates the French?

Twain probably used the Eiffel Tower for two reasons. First, at the time, it was the tallest building in the world, and held that title for twenty years after his death (Gary n. pag.). A second, and likely possibility is that the Eiffel Tower was, again, another flag for sarcasm. It is not logical for someone who hates France to cite the nations greatest symbol as an example to support their point. He could have easily said the largest building in the United States at the time. It is more than likely that Twain chose the Eiffel Tower to reinforce the sarcasm of his argument.

The Eiffel Tower can represent many things: France, a specific part of the human body, or even the evolution of life on Earth. Mark Twain, however, used this famous symbol as a way to convey sarcasm through his most hated people.


Works Cited

Twain, Mark. Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings. Perennial Classics edition. New York: Perennial Classics, 2004.

Identity Card. 2003. 19 December 2004. .

A Few Statistics. 2003. 19 December 2004. .

Gary. Eiffel Tower Facts. 7 May 1997. 19 December 2004. .

Dept. of Engineering: Taiwan National University. Tower38The Eiffel Tower, Paris ( 301m ).jpg. 19 December 2004. .


Btw, F. Scott Fitzgerald sucks.

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