Here are some similarities between King and Twain:
- Popularity of a genre: Twain brought the American experience to life in his humorous style, which has been recognized as a genre that Twain helped make popular in American culture with many imitators to follow in the years. King has done the same thing with the horror genre. The two genres are different, but both developed their respective genre to a new level.
- Courageous youth as protagonists: Some of Twain's most popular stories involve children and teens as protagonists. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) are examples where young characters are the heroes and lead the readers through an adventure, often involving dangerous situations. Stephen King is known for his young characters facing numerous horrors who lead the battle against whatever evil has befallen upon them. A few examples of this are The Shining (1977), Cycle of the Werewolf (1985), and IT (1986).
- Multiple dimensions of existence: Though the two authors do not hold the patent on stories that cross dimensions of exist, Twain and King do have popular works that involve this phenomenon. Twain's A Conneticutt Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) is a story that involves time traveling with a twist. Stephen King has explored several different twists on this same idea of time traveling and existing on multiple planes. To find an example, one only has to turn to King's Dark Tower series (1982-2012), which has characters existing on multiple planes at the same time. In "The Mist," a novella in the 1985 short collection Skeleton Crew, King shows what happens when dimensions between two planes is opened. This discussion does not include the planes between earthly and spiritual that is the basis for a good ghost story.
I would argue that there enough comparisons between the two authors to fill a lengthy paper. Does this make them both significant contributors to American literature? Can Twain's status as a mainstay in the study of American lit be used to argue that King too deserves such inclusion? These are questions that depend upon your own personal feelings about King and his work. I assert that King indeed has changed American literature and deserves to be studied with the masters, as he is one. tjb