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Repetition within Mark Twain’s short stories.

“Hemingway rejects traditional rhetoric, he instead implies it in a more meaningful way”.

As one learns the truth of their surroundings they either adapt to understand it or are confused by it. David Lodges satirical ideology can be seen within Mark Twain’s stories through the usage of repetition. Repetition places emphasis on a certain word or action, and when a word is repeated it is often compared to other instances of it being used. Within both of Mark Twains stories ofThe Story of The Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief” and “The Story of The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper” Mark Twain’s conveys satirical messages through Ernest Hemingway’s style of repetition.

Within the first short story Mark Twain uses key terms repeatedly to show their importance. For example, within the story it repeats the difference in the protagonist’s name and how it is Jim and not the James of the bad boys in the typical Sunday school stories. For example, “But it was different with this fellow. He was named Jim”, “bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books”. “It was strange, but still it was true that this one was called Jim.” This was all to convey the notion that “everything turned out differently with him from the way it does to the bad James in the books.” The stories focus is on Jim’s misdeeds as a child. However, when Jim becomes an adult his violent actions are glossed over.

In the opposite short story of The Story of The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper it provides the complimentary message. Even good members of society can be unfairly incriminated by society. This is exemplified through the repeated examples of Jim doing foul actions and walking away scot free while at times punishing Jacob for his misdeeds. “Jim fell out of the tree too, but he fell on him, and broke his arm and Jim wasn’t hurt at all.” The good boy Jacob learns that society doesn’t reward its members based on their good behavior. He learns like all mature individuals of the world of the harsh possibility that society may not punish the wicked but actually reward them. He is confused and angry at such a realization and dies regretful. “Whatever this boy did, he got into trouble. The very things the boys in the books got rewarded for turned out to be about the most unprofitable things he could invest in.

His satire can be seen through the way the story is told and the narrators reactions to it. Twain makes the reader realize the hypocrisy adults ultimately accept in society. Adults teach their kids to abide by certain ideals that aren’t necessarily true in the real world. They participate in a morally corrupt, materialistic society and accept it. The bad boy realizes that the ideals taught are not the truth and uses it to his advantage to commit bad deeds while benefiting from the people beside him. In the end he becomes praised and looked up to within society while committing the atrocities that he did. This is clearly seen within the last few lines of the story as it depicts him as a respected man within society and part of the cities “legislature” despite having cheated and killed members of his own family. This abrupt twist depicts how we elect those that are morally depraved and place them in positions of power and respect when they deserve none.

Within “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It” the character “Misto C” doubts the hardship of his “Aunt Rachel” as she seems to never be gloomy. This shows both the carelessness and ignorance of the privileged when looking at those of lower status. “Misto C” could have never guessed that his “Aunt Rachel” struggled as she seemed fine and jolly on the exterior. He never payed attention to her struggles and assumed that she never had any trouble within her 60 years of life because of her ever-smiling face. This can be seen when he asks, “Aunt Rachel, how is it that you’ve lived sixty years and never had any trouble?”. The subject in question Aunt Rachel replies “Misto C, is you in arnest” (earnest), incredulous that he could possibly believe she’s lived a life without hardship especially because she was, as he put it “colored” and “our servant”. She goes on to reveal her life which was filled with loss. The loss of her husband and six of her seven kids. The only comfort in her life is her reuniting with her last son. Repetition can be seen here to show Aunt Rachels extreme anger and personality. These emotions destroy the notion which “Misto C” came up with which is she’s lived without any trouble. She repeats a phrase her mother used to say in times of extreme anger.  “I want you to understan’ dat i wa’n’t bawn in de mash to be fool’ by trash! I ‘s one o’ de ole Blue Hens Chickens, I is!”. The second mention of this phrase is when her son tore his wrist and hurt his head her mother said the same thing and bandaged the child herself as nobody else did. “So I says dat word, too, when I’s riled.” The third instance is when some of the young black soldiers went into the kitchen and disturbed her which is how her son started recollecting his memories. After Rachel does recognize her son she “oh, no, Misto C, I aint had no trouble. A’n no joy!” Mark Twain subtly refers to the lack of empathy and ignorance that the higher echelons of society have. This belief that Aunt Rachel lived a life with no troubles is invalid as seen in the cases of repetition of the phrase only occurs in times of anger or distraught.

Within the “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” Adam initially dislikes the changes that Eve brings to “the Garden of Eden”. The stereotypical views he holds about Eve seems to encompass stereotypical views about women as well. She proposes new names, rules and creates change within the Garden. He complains of these changes and deems them “unnecessary” and extra.” “There seems to be too much legislation, too much fussing, and fixing, and tidying up.” Another example of this would be the “Keep off the grass” sign. This was a sign that was put up by Eve. This action shows how Adam didn’t want the changes that occurred initially with Eves arrival but seems to accept her antics later. Twain uses societies stereotypical characteristics of women to portray them in a negative light within Adams diary. This is done by emphasizing the actions of Eve that displease Adam. For example, on Tuesday Adam reports that “she has littered the whole estate with execrable names and offensive signs: This way to the whirlpool”. One problem Adam has is the inability to question Eve and her stereotypical attitude of constant nagging and never being satisfied. “It is best not to ask her, she has such a rage for explaining”. This coupled with the amount of times which Eve is unsatisfied with Adam leaves him frustrated. “not satisfactory to her, went over in a tub- still not satisfactory. Tedious complaints about my extravagance. I am too much hampered here. What I need is a change of scene”. Later, Lodge progresses the story by depicting Eve as a harbinger of trouble as she eats the forbidden fruit and introduces death into the world. Not only does Eve disregard Adams warnings she tries to blame the catastrophe on him using very flawed reasoning. This again depicts a negative stereotype of women, they never take the blame or admit to their mistakes. Eve says that because Adam jested around the time of the catastrophe and ate a “chestnut”, or as the serpent put it an “aged or moldy joke”. However, in the end Adam reminisces about the past and feels as if Eves boisterous voice is better than silence. This is due to him recognizing the positive stereotypes of women, such as the “goodness of their hearts and sweetness of their spirit.”

By repeating certain actions or phrases Twain places emphasis on them. This conveys a message about society. This shows us that as we learn the truth of our surroundings we either adapt to understand it or are confused by it. In the case of “The Story of The Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief” and “The Story of The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper” Jim understands and takes advantage of this truth whereas Jacob cannot and suffers by imitating the wishful Sunday stories. In “A True Story, Repeated Word For Word As I Heard It” “Mister C” cannot fathom the possibility of Aunt Rachel suffering as she was in a lower status and he hadn’t seen her sad. This disregard or carelessness lead him to be confuddled when he heard about her strife. Within the “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” Twain exemplifies the negative stereotypical characteristics of women onto Eve’s character and repeatedly showcases instances of each negative stereotype. Adam, the representative of males, however understands Eve’s good side and prefers her company compared to running away from her in the beginning.


1 Comment

  1. majedshab says:

    You make very interesting points about repetition and how Twain uses it in his stories. However, you mentioned repetition in “Extracts from Adams Diaries” maybe if you gave some insight to “Eve’s Diary” it would have brought up interesting points from two different points of view.

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