Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" is a short story centering on the destruction
of a small town's image as an upright community. Because of its length~ez_mdash~approximately
18,000 words~ez_mdash~it is long enough to be considered a novella.
Twain wrote ~ez_ldquo~The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg~ez_rdquo~ in Europe in 1898 while
he was on a lecture tour. The story first appeared in the December 1899
issue of Harper's Monthly magazine.
action takes place at the end of the nineteenth century in a small American
town with the fictional name of Hadleyburg.
A traveler who says he is
from a foreign country. While passing through Hadleyburg, he suffers an
offense that angers him. To gain revenge, he devises a scheme to expose
the prominent citizens of the town as vain and corrupt. His scheme involves
tempting each of these citizens to tell a lie in order to claim a sack
that the stranger says contains about one hundred sixty pounds of gold.
In one of the notes he uses in his scheme, he signs his name as Howard
Edward Richards: Elderly
bank cashier. The stranger entrusts in the care of Richards the sack that
supposedly contains the gold. Richards is the main character.
Archibald Cox: Editor
and proprietor of the Hadleyburg newspaper.
Pinkerton: Town banker,
described as "mean, smirking, oily."
Clay Harkness: Wealthy
citizen. He is running for political office against Pinkerton.
Thurlow G. Wilson:
John Wharton Billson:
He is nicknamed "Shadbelly" and is also referred to as a deacon by the
Archibald Wilcox L. Ingoldsby Sargent Nicholas Whitworth Robert J. Titmarsh Eliphalet Weeks Oscar B. Wilder Gregory Yates Sawlsberry Several Unidentified
Mary Richards: Wife
of Edward Richards. She encourages her husband's deceitful activity and
shares in his guilt.
Unidentified Wives The Rev. Mr. Burgess:
Town minister. He presides at proceedings designed to determine who is
to receive a sack believed to contain gold.
Recently deceased Hadleyburg resident. He saw the town for what it was:
Nancy Hewitt: Onetime
fiancée of Barclay Goodson. Their relationship was broken off, and
Miss Hewitt later died.
Jack Halliday: Good-natured
loafer. Unlike the prominent citizens of Hadleyburg, he does not pretend
to be a paragon of virtue. He recognizes and mocks the hypocrisy in the
community and thus may represent the attitude of the author, Mark Twain.
Thomson: A Hatter.
Tanner Wingate: A Saddler.
Johnny: Office boy
at Cox's newspaper.
Employee of Cox's newspaper who sends a dispatch to the Associated Press
about the mysterious sack of gold in the town's custody.
Postman Doctor: Physician
attending Mr. and Mrs. Richards after they become ill.
attending Mr. and Mrs. Richards after they become ill.
who establishes a business in Hadleyburg.
Servant of Mr. and Mrs.
Richards Mrs. Wilcox's Cook Newspaper Reporters:
Journalists who descend on Hadleyburg to cover the story surrounding the
Visitors From Nearby
Towns: People from Brixton and other nearby communities who visit Hadleyburg
to see the sack and witness unfolding events.
point of view is third-person omniscient, enabling the narrator to present
the thoughts of his characters.
has always been a respectable town, the narrator says. Its residents instill
high moral principles in their children and vigilantly guard them against
temptation. Nearby communities envy Hadleyburg's sterling reputation as
an upright community. If a young Hadleyburg resident applies for a job
elsewhere, he need only say where he is from. The employer will hire him. .......One
day, a Hadleyburg resident offends a stranger passing through the town.
The stranger remembers the offense on his travels elsewhere and vows revenge.
His goal is to ruin the town's reputation. .......Six
months after devising a plan of revenge, he returns to Hadleyburg and pulls
his buggy up at 10 p.m. at the home of Edward Richards, the elderly cashier
at the Pinkerton bank. After taking a heavy sack from the buggy, he hauls
it to the door of the house and knocks. The voice of Richards' wife, Mary,
invites him to enter. Once inside, the man places the sack behind the parlor
stove. He asks for Mr. Richards, but Mary says he is away in Brixton. The
man then tells Mary that he is leaving the sack,
which is sealed, in her husband's care. After the man leaves, Mrs. Richards
begins reading a note that was attached to the sack. It says the sack contains
gold coins weighing more than one hundred sixty pounds. .......Such
a treasure makes Mary think of burglars, and she immediately locks the
door. Then she reads the rest of the note. Its author identifies himself
as an outsider and a gambler. After losing all his money in gaming, he
says, he begged for a handout while passing through Hadleyburg. He did
not begin begging until after sunset, for he was ashamed to beg in daylight.
