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Titles for Mark Twain

The Title: Lodge’s Ideas applied to Mark Twain’s short stories

David Lodge states that, “titles could indicate a theme . . . promise a certain kind of setting and atmosphere . . .” In Mark Twain’s short stories, the titles tell the story. For example, The Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief, contains both the character of the story and the end as well. It is clear that the boy in the story is a bad boy but he “doesn’t come to grief” meaning he receives no punishment and does not face any trials for the trouble he causes or the sins he commits. This is proven in the story when Jim does many bad things including the murder of his family but continues to live a happy and successful life. Another example of a title telling a story would be The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper. It is clear that the story will tell the tale of a good little boy who does everything right yet receives no recognition for it and is unsuccessful. Again, the story proves that Jacob Blivens is a good little boy just like those from the Sunday School books yet no matter how good he tries to be and no matter how pure his intentions are, Jacob always gets in trouble. In the end, he does not prosper.

Lodge also stated that titles “bring into sharper focus of what the novel is about.” Mark Twain’s short stories began to contain religious connections and references. For example, Mark Twain’s story of Adam’s Diary is a clear reference to the story of Adam. The reader assumes that the story will be religious due to the title yet once they begin to read the story, it is discovered that the story is completely different than the one of Adam and Eve from the Bible. Instead of telling the story as it is, Twain completely changes the story to the awkward and difficult interactions between Adam and Eve. Another example would be The Recording Angel. It is fairly straightforward that the recording angel is the angel that is said to record an individual’s good and bad deeds. This short story presents a recording angel’s response to the sins of a dead New York man, Andrew Langdon.

Mark Twain’s short stories impact the reader’s view and condition them to see through a very specific lens. The stories with the longer titles told the story and practically told the reader what to expect whereas the titles with religious references prepared the reader to read the story through a religious lens. By doing this, Twain is able to present his message for each story much more clearly and there is no ambiguity in what is being said.


3 Comments

  1. kbdoyle09 says:

    How does telling the story in the title, or indicating religious themes in other titles, relate to the themes of the stories themselves?

  2. hmahmoud11 says:

    I agree with the point that the title gives the reader an insight as to what may happen in the story, or even on the main characters in the stories as well as the main theme of the story. As pointed out, this is seen in “The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper” and “The Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief”, but I also think it is extremely apparent in “Letter From the Recording Angel” as it shows us that this story will have a different theme than the rest of the stories, specifically the ones that include satire. I think you make a great point about how the title of “Extract’s From Adam’s Diary” is misleading to the reader, but why do you think Twain decided to go with a religious theme for a title as he seems to write with religious satire, mocking stories often told in Sunday Schools?

  3. hamzaans says:

    The Titles of Mark Twain’s works are usually very literal. They are long and actually give a brief summary of the story. For example, “The Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief” is exactly about a boy who acted bad and did not feel bad.

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