Literature, Language, and Life

The Unreliable Narrator (Bijan A.)

Notable literary figure David Lodge published a work entitled The Art of Fiction. This work focuses on a variety of literary features and analyzes their usage and effect in works of fiction. One key section in his work is the section written about The Unreliable Narrator. The unreliable narrator refers to the narrator of a work in which, either through context or otherwise, it is made clear that the narrator cannot be relied upon to tell the truth of the story.

If everything he or she says is palpably false, that only tells us what we know already, namely that a novel is a work of fiction (Lodge 154)

Most often, the unreliable narrator is used in First Person narration, as an omniscient narrator is seldom unreliable. However, this is not written in stone. It is possible to have an unreliable narrator who is a third person narrator.

One example of a writer who uses the third person unreliable narrator to enhance the meaning of his works is Mark Twain. In several of his works, the unreliable narrator is used not only to add to the story, but also to serve the entire purpose of the works writing.

The point of using an unreliable narrator is indeed to reveal in an interesting way the gap between appearance and reality (Lodge 155)

This directly ties into the first two stories written by Mark Twain, entitled “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”, an omniscient narrator serves as a subtle but definite version of the unreliable narrator. The statements and comments provided by the narrator are not untrue or misleading; rather, they convey a sense of ultra naivete that the reader can spot and use to understand the meaning of the work.

In the first story, “The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief”, the unreliable narrator is used to provide a commentary on the simple Sunday-school morals that the church provides. Throughout the work, the narrator follows the actions of a ‘bad little boy’ who doesn’t follow the rules, and who lies and cheats and steals as he sees fit. The narrator, rather than simply describing the actions of the boy or denouncing them, consistently declares his shock at the way the boy (Jim) could get away with the bad things that he did. He regularly compared it to the sunday school books, in which some kind of divine intervention would deliver the bad children with karmic retribution for their misdeeds.

The tone of the narrator is always that of surprise. He or she is shocked that Jim can go through life unpunished. The regular comparisons to the sunday school books are a message from the author; Twain is using the narrator to convey to the reader how foolish it is to believe in and teach these books to children. The entire story hinges on the naivete of the narrator and how it makes him an unreliable commentator. By taking it to such an extreme, Twain makes it clear that the intent is to show how foolish it is to share in the narrator’s unwavering trust in the morals of the church, and by extension, how foolish the church was in delivering these morals to children, especially when the adults at the time were often being rewarded for those same negative actions. In the same vein, he manages to criticize the church for measuring success in materialistic terms and teaching that message to children. In this story, the narrator gives the story a purpose; without him or her to comment and draw comparisons, the story would have no purpose.

The inverse of this happens in the story “The Story of the Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper”. In this story, the (apparently same) narrator compares the actions of a good boy with the actions of the Sunday school books. This time, as the boy attempts to do good, misfortune and suffering befall him at every turn. The boy himself regularly attempts to model his behavior after the Sunday school books, getting into more and more trouble, culminating in his unfortunate death in a massive explosion. Once again, the narrator comments on how unusual it is for the story of a good and pious child to end as it did. This time, the message is even less subtle and more obvious, almost being stated outright in the ending of the story. It reads true in the following quote:

“Thus perished the good little boy who did the best he could, but didn’t come out according to the books. Every boy who ever did as he did prospered, except him. His case is truly remarkable. It will probably never be accounted for.”

The point of an unreliable narrator is… to show how human beings distort or conceal the latter. This need not be a conscious, or mischievous, intention on their part (Lodge 155)