A sympathetic Hadleyburg man kindly gave him twenty dollars. When the stranger
later returned to the gaming table, he made a fortune. Then, thanks to
advice his Hadleyburg benefactor gave him, he quit gambling. .......Now
the stranger wants to reward his benefactor with the sack of gold, the
note says. Although the stranger does not know who the benefactor is, the
note says that ~ez_ldquo~This man can be identified by the remark which he made
to me.~ez_rdquo~ .......The
town can learn the identity of the benefactor in either of two ways, the
first a private option and the second a public one. .......Here
is the first option. If a man comes forward claiming to be the one who
made the remark to the stranger, he should announce the words. Richards
can then open the sack and check the words against those written on a paper
inside a sealed envelope in the sack. If the words match those on the paper,
he receives the gold. .......Here
is the second option. In thirty days, on a Friday, anyone who claims to
have spoken the remark should report to the town hall at 8 p.m. There,
he must give the local minister, the Rev. Mr. Burgess, a sealed envelope
containing a paper on which the remark is written. Burgess will then open
the claimant's envelope and read the words. Next, he will unseal the sack
and open the envelope inside to see whether the words of the claimant match
those inside the sack. .......When
Edward returns at eleven, he tells his wife, ~ez_ldquo~[I]t is dreadful to be poor,
and have to make these dismal journeys at my time of life.~ez_rdquo~ His wife tells
him about the sack, and he reads the note that was attached to it. He then
suggests that they select the public option to demonstrate how trustworthy
Hadleyburg is. Other towns will be jealous. According to instructions in
the note, Richards must publish the wishes of the stranger for all to see. .......Richards
rushes out to have the note printed for public distribution. After walking
a short distance, he runs into Archibald Cox, the editor of the local newspaper,
Missionary Herald. Richards gives him the note to print, then returns
home. After talking things over, he and his wife agree that Barclay Goodson
could have been the person who gave the advice to the outsider, but Goodson
is dead now. When he was alive, he used to say publicly that the village
was ~ez_ldquo~narrow, self-righteous, and stingy.~ez_rdquo~ He was just the kind of person
who would have given money to a stranger. Because of his criticism of the
town, the people hated him almost as much as they hated Burgess. Mary then
wonders why the stranger selected the minister as monitor of the public
proceedings for determining who should receive the gold. .......When
Edward tells her that Burgess really is not so bad, she reminds him of
~ez_ldquo~that one thing~ez_rdquo~ he did that damaged his reputation. But Edward knows for
a fact that Burgess was not guilty of the offense, and he admits to Mary
that he could have saved Burgess from ridicule but did not speak up for
fear that the whole town would turn against him. Mary says that as long
as Burgess does not know that Edward could have exonerated him, ~ez_ldquo~well,
that makes it a great deal better.~ez_rdquo~ .......Mary
and Edward talk more about the gold, then just sit there thinking about
it. Suddenly, Edward bolts out of the house. Mary, unable to help herself,
runs her hands over the sack. .......Meanwhile,
when Cox tells his wife about the strange happenings, she says, "Nobody
knows this secret but the Richardses . . . and us . . . nobody." .......A
short while later, Cox and Richards arrive at the newspaper at the same
time and, confirming for each other that no one else knows about the sack,
rush up the stairs to the printing office to stop the outgoing mail, including
copies of the stranger's note. But a boy named Johnny tells them the mail
has already been sent to Brixton and other towns. After the men return
home, they and their wives wonder what remark was made to the stranger. .......At
Cox's newspaper, a foreman who knows a good story when he sees it sends
a dispatch on the sack of gold to the Associated Press. By morning, the
story is all over America. Hadleyburg residents congratulate one another
for having been singled out as a town that could be trusted to determine
on its own the citizen who is to receive the fortune in gold. They believe
that Hadleyburg will become a synonym for incorruptible. .......The
sack is now at the bank, operated by the wealthy Mr. Pinkerton. Townspeople
go there to see it. In the meantime, outsiders from everywhere descend
on Hadleyburg to see the town and witness the unfolding events. Reporters
arrive to tell the story and draw pictures of Hadleyburg residents, the
bank, churches, the town square, and so on. Even no-account loafer Jack
Halliday is the subject of a portrait. .......At
the bank, ~ez_ldquo~the little mean, smirking, oily Pinkerton showed the sack to
all comers,~ez_rdquo~ the narrator says, ~ez_ldquo~and rubbed his sleek palms together pleasantly,
and enlarged upon the town's fine old reputation for honesty. . .
