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Intertextuality In Mark Twain’s Stories

Using intertextuality, Mark Twain draws connections between literary aspects of his short stories in order to strengthen their meaning, as well as the message he is trying to send.  The two most commonly used forms of intertextuality in Twain’s stories are allusion and parody. Allusion can be seen most often in “The Story of The Bad Little Boy Who Did Not Come To Grief” and “The Story of The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper.” Twain uses allusion in these stories to create a stronger sense of irony in each story, in which the bad little boy leads a successful life while the good little boy dies before achieving his goals. This shows the vast differences between reality as opposed to sunday school books Parody is seen in “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” as well as “Eve’s Diary.” In using parody, Twain creates new perspectives in the form of religious icons in order to give the readers characters that they may relate to.

Intertextuality In the stories “The Story of The Bad Little Boy…” and “The Story of The Good Little Boy..”  allows Twain to better display the main point behind them. “The Story of The Bad Little Boy..” tells the story of a child named Jim who was always getting himself into trouble, yet never having to face the consequences. “And he grew up, and married, and raised a large family, and brained them all with an ax one night, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality.” The irony in this story shows the reality in which a person who is unlawful and often cuts corners is the person who is granted a prosperous and successful life. In contrast, “The Story of The Good Little Boy..” tells the story of a child named Jacob Blivens, who lives his life in accordance with his Sunday school books, yet always finds himself bearing the penalties of a bad little boy. This story further develops the message that shows the reader the difference between the real world and a sunday school book. However, although Jacob was trying his best to be a good little boy, his ulterior motive was to be in his own sunday school book, which tainted his morals leading to his ultimate demise at the end of the story. Intertextuality between the stories creates irony, in which Jim turns out to live a successful and prosperous life, while Jacob Blivens dies before even accomplishing his goal of being part of a Sunday school book. Another use of intertextuality in the two stories is structural parallelism, in which the syntax and structure of both stories are similar. Syntax in each story creates the illusion that the narrator mimics a person’s regular speech, this is shown through the use of long sentences and long titles. The use of this structure throughout each story creates the illusion that the narrator is speaking to the reader, giving the reader a reason to relate to the stories.

Twain’s stories “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” and “Eve’s Diary” also involves intertextuality to create a sense of perspective on this twist of the Abrahamic genesis story. Each story is told from the viewpoint of either Adam or Eve, giving details of their day to day lives and how they interact with one another. In “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” Twain uses Juvenalian satire, to create a negative and pessimistic atmosphere in Adam’s entries. Throughout his diary there are many entries that showcase his disdain with Eve’s presence, and his confusion with her actions. In contrast to “Extracts from Adam’s Diary,” “Eve’s Diary” displays a more positive tone, rather than writing about the tiring and cumbersome events of the day, she details the beautiful nature that she discovers. Pastiche is used in these two stories as they continue to allude to the Abrahamic genesis story. An instance of irony in these is the use of a religious story as the backdrop, without ever mentioning God. The title “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” is also indicative of the fact that this does not include Adam’s entire diary, while “Eve’s Diary” is complete and short. This shows the difference in perspective between the two protagonists, in which Adam spends his time remembering the difficult details of the day, while Eve explores the nature surrounding her, not consistently remembering to keep track of it in her diary. Structural parallelism is also used in these stories, having each of them formatted with entries by the day, at times skipping days, months, or even years. The use of the diary format within these two short stories allows for the reader to understand the specific perspective of each figure. Twain uses parody by taking the important religious figures and putting them in positions that the reader may relate to, such as how Adam uses his diary to complain about the stress of his day, similar to what people may do nowadays. Adam’s diary is representative of a person with many experiences that shape his vision of the world surrounding him. However, Eve’s diary is representative of innocence, finding beauty in everything surrounding her while still being aware of her situation.

Overall, Intertextuality is important in Mark Twain’s stories to generate an atmosphere in which the reader may relate to his short stories. While, at the same time criticizing common social issues such as the broken moral compass that is present within societies as shown in his stories “The Story of The Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief,” as well as “The Story of The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper.” Twain takes advantage of intertextuality in his stories to show the bigger picture as well as comment on issues present within his society.


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