This, more human usage of the unreliable narrator occurs in two of Twain’s other works. In the case of the story “Extracts From Adam’s Diary”, Twain tells the story in the perspective of Adam, discovering Eve and the world around them both before and after the apple was eaten. In this story, the unreliable narrator is used interestingly – the telling of the story in this way provides a context about the story of mankind’s fall from heaven by providing a new context for all of the works. By telling the story in this manner, through the eyes of an adapting Adam, it defamiliarizes the infamous story and allows the reader to see it from a new perspective. When Adam is confused by Eve, we understand the story further. When Adam first discovers Cain, he is confused by its existence, comparing it to a fish, a kangaroo, a bear, and eventually a boy. Throughout the story, the reader is made to re-examine what was already known through the lens of an individual experiencing it for the first time. This recontextualization of the work provides the reader with context for the fall of man – Eve was not tempted in the way that the bible depicts her, but curious about an unknown. Adam was not ashamed in the way the bible depicted, but uninterested. By using such an inexperienced narrator to describe such a well known event, the audience gains a new understanding about the story of the bible. We begin to question religion as a whole and its depiction of Adam and Eve.

This is taken even further in the story “Eve’s Diary”. In this story, we repeat the events of “Extracts from Adam’s Diary”, only changing to the perspective of Eve. Once again, the same story is told through the eyes of a different narrator and the narrator’s inexperience, like with the narrator of the first two stories, allows the reader to realize the “truth” about these classic stories. Here, we see Eve’s intentions when pursuing Adam, and why she would name all things and ‘pester’ him so. We understand her perspective and gain a newfound understanding of why she ate the apple, not as an act of rebellion or succumbing to temptation, but simple inexperience.

It is that action, of revealing something which the audience was not aware and adding to the fabric of the story, which is described by Lodge as the purpose behind using the unreliable narrator. It is to this end where Twain uses it so expertly in his short stories, in order to infuse a meaning into the work that would be otherwise impossible to add.

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Repetition (Makki Z.)

“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 astonished 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.

 

Irony in Mark Twain’s Short Stories

In David Lodge’s chapter on irony, he describes it as “a literary device that says the opposite of what you mean, or inviting an interpretation different from the surface meaning of your words.” (Lodge 179). When a “reader is made aware of a disparity between the facts of a situation and the characters’ understanding of it is called dramatic irony” (Lodge 179). There is no difference in language whether a statement is ironic or not, but it is recognized as ironic in its interpretation. Lodge outlines different ways irony can be created; one way is when a character says the opposite of what the character actually does. There is also verbal irony, otherwise known as sarcasm when a character says something but does not literally mean it. The reader is privileged with knowledge not known by the characters, which makes irony effective. This notion makes the reader aware of a situation in a story, while the characters in the story are oblivious to the ironic elements of their problems. This is evident in many of Mark Twain’s short stories as they are filled with ironic notions that contradict the norm.

Mark Twain’s use of irony is seen in his short story, “A True Story, Word For Word As I Heard It.” Twain introduces a narrator who comes from an upper class, white origin, and shows the ironic nature of the story by asking his African American servant “Aunt Rachel” why she never had any troubles in her life. By asking “Aunt Rachel, how is it that you’ve lived sixty years and never had any trouble?” the narrator sounds ironic, how a privileged man asks an African American women why she never had any troubles in her life. The ironic notion that the privileged man has had more troubles and problems in his life than an African American woman portrays the ignorance of the upper class towards the troubles of others. The oppressor is so ignorant that he believes a woman who has been a slave her whole life has never experienced any trouble. This notion of dramatic irony is used to define the white mans’ ignorance during that time period.

In “The story of the good little boy who did not prosper”, there are many ironic points. It is known that when people do good things, good things happen to them. However it is ironic how no matter what good thing Jacob does, he always finds himself getting the short end of the stick, “Jacob ran to help him up and receive his blessing, the blind man did not give him any blessing at all, but whacked him over the head with his stick”. Jacob always wanted to be in one of the church books that teach kids to be good but did not want to die or disappear at the end as the heroes from the church books always do. The irony in this is that he never got to be in a church book, but he ended up dying, “as for young Jacob Blivens, he never got a chance to make his last dying speech after all his trouble fixing it up, unless he made it to the birds“. There is also irony in this story since the bad children always got away with their antics, as opposed to Jacob; who always found himself in trouble or getting hurt. The biggest point of irony is in the fact that the narrator is aware of the boys’ stupidity. He says, “He always obeys his parents no matter how absurd and unreasonable their demands were”, this shows that the narrator is aware of that there is something wrong with this child. It also brings up this idea that although ideally, this is how all people should act according to church stories, in reality, any person that is that good has to have something wrong with them.