.~ez_rdquo~ By this time, every Hadleyburg citizen thinks Goodson was the one who
made the remark to the stranger. .......After
three weeks, Richards receives a letter on a Saturday evening from a man
named Howard L. Stephenson, who says he recently returned home from Mexico
and heard about the fuss in Hadleyburg. On the very night that the stranger
was begging money in Hadleyburg, Stephenson says, he was nearby and overheard
the remark in question. It was Goodson who made it, he says. Stephenson
goes on to say that he was a friend of Goodson and spent time with him
before leaving town by train. .......~ez_ldquo~I
THINK he said you~ez_mdash~am almost sure~ez_mdash~had done him a very great service once,
possibly without knowing the full value of it,~ez_rdquo~ Stephenson says. Stephenson further says
that Goodson, if he were wealthy, would leave his fortune to Richards when
he died. ~ez_ldquo~Now, then,~ez_rdquo~ Stephenson says, ~ez_ldquo~if it was you that did him that
service, you are his legitimate heir, and entitled to the sack of gold.~ez_rdquo~ .......Stephenson
then mentions the remark that Goodson made: ~ez_ldquo~YOU ARE FAR FROM BEING A BAD
MAN: GO, AND REFORM.~ez_rdquo~ .......Mary
rejoices. She then asks her husband about the good deed he did for Goodson.
Her husband hems and haws and finally says Goodson made him promise not
to tell anyone about it. That night in bed, Mary lies awake thinking how
she will spend the money. Edward is uneasy until he persuades himself that
he must have done a good deed for Goodson, but he cannot recall what it
was. After more ruminating, he remembers a possible good deed from years
ago. Goodson was about to marry a young lady named Nancy Hewitt, ~ez_ldquo~but in
some way or other the match had been broken off,~ez_rdquo~ the narrator says. Not
long afterward, the girl died and a story circulated that she had had Negro
blood in her veins. Richards now thinks that it was he who originally found
out about her Negro heritage and passed the story along while Goodson was
courting her. Goodson then halted his marriage plans and credited Richards
with finding out about her~ez_mdash~or so Richards believes. .......On
the same evening, eighteen other prominent Hadleyburg residents receive
a letter from Howard Stephenson. Its wording resembles that in the letter
to Richards. In each case, the recipient tries to remember a good deed
he did for Goodson and succeeds in recalling one. These prominent citizens,
like Richards, believe they have been singled out for the sack of gold. .......Meanwhile,
the letter recipients and their wives make big plans for the money. Not
a few of them contact a newly arrived architect, saying they are thinking
~ez_ldquo~of building.~ez_rdquo~ The Wilsons are planning a gala ball and extending invitations.
Some of those who expect to receive the gold begin buying items on credit~ez_mdash~~ez_ldquo~land,
mortgages, farms, speculative stocks, fine clothes, horses,~ez_rdquo~ the narrator
the day of reckoning arrives, the four hundred twelve permanent seats in
the town hall~ez_mdash~as well as sixty-eight chairs set up in the aisles~ez_mdash~are all
occupied. People also sit on the steps of the platform in front. On a table
on the platform itself is the sack. The Rev. Mr. Burgess talks briefly
about Hadleyburg's reputation as a paragon of integrity and receives thunderous
applause. Next, he withdraws an envelope from his pocket, opens it, removes
the note inside, and reads the words written on it: ~ez_ldquo~You are very far from
being a bad man; go, and reform.~ez_rdquo~ Burgess then reveals the name of the
man who submitted the note: John Wharton Billson. The news shocks the audience.
Billson? Of all people! .......Thurlow
G. Wilson, a lawyer, then claims that he was the one who spoke the remark.
A buzz runs through the gathering. Burgess raps his gavel and reports that
Wilson also gave him an envelope. After opening it, he reads Wilson's words:
~ez_ldquo~You are far from being a bad man. Go, and reform.~ez_rdquo~ .......Thompson
the hatter asks whether both men could have uttered the same words, but
the town's tanner points out that very appears in Billson's note
but not in Wilson's. He calls for Burgess to open the sack and check the
wording of the stranger's note against the versions of Billson and Wilson.
Burgess slits the sack and finds two envelopes inside. One is marked with
these words: ~ez_ldquo~Not to be examined until all written communications which
have been addressed to the Chair~ez_mdash~if any~ez_mdash~shall have been read.~ez_rdquo~ The other
says, ~ez_ldquo~I do not require that the first half of the remark . . . shall be
quoted with exactness, for it was not striking, and could be forgotten;
but its closing fifteen words are quite striking, and I think easily rememberable;
unless THESE shall be accurately reproduced, let the applicant be regarded
as an impostor.~ez_rdquo~ .......Burgess
reads the first part of the remark: ~ez_ldquo~YOU ARE FAR FROM BEING A BAD MAN~ez_mdash~.
