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David Lodge to Mark Twain Introducing a Character

Introducing a character is the first step in inviting the reader to feel welcomed in a story. English writer, David Lodge, states in his “The Art of Fiction” that when introducing a character, there comes many different techniques and approaches (Lodge 67).

David Lodge states that there are multiple versions of characters, for all characters are different. For example, there are major, minor, and flat characters; with each character, there is a different method to introduce them (Lodge 67). Furthermore, Lodge declares that the most repetitive form of introducing a character in older fiction is by simply “providing a physical description and brief biographical summary” of that character. For as many other aspects of life, fiction has evolved; modern fiction chooses to take a more general approach of introducing a character (Lodge 68). In modern fiction, the character would most likely be developed throughout the story as more and more actions that the character commits, more and more the reader gets to know who the character is (Lodge 69).

The first story presented in “The Best Short Stories of Mark Twain” is titled the “The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief”. The title in itself provides a minor introduction to the main character of the story. It is important for the reader to keep in mind that the entire story is told in a third person perspective implying that everything said about the main character, Jim, is how he is portrayed to all surrounding people. The narrator begins the story by comparing Jim to other bad children and the characteristics that those “bad” children possess. He states that most bad children that are read about are named “James” and that they usually all have “sick mothers” who are unable to provide guidance for their children. Twain provides no physical description for Jim, the purpose of this can be inferred that Twain tries to make a connection to not only one specific case of bad little boy but perhaps he tries to coincide the story of Jim to the lives of thousands of young children for this is a repetitive story that humanity witnesses throughout all of history. The only way the audience can actually understand who Jim is by understanding the actions that Twain tells us that he has committed. For example, Jim steals apples from a farmer and knocks out the guard dog; if this incident were to be mentioned in a Sunday school book, Jim would surely be spanked. However, since this story is spoken about as if it is a reality, Jim was able to move on with his life freely with no consequences for everyone must commit mistakes in order to grow in life.

The next story presented is that of a boy named Jacob Blivens in “The Story of the Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper”. In this story, Twain introduces the good boy by stating all the actions he chooses to never commit. These actions include being late for school, robbing birds’ nests, lying, playing marbles on Sunday…all things that he would never do. Similar to the story of Jim who was the bad little boy, Twain provides zero context of how his physical description is portrayed to the world. Twain does this to create an emphasis on humanity. Jacob is just a minor example of false teachings in life. Humans are often told in order to live a prosperous life; one must commit prosperous actions and lead an innocent life. Well, in this case, Jacob tries to lead a “good” life yet he always seems to find himself in a ditch of distress. The dilemmas that Jacob faces eventually lead to his death where he stops children from irritating dogs next to a factory where he ends up getting blamed for the incident and soon gets blown to bits. This story portrays an image of modern society’s teachings to the youth and provides satire to create a depiction of human greed. Twain uses Jacob Bilvins as a representation of children who expect something in return when doing the “right” thing, which in itself would nullify the intentions of doing good things.

In conclusion, Mark Twain uses parody and satire in these two stories to bring enlightenment to a much more complex concept in humanity. In the story of the bad little boy, Twain presents the idea that humans should live their lives individually and not follow the teachings that humans since youth. Most people are taught that doing bad things lead to bad consequences whereas Jim was able to contradict that statement for he chose to be his own individual and take the risks of being what can be considered as an “outsider”. However, in contrast to the story of the good little boy, Jacob tries his best to follow the teachings of Sunday school for he thinks it shall repay him later on in life. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Jacob only chooses to do good things because he believes that he will be repaid with a “good” life which contradicts the idea of “good” in the first place. Within these stories, Twain focuses on the corrupt and hypocritical society that we humans inhabit and that what we are taught throughout life is not necessarily always true, for every human will encounter success and failure within his life and those are two aspects of society humans just cannot escape.

Alhassan B.


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