“The story of the bad little boy” is also filled with irony that targets a specific group of people, while also being an ironic story in it of itself. In church tales the bad boy is often reprimanded and punished for doing bad things, however, this boy never got in trouble and never got hurt, “Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn’s apple-tree to steal apples, and the limb didn’t break, and he didn’t fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer’s great dog“. The mother in the story did the exact opposite of what a regular mother would do as she did not care what happened to him and spanked him to sleep.In the end, it is ironic how the boy grew up to become successful through cheating and killing his family when these types of actions are what do the exact opposite. The narrator focuses more on the actions of Jim as a child and less on the bad he has done as an adult, and the prioritization of the wrong bad deeds represent how our society is today.

The Diaries of Adam and Eve are filled with underlying irony, as they are both originally religious stories, yet they take place in Buffalo, New York. The fact that religious themes and God are not mentioned once in the diaries is ironic as they are two religious figures. There is also irony as Twain generalizes man as simplistic and merely observant through the lens of Adam. This is contrasted in the entries of Eve, which are analytical and descriptive. The irony in Eve’s descriptions is the fact that she speaks as though she has had many life experiences, but was only born a day before these entries. The purpose of the real stories is to show the sin of man yet that is not mentioned or prioritized in the diaries. The irony in this is that the actual point of the story (according to religion) is inconsequential and not even mentioned in the story. Adam and Eve are portrayed as confused yet well-meaning people who would rather be together on Earth, than in the Garden of Eden apart.

The Ending in Mark Twain’s Stories

In ending by David Lodge, he begins the passage stating that “conclusions are the weak point of most authors”. Lodge describes the struggles that an author has to go through in finding an ending that concludes the story in a meaningful and powerful way. Endings define stories, everything that happens during the story affects and contributes to the ending. Many authors rethink and rewrite endings to make sure that the story is conveying a message. In Twain’s first two stories, the narrator discusses the lives of two different boys who live by different principles and lifestyles and how that affected their future. In the story “The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief” the narrator describes how the evil and corrupt little boy ends up being a successful man in his society. The narrator proves no matter what Jim does, he will always get away with it, in fact he even got away with slaughtering his own family. The ending of the story is when the entire meaning is evident to the reader. The ending is when the reader is able to come to the realization on the corrupt society. In “The Good Little Boy” the narrator uses horation satire to attack the same corrupt community. The narrator shows the corrupt society by portraying how the “perfect” boy never succeeded in an evil society. The ending of these two stories make it obvious how Twain chose these different narrators to send a message to the reader. These stories send the message of a corrupt society and how justice will not be served for the honest but rather to the sneaky and mischievous.

 Lodge also states how he is a firm believer that in a successful ending, there needs to be a dramatic or shocking shift.  In all of Twain’s stories he has a huge shift, but Twain is different than many other authors in the sense that he would not focus on these shifts. In every single Twain story, the protagonist suffers at a point the story, which symbolizes how nice people aren’t always the most successful people. Lodge states “the last sentence of any story acquires a certain resonance merely by virtue of being the last, but this one is particular rich in irony.” Here Lodge suggests the reader to focus on not only the last paragraphs of the story but the last sentence of the story. In “Eves Diary”  Eve is beginning to discover the real world and its creations. The ending in this story signifies how eve coped with her fear and found a companion.

 

Throughout the story Eve feared many things since she was not known to them. After discovering many evils she became almost immune to them. The narrator chose to tell this story to portray how life is full of disappointments no matter how beautiful it may seem. But having a disappointment in your life can be a good thing as it is important for a human being to learn from mistakes. The ending of this story is what explains the theme and purpose of this story. In the last sentence Adam says “wheresoever she was, there was Eden”. This last sentence shows the affect Eve had on Adams life, even though she was seen as a distraction in the beginning of the story.