He then reads the rest of the remark: ~ez_ldquo~GO, AND REFORM~ez_mdash~OR, MARK MY WORDS~ez_mdash~SOME
DAY, FOR YOUR SINS YOU WILL DIE AND GO TO HELL OR HADLEYBURG~ez_mdash~TRY AND MAKE
IT THE FORMER.~ez_rdquo~ .......There
is a moment of silence. Then the audience roars with laughter. Burgess
brings the house to order and points out that both men failed to include
the last part of the remark. .......Lawyer
Wilson says, ~ez_ldquo~could I expect~ez_mdash~could I believe~ez_mdash~could I even remotely imagine~ez_mdash~that,
feeling as he (the stranger) did, he would do so ungrateful a thing as
to add those quite unnecessary fifteen words to his test?~ez_rdquo~ So, he says,
he wrote only the first part of the remark down when he was in his office,
then left the paper on his desk after being summoned to another office.
When he returned, he says, he saw Billson ~ez_ldquo~retiring by my street door.~ez_rdquo~ .......~ez_ldquo~It's
a lie!~ez_rdquo~ Billson shouts. .......Burgess
withdraws another envelope from his pocket, this one from Pinkerton, and
reads it: ~ez_ldquo~You are far from being a bad man. Go, and reform.~ez_rdquo~ More laughter
erupts. There are shouts of ridicule. Then Burgess reads notes from Gregory
Yates, L. Ingoldsby Sargent, and Nicholas Whitworth~ez_mdash~all with similar versions
of the first part of the remark. The audience begins to sing a mocking
song about ~ez_ldquo~Hadleyburg the Incorruptible.~ez_rdquo~ Several men become angry and
say the proceedings are the work of a joker. .......As
the notes of Robert J. Titmarsh, Eliphalet Weeks, Oscar B. Wilder, Archibald
Cox and others are read, Richards cringes in expectation of the reading
of his own note and name. After the reading of the eighteenth note, Burgess
says no envelopes are left. Mr. and Mrs. Richards are greatly relieved. .......The
saddler, Wingate, calls for cheers for Richards, saying he is the only
prominent Hadleyburg resident who did not lie to claim the gold. Everyone
cheers. Then the townspeople endorse a proposal to make Richards ~ez_ldquo~sole
Guardian and Symbol of the Sacred Hadleyburg Tradition, with power and
right to stand up and look the whole sarcastic world in the face." .......Burgess
then reads the other note from the man who left the sack. It says, ~ez_ldquo~There
wasn't any pauper stranger, nor any twenty-dollar contribution, nor any
accompanying benediction and compliment~ez_mdash~these are all inventions.~ez_rdquo~ However,
the author of the note says he did pass through Hadleyburg. On that occasion,
he suffered an offense that made him want to strike out at the vanity of
the residents, ~ez_ldquo~the place where feeble and foolish people are most vulnerable.~ez_rdquo~
So he returned to Hadleyburg to observe the people and soon realized that
the reputation of the townspeople rested on keeping themselves and their
young ones away from temptation. .......~ez_ldquo~Why,
you simple creatures, the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which
has not been tested in the fire,~ez_rdquo~ he says. .......He
then explains that his plan was to expose the prominent citizens of Hadleyburg
to temptation and shatter their reputation. .......~ez_ldquo~If
I have succeeded, open the sack and summon the Committee on Propagation
and Preservation of the Hadleyburg Reputation.~ez_rdquo~ .......Burgess
opens the sack, scoops up some yellow coins, and studies them. He concludes
that they are lead, not gold. The tanner suggests that Wilson, as chairman
of the Committee on Propagation and Preservation, receive the coins in
trust for himself and the others who wrote notes. Wilson, angry, says,
~ez_ldquo~Damn the money!~ez_rdquo~ .......The
saddler suggests that Jack Halliday step up and auction the coins. The
proceeds, he says, should go to the only honest man left, Edward Richards.
Outsiders wanting souvenirs~ez_mdash~including Brixton folk and a representative
of P. T. Barnum~ez_mdash~make bids. The auction commences. Richards is in
a quandary. Should he be honest and admit that he, too, submitted a note?
Or should he accept the money after the auction. .......A
stranger observing the proceedings~ez_mdash~THE stranger~ez_mdash~notes to himself
that none of the men who submitted notes is bidding on the coins. ~ez_ldquo~They
must buy the sack they tried to steal,~ez_rdquo~ he thinks. But he admires Richards
for not submitting to temptation and thinks he ought to receive a reward
of $10,000. The stranger enters the bidding and ends up with the sack for
why he made the purchase, the stranger says he is a ~ez_ldquo~speculator in rarities~ez_rdquo~
and can sell the lead coins