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Satirical Influence Of Mark Twain English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1905 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Mark Twain is most commonly known as an author. However, if one looks deeper into his writing other than just looking at the words, he is not only an author he is a humorist, as well. Twain's style of writing in which he uses profound sarcasm, dialect, irony, wit, and most importantly, satire, forms his writing to fit the style of himself as a humorist. This powerful style of writing in which Twain uses sets him apart from most other common writers and their style's of writing. Mark Twain uses his satirical style of writing to ridicule the ideas of social conformity in many of the short stories in his collection "Tales, Speeches, Essays, and Sketches." He uses various literary techniques, most importantly this humorous satire to mock and ridicule common issues of politics, religion, and society.

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The literary form of satire is most commonly used to scorn, mock, or expose human weaknesses through the use of irony, sarcasm, and ridicule. The use of satire is most commonly used not only for humor, however, for the purposes of bringing about improvement upon the things in which the author is ridiculing such as, politics, religion, or society in general. Twain often uses methods of wit and humor to criticize aspects of human society in which he strongly frowns upon. Most works of satire include non-satirical humor in order to give slight liberation from what may be seen as relentless preaching against a disapproved subject. However, all methods of satire are not humorous. Some works of satire use modest amounts of or absolutely no humor at all. But rather use other methods such as irony, parody, or burlesque, however intended in a satirical matter (Satire).

Mark Twain uses satire in most of his stories. He does this by using various methods of literary devices in order to ridicule or mock a certain subject within human society in which he does not agree with or would like to see improvement upon. Twain uses specific satirical writing in three of his stories including "The Christmas Fireside: The Story of the Bad Little Boy That Bore a Charmed Life," "Story of the Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper", and "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." In these three stories, Twain uses specific satire to ridicule certain aspects of social conformity in human society.

In his story, "The Christmas Fireside: The Story of the Bad Little Boy That Bore a Charmed Life," Twain uses various elements of not necessarily humorous satire to portray certain aspects of social conformity that may need to be addressed. In this story, irony is greatly used in the theme. It pertains to a young boy who does everything in his power to be bad and do bad deeds, however, instead of getting in trouble and dealing with consequences like that of most people, this young boy never gets into trouble, and ironically receives goodness in return of his badness. "This Jim bore a charmed life-that must have been the way of it. Nothing could hurt him. He even gave the elephant in the menagerie a plug of tobacco, and the elephant didn't knock the top of his head off with his trunk" (Twain, 22). Despite Jim's terrible actions, he never received any consequences. He never got into any trouble. This presents irony to what occurs with most people. In the common human society, if a person does a bad deed, they usually receive consequences in return. It is not common in society for any one person who can do any bad thing without being punished at some point in time. Twain also uses elements of satire in this story to introduce the idea that conforming to society is not always the best bet. Jim often did not conform to most of society by doing bad things, and in return he received good things. This may be a deeper message from Twain revealing the idea that it is sometimes better not to conform to society.

Twain uses a similar method of satire in his connecting story, "Story of the Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper." Both of these stories seem to be ironic towards each other in a way. While the bad little boy, Jim does bad deeds and receives no punishment, the good little boy, Jacob does good deeds and receives no reward. While most people in society get rewarded in some way for good behavior and deeds, Twain's story shows different. He uses irony to portray the idea that doing too much of a good thing for the wrong reasons can often lead to bad endings. "And once, when some bad boys pushed a blind man over in the mud, and Jacob ran to help him up and receive his blessing, the blind man did not give him a blessing at all, but whacked him over the head with his stick and said he would like to catch him shoving him again and then pretending to help him up" (Twain, 50). In this story the good little boy does many good deeds, however, for the wrong reasons. He is only doing these deeds in order to receive blessings and praise, however, never receives reward in the end, ironically because he is not doing good deeds for rightful purposes. Twain uses irony in this story to ridicule not only society, but the way in which people's minds tend to work at times. He uses satire in this story, as well to introduce the idea that not conforming to society could be more rewarding. Due to the fact that many children do take part in good deeds for wrongful purposes, if Jacob decided to go against the social norm and actually do good deeds for the right reasons, he may have been more compensated in the end.