“I mean, mentally you brace yourself for the ending of a novel. As you’re reading, you’re aware of the fact that there’s only a page or two left in the book, and you get ready to close it. but with a film there’s no way of telling” In “A true story, repeated word for word as I heard it” Twain ends the story in a more cheering way. Although, the entire story was seen as a historical account of an African American slave, the message the ending sends to the people is to always be optimistic. This slave who suffered, and was abused everyday still had faith and still remained optimistic. This story is a perfect account on what Lodge was describing. This story changed from an all depressing story to a rough story with a positive ending. The reader is aware that the story is ending very soon but still never expects a shift in mood and a solution to all the slaves’ miseries. The endings in these stories are all very significant because these stories all have a theme that a human can relate to. The reader comes to the understanding of the theme and life lesson when reading the ending of Mark Twain’s short stories.

 

-Yahya A

 

Ending in Lodge’s The Art of Fiction Applied to Twain’s Short Stories

Throughout the reader’s journey of exploring a selection of Mark Twain’s short stories, it is easy to recognize a slight pattern in his endings. Twain creates endings that are usually abrupt, and therefore leaves readers surprised with his unexpected endings. Although these endings are often unexpected, they are not uncommon. The commonness of unexpected endings can be seen in Lodge’s chapter on endings.

According to David Lodge, the ending is “the resolution or deliberate non-resolution of the narrative” (Lodge 224). In essence,  endings wrap up the story and provide the reader with brief detail on what has happened at the end of the story, in comparison to the main idea presented in the beginning/middle part of the story (Lodge 224). Lodge also goes on to suggest that “the last page or two of the text, often act as a kind of epilogue or postscript, a gentle decoration of the discourse as it draws to a halt” (Lodge  224). Another point that Lodge makes which is reflected in Mark Twain’s short stories, is that short stories are essentially “end-orientated”(Lodge 225). This means that as one begins reading a short story they are under  the expectation of reaching its conclusion in a fast manner. According to Lodge, this expectation is what enables readers to enjoy the reading, as the are “drawn along by the magnetic power of its anticipated conclusion” (Lodge 225).

Through understanding Lodge’s points on the power of endings in short stories, readers are able to gain an appreciation for the strategies Mark Twain uses to end his short stories. This relationship between Lodge’s ideas and Twain’s short stories can be seen in the last pages of the story  “The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief.” In this short story, readers are taken along the main character, Jim’s life journey. Jim, who grew up as a bad little boy, defying the standards in Sunday school books ends up living an extravagant life. Most readers would expect the bad little boy to suffer the consequences of karma for his immoral actions. However, he ends up living a life of ultimate success, as the narrator states: “And he grew up, and married, and raised a large family” (Twain 13). In defying the expectations placed by readers, Twain attempts to reflect on our corrupt society which  praises those who are mischievous and cause harm to other. This proves Lodge’s point that the ending of a story is the “gentle decoration of the discourse as it draws to a halt” (Lodge 224), . Lodge’s point is also evident in another short story “Extracts from Eve’s Diary”, in which the end headings are titled “Forty Years Later”, as well as “At Eve’s Grave” (Twain, 212). While his titles and ending are abrupt, Twain chooses to do so, in order to create the satirical effect which mocks Christianity’s beliefs of Adam and Eve.

Lodge also goes on to comment on the Victorian period which are particularly happy ending, “Victorian novelist’s endings were apt to be particularly troublesome, because they were always under pressure from readers and publishers to provide a happy one” (Lodge, 224). Twain almost completely avoids Victorian ends as he creates unexpected and realistic endings in order to show the flaws that he believes are present in the Christian religion. In Twain’s first two short stories of the “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”, he presents the reader with the exact opposite of what Christianity suggests will happen to good boys versus what will happen to  bad boys. Twain, does so in order to show that not all good people succeed and not all bad people fail. According to Twain, this is a true representation of reality rather than what biblical stories present. In “A True Story Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It”, Aunt Rachel is reunited with her son (Henry) after years of not seeing him, she states “If you an’t my Henry, what is you doin’ wid dis well on yo’ wris’ and da tsk-yar on yo’ forehead” (Twain, 50). This ending differs from the other endings, because while she is happily reunited with her son, the happiness is ironic. This irony comes from the fact that she is only able to recognize her son by his scars.  This goes on to expose the sad realities that humans are unjustly presented with in life.

