Reviewing The Short Stories Of Mark Twain English Literature Essay

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Samuel Langhorne Clemens or more commonly known as his writing name 'Mark Twain' has produced many short stories throughout his career ranging from local papers to a collection of short stories published into popular and still selling books (The Regents of the University of California 2010). In this paper I am going to discuss the stylistic attributes that twain implicated within his short stories and more specifically I am divulging within the two short stories of 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg' and 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County'.

Whilst in Twain's earlier works, poke fun at human fallibility with delight and good nature, his later writings assumed a moralistic tone. Critics have detected an underlying deterministic philosophy within such later works. In his later thinking explaining that humans refuse to accept their inherently sinful nature, which inevitably leads to a moral fall. Pointing to the edifying benefits of sin, some critics read stories like 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg' as an indication of such stylistic change. This change is transferred from Twain's ideology to the reader's imagination through a number of techniques, most notably being the use of dramatic and verbal irony within the story of 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg'. Verbally Twain uses irony to discrepant between reality and the words he uses to represent reality, thus highlighting the obvious ironic tone. For example In 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,' the exaggerated descriptions of the town as 'most honest,' 'upright,' and 'unsmirched' identify this ironic tone of the narrator's voice, especially as the reader recognizes that this model of virtue has deeply offended a stranger and makes Mary feel threatened by burglars. This contradiction is riddled throughout the short story between the reality of Hadleyburg and its reputation for virtue. For example Mary's generally disdainful opinion of the neighbours, and their assumption that only Goodson, born and raised outside of Hadleyburg, could have been generous enough to give a stranger twenty dollars. Tone is also critical in the conveyance of the verbal irony as the narrator uses a neutral journalistic tone to report the ridiculous, self-serving and hypocritical behaviour of the townsfolk. His tone again produces a comic effect that emphasizes the contradiction between the town's reputation and reality.

Looking at 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County' it is noticeable to see similarly Twain uses comedic effects to stipulate his adamant views on American society. As in 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,' the jumping frog short story has underlying themes running through which comment and reflect on American society during the late eighteen hundreds, however unlike 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,' the story still has fun, good natured satiric that featured in Twain's earlier work. As a result, satire is an essential component of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Satire; being the technique that involves the manipulation of stereotypes and the use of exaggeration to point out the folly of a person or situation. In "Jumping Frog" Twain pokes fun at several social observations, including the tall tale genre, the American West, and the American East. Instead of merely using the tall tale writing technique for humorous effect, Twain also uses it to challenge various stereotypes held by many Americans at the time. These stereotypes being individuals living in the western United States stereotyped as uneducated, gullible fools. Moreover by contrast, Americans living in the eastern part of the United States being well-educated, sophisticated, and cultured. In a satirical twist, Twain's sophisticated Easterner actually comes across as an impatient and self-absorbed snob who gets fooled by both his friend and the garrulous Wheeler. Likewise, Wheeler is ultimately revealed to be not a rube, but a good-natured and experienced storyteller whose deadpan delivery is merely a front used to fool his supposedly sophisticated listener.

Further evidence of the stylistic nature of Mark Twain expressing observations within American society come within the literary form of the parable; in which 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg' closely resembles the literary form within an allegory. On its surface, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" tells a story about the demoralizing forces at work in an ordinary American town at the turn of the century. The motivations and desires of the townsfolk typify those of an average American community; and the townsfolk's tendencies to deceive, be greedy, and serve self-interests suggest parallels to the general behaviour of American society, specifically to the character of American society in the 1890s. This double meaning within the short stories has been explored into depth by critics and enthusiasts alike as critics interpret 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg' in terms of the Eden myth, (Hamori, A. 1995) in which Hadleyburg represents Eden. Edward and Mary become Adam and Eve figures; the offended stranger becomes the snake or Satan, and Goodson representing God. In 'The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, ' Hadleyburg can be described as an 'ironic Eden'; a paradise already 'fallen' into sin which an ironic Satan visits in order to restore rather than condemn. Rule asserts that American society became 'diseased by hypocrisy and money-lust'. Hadleyburg symbolizes the status of humankind after the fall into sin.

Highlighting the setting of Twain's short stories is key in interpreting these social observations that I have mentioned earlier, in the same respect there are stylistic techniques in which this is achieved. For example "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" takes place in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, shortly after the California Gold Rush of 1849. Mark Twain's experience with Simon Wheeler and Wheeler's stories about Jim Smiley both occur in Angel's Camp, a mining camp located in Calaveras County, California. Wheeler tells Twain his stories in a local bar, the type of place where stories are often shared. To authenticate the sense of such a setting, Twain uses diction as a stylistic technique as dialect and vernacular language are used to establish the setting of such a tale. In "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," Twain uses language to highlight the differences between his characters. For example, when Twain speaks, he uses grammatically proper English. Simon Wheeler, however, tells his tale in the vernacular, or common-day language, of the American West. Wheeler ignores many grammatical rules, and speaks with an "accent'' of sorts. He says 'feller' instead of 'fellow,' 'reg'lar' instead of 'regular,' and even 'Dan'l' for 'Daniel.' This in turn authenticates the characters within the short story and further indulges the reader within the views and world of Mark Twain.

Twain uses stylistic techniques to engross the reader within the world of his selected short story, both to entertain, but more importantly convey an underlying social criticised message which reflects and captures American society through the late eighteenth century. Both his views and his writing changing throughout that period; adapting to changing social trends whilst still captivating his audience through his time and many times to come.