Twain also uses satirical methods in his story, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," in order to ridicule human society, social conformity, and human temptation. This story pertains to a seemingly pure, incorruptible, and perfect town to the outside eye, notorious for its dependable and truthful people who are taught to steer clear of temptation. However, after one looks deeper into the individual, the ideas of temptation become involved, and the town no longer seems pure. After causing offense to a stranger who entered the town, the stranger inquires about vengeance on the town by shaming it and revealing each individuals true fall towards temptation. The stranger drops off a sack full of lead that is thought to be gold worth $40,000 and tells the town members that whoever proves to be the one who gave the stranger life-altering advice will receive the money. All members of this town prove to fall towards temptation when all nineteen of the ones tested reply with the same answer after each receive a paper telling them what the supposed advice was. Twain uses satire in this story to reveal the idea that it was foolish for all the people in Hadleyburg to pretend to avoid temptation at all times, due to the fact that it is easy to corrupt individuals who have on no account been in the situation to have temptation tested. Twain's satirical method in this story tests the idea of both temptation and guilt among human society, and the way in which the individual conforms to society. Twain may be trying to reveal the idea that ideas of the individual are superior than those of conforming to a society as a whole. If one conforms to society as it seems to be, one may fall into the evils of temptation and guilt.

Mark Twain's satirical methods are evident in most of his stories and novels. His use of irony, sarcasm, and ridicule to reveal and criticize weaknesses and faults of human society, including religion, politics, and social conformity are clear. Twain perhaps, however, did not intentionally use humor and satire in his literature. His views on literature in broad-spectrum were that literature and the arts were of vast social significance, and that merely the rational and sensible had true importance in both literature and the arts. Twain inferred that humor was "only a fragrance, a decoration in literature" and it should educate something the author would like the reader to comprehend and act in response to. As a writer he has always preached and said, "If the humor came of its own accord and uninvited I have allowed it a place in my sermon" (Briden). Twain does not necessarily write his sermons for the purposes of humor. He would have written the stories exactly the same, even if humor was or was not utilized.

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Although Twain's satirical methods were not always intentional, he often seemed to use these literary forms for various reasons. Twain not only wrote because he took pleasure and passion in writing, but he made it his living, he wrote to make money. He benefited from the great public recognition, and his wholehearted wit and insightful satirical methods paid him admiration from both reviewers and fans. Due to the fact that he so much enjoyed the popularity and was deeming quite profitable from his style, Twain kept his writings unique to others in order to keep the public eye on his writings. His writings were also during a time of great depression due to the Civil War taking place. Twain kept his humor going in his stories in order to take the public mind off of the tragic time and events that were taking place. Before most of his writings, Twain worked on the Mississippi River as a river pilot until the American Civil War began and passage along the river was restrained. His life and job was halted and affected by this moment of the Civil War, so he used satire in his writings to aid the rough times like these that hardened his life and the lives of others.

Satire was not only a part of Twain's writings, but a part of his personality, as well. Twain's whole life before most of his writings took place was very satirical in manner that went right along with his personality. He was very immature and picked up bad habits of drinking, smoking, and gambling. Along with these traits he also began to use satire in his language, with sarcasm and swear words. The satire evident in most of Twain's life and personality bled into most of his writings. Twain's life experiences also influenced his satire into his writings. He often wrote most of his stories based off of experience. When Twain was younger and his family lived in Hannibal, Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River, that provided motivation for the fictional town of St. Petersburg in his novel, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Missouri was a slave state at this point in time and Twain became educated with the institution of slavery, a theme that he explored in much of his later writing. Like the past events that influenced Twain's writing, his past personality and experience with satire influenced his writing, as well.

Like Mark Twain's writing being very satirical and humorous, his life was like this, as well. Twain has once been quoted saying: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together'" (Kirshon). Ironically, Twain's prophecy was correct. He died of a heart attack one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth. Not only was Twain's writing ironic and satirical, but his life was, as well. His life influenced his writing and his writing influenced his life.


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