Twain not only uses his endings to expose the sad realities of life, but to also mock the Christian belief of Adam and Eve in “Extracts from Adam’s Diary”. Twain reflects a real human being characteristic which is relying on human experiences along with trial and error, in order to understand yourself. While Twain’s purpose is to ridicule Christianity, he also focuses on ending the story this way in order to show the indecisive of human beings, a trait part of human nature. Adam who once hated and resented Eve, soon begins to love and appreciate her. This is evident in his statement “at first I thought she talked too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of, life” (Twain, 129). He creates this ending in which Adam is happier on Earth with Eve than in Eden without her, which according to Twain shows a flaw in mankind along with the Christian religion, that Adam himself would rather follow his self-interested desires rather than the order given through religion.

Although readers are often under the misconception that all short stories have a happy ending, Mark Twain’s stories falsify this misconception. Through providing readers with unexpected endings, Twain is able to showcase the corruption evident in society. In essence, he tries to represent that although happiness is something attainable, it should not be the ultimate goal of people in life. Instead, individuals should spend their time focusing on how to fix the societal corruption that they are often contributors to. Readers are able to come to this conclusion through applying David Lodge’s points on endings to the short stories of Mark Twain.

 

Beginning In Mark Twain’s Short Stories

 

Authors usually introduce beginnings by mentioning the plot of the story and its setting. Many use it to introduce the work itself and its significance. The introduction of stories is meant for readers to get a sense of the story. However many authors use the beginning as a tool to introduce the narrator and characters, and most of all the setting and its timing. Mark Twain demonstrates the beginning in various ways. He uses the beginning to introduce the narrator and the character and its conflicts within the story.

Throughout the passage David Lodge discusses the beginning of a story, often times it starts with an opening sentence. However, the opening sentence doesn’t necessarily include the first sentence but can be mentioned during the first part of the story. This is demonstrated In “Adams Diary” and also “Eves Diary” by not having a clear beginning but dividing it into the days of the week. The days of the weeks symbolize an adaptation to the new environment and their experiences and the process throughout it. Lodge also mentions that often times the beginning of the novel differentiates and separates the real world from the world the novelists creates and imagined. In this case “In the Story of The Bad little boy who Didn’t Come To Greif”  and “The Good Little boy That Did Not Prosper “Twain creates a world at the beginning of two types of world one that is a Bad Little Boy that creates a world around himself that is considered immoral and unethical. Which is evident when saying “Most bad boys names in Sunday school books are named James (pg.10)”. This represents an introductory to the story of the kind of boy he is. Sunday school books are a symbol of church books. In the environment they are surrounded by it is moral and ethical to follow it in order to prosper into a great individual. Twain is demonstrating that most James is considered bad, however, in the future, they become better than the ones that read Sunday school books. In the “Good Little Boy That Did Not Prosper” Jacob puts his heart and ambition towards these Sunday schools books to create a better life for himself while obeying his parents which is evident when saying “He believed in the good little boys they put in the Sunday school books; he had every confidence in them (pg.30)”. The importance of these Sunday school books provide faith and for individuals to be successful. These Sunday school books provide the foundation of how the narrator will begin the story and begin to frame it. The Sunday Schools are demonstrated as a building block of the two stories.

Throughout Lodge’s passage, it states that the beginning is usually demonstrated when determining the plot and the characters and is usually a process when determining it. The beginning of the story begins with introducing the characters by introducing Aunt Rachel. The plot of the story starts by Aunt Rachel who is considered a slave and Misto C talking on the porch. Which is evident in “We were sitting on the porch of the farmhouse, on the summit of the hill, and, Aunt Rachel was sitting respectfully below our level on the steps”(pg.46). By mentioning this extract from the story, it frames the story of the struggles of the slaves. The characters in this story are usually described through the conversations between Miso C and Rachel. The importance of this story is clearly evident because it can be coming from a true experience or story. Throughout the Bad Little Boy and the Good Little Boy, it is clearly evident that the “Good Little Boy that did not Prosper” is a continuation of the Bad Little Boy. At the beginning of the story, Jim is being judged and compared to the good little boy who upholds morals and reads Sunday school books. It plots out the setting which demonstrates how the story will be told by creating a plot surrounded by the bad boy and talking about his faults and demonstrating him into being troublesome. “In the Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper,” he is demonstrated as an obedient child no matter how bad the situation is. The importance of these two kids is explained towards the end. This demonstrates two individuals from two separate worlds whom won’t end up with the same outcome due to the fact that good doesn’t turn into success. The plot starts off by mentioning Jim is “afflicted”.

Throughout Extracts from “Adam’s Diary”. Adam’s a single man, who is mentioned as a lonely man. His feeling is mentioned as feeling frightened and creeped out by stating ”This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way”. However, Eve is demonstrated by a  more knowledgeable individual who has an outlook on things in a positive way. ”It tapers like a carrot. I think it is a man. I had never seen a man, but it looked like one, and I feel sure that that is what it is.”. She is describing this world to her as new and strange but has a better outlook on things by coming from a different outlook than Adam has. They both are experiencing new experiences that are nearly strange to them due to the fact that they’ve never encountered it. These two stories demonstrate the two perspectives of two individuals that soon come together.

Throughout many novels, the novelist begins with a “frame story” which determines how the main story was discovered towards a fictional and readers point of view. For instance, the beginning of the “The Bad Little Boy who didn’t come to Grief” starts by demonstrating the lack of love the bad little boy has which results into his troublesome and his bad actions. The beginning of a story demonstrates a sense of the narrator and its prominence in conveying the meaning. The narrator begins with being naïve to understand the meaning and satirical approaches to these passages. In Adams Diary and Eves diary the narrator is naïve towards their experiences by mentioning their point of perspective and its effect on them as individuals. .During  Extracts from Adams, Diary Eve follows Adam; he’s creeped out. However, Eve, in her excerpt, provides readers with a few more insights about their first days together. She follows him, he runs away from her whilst becoming feared and angered, he climbs a tree to escape her, and she heads home. This series of actions repeats. However, when it comes to Eve the narrator mentions more insights and its effect on joining them together.

In conclusion, Lodge gives us a clear image of how beginnings are usually written. Beginnings are used as a tool to frame the story and how it is being told. It is helpful for the readers to get a sense of how the story will be told. The beginning of the story allows the readers to be engaged with its audience and seek a connection which is evident in Mark Twain’s stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citation

Twain, Mark. _The Best Short Stories of Mark Twain._ Modern Library, 2004.

 

 

Defamiliarization applied to Mark Twain’s Short Stories

Lodge defines defamiliarization as “making strange” (Lodge, David). Writers use defamiliarization to achieve many things, from adding a hidden meaning or underlying theme, to adding a sense of ambiguity or sending a political message. Lodge gives the example of famous Russian writer Victor Shklovsky, who argued that “the essential purpose of art is to overcome the deadening effects of habit by representing familiar things in unfamiliar ways” (Lodge, David). Mark Twain uses defamiliarization to add underlying messages to many of his stories, mostly to highlight problems of corruption and ignorance in the upper class during his time.

Mark Twain’s use of defamiliarization is clearly evident in his short stories “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.” In the first of the two stories, Mark Twain uses defamiliarization to introduce a naive narrator who conflates reality with the Sunday School stories. This narrator assumes that the stories taught by the Church explain all of human life as it is, defamiliarizing the stories from reality. The opening sentence of the first story (“Once there was…bad boys are nearly always called James”) shows how the narrator is surprised, even slightly annoyed, that the bad boy in the story is named Jim, as opposed to James (the name given to bad boys in the Sunday School stories). Throughout the story, the narrator repeatedly acts surprised when the character of the bad boy does not get punished for his actions, and does not learn his lesson. The narrator’s confusion is seen in the line (“Once he climbed up…he stole as many apples as he wanted”) and is shortly followed by (“Nothing like it in any of the Sunday School stories”). This causes the narrator to sound naive as the narrator bases his understanding of reality around the teachings of stories taught in Sunday School. Defamiliarization allows Mark Twain to refute the teachings of the Church and the religious community, and portray now successful people are usually evil and corrupt. By doing this, Twain is able to expose the hypocrisy of American society as a whole, a Christian society which claims to be founded on justice, freedom, and equality, but in reality promotes materialism.

The second story, “The Story Of The Good Little Boy Who Did Not Prosper,” acts as a complement to the first, as instead of following the actions of the bad boy, the story follows a good boy. This character is the complete opposite of the character of the bad boy, listening to the teachings of the Sunday School stories, and applying them in his life. Mark Twain uses defamiliarization in a similar manner, as he separates the actions of the good boy from reality. The good boy does everything right (“He always obeyed his parents…he acted so strangely”) yet society always views him in a different way. Although the good boy follows the teachings of the Sunday School, he never gets the same reward or recognition (“But somehow, nothing ever went right…in the books”). Every time the good boy tries to help someone, or advise someone, the complete opposes of what was supposed to happen, happens. Defamiliarization allows Mark Twain to connect this story with the previous story, showing the faults and the hypocrisy of the religious community and American society as a whole. Mark Twain is sending the message that those who adhere to the teachings of the religious community, and believe that the good and just always prevail, are ostracized from society and viewed differently in a negative way.

Mark Twain use of defamiliarization is very evident in his story “Eve’s Diary,” Twain’s twist on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. “Eve’s Diary” is told through the perspective of Eve, and details the journey of Eve’s life. In the Biblical version, a major part of both Adam and Eve’s life journey was them getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden, however, Mark Twain barely mentions the event (“After the Fall”) and this is part of Twain’s use of defamiliarization. Twain focuses on small conflicts between Adam and Eve, and through Eve’s perspective, the reader is introduced to a flurry of different emotions and discoveries (“At first I couldn’t make out what I was made for…to search out the secrets of this wonderful world”). This focus on emotion and discovery through Eve’s perspective portrays Eve in a different way to the reader. The Biblical story of Adam and Eve shows Eve as the one who eats the apple, which ultimately results in the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. However, Mark Twain defamiliarizes the banishment from the Garden of Eden, and portrays Eve as a passionate and intelligent being. Mark Twain uses defamiliarization again to refute basic teachings of the Church, and to portray the ignorance of the religious community to different ideas.

Finally, Mark Twain uses defamiliarization for a different reason in his short story, “A True Story, Repeated Word For Word As I Heard It.” Twain uses defamiliarization to portray the divide between racial and social classes by introducing a narrator who comes from a white, upper class background. The narrator portrays the ignorance of the upper class towards the troubles of other social classes by asking why the African American servant “Aunt Rachel” why she never had any troubles in her life (“Why I thought…never seen your eye when there wasn’t a laugh in it”). Aunt Rachel replies with a detailed account of her life experiences, talking about her hardships and her struggles. The narrator allows Aunt Rachel to complete her story without interruption because the narrator can’t relate to the troubles of other classes and/or races. His lack of comment also shows the utter shock and shame that the narrator feels when he realizes his own ignorance of very important issues in his society. Mark Twain uses the defamiliarization of Aunt Rachel’s experience to attack the people of the upper class who are completely ignorant of the oppression of other races, along with the suffering of African Americans in the United States of America.

In conclusion, Mark Twain applies Lodge’s definition of defamiliarization to many of his short stories to send different political and social messages. Twain uses this defamiliarization to expose the ignorance and hypocrisy of the American and religious community during his time, and is able to do that without directly attacking any certain group.

Works Cited

Lodge, David. The art of fiction. Vintage, 2011.

Twain, Mark. The best short stories of Mark Twain. Edited by Lawrence I. Berkove, Modern Library, 2004.