Character Analysis Clarence King


The member of his generation whom Henry admires most is Clarence King. King is brilliant and unorthodox, ultimately failing because he takes on too many risks. But when Henry meets him, on a geological expedition in Estes Park in 1871, he judges King to be one of the brightest and the best. King is a brilliant geologist. At the age of thirty, within a year of meeting Adams, King publishes Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (1872), considered a classic in its time. In 1878, he publishes a significant guide to method, Systematic Geology. King is also charismatic, clever, energetic, and humorous. He knows art as well as mining and knows women, the reader is told, as well as either. In fact, King lives a double life that includes a common-law marriage to an African-American woman, almost unheard of in his social stratum during these years shortly after the end of slavery. King is an expert on Cuba and correctly anticipates the rebellion that leads to the Spanish-American War (1898). In many ways, the robust, daring King is everything that Henry Adams is not. Henry is baffled when King loses his financial and mental stability during the financial upheaval of 1893 as the value of silver drops by fifty percent. King has taken too many risks in his mining ventures, and he loses his best supporters to death or their own financial strain. He takes refuge in an asylum but recovers sufficiently to visit Cuba with Adams in 1894. However, he seems to be a ruined man and dies in 1901. For Adams, King remains a brilliant star; Henry seems to deny that his friend's excesses have lead to his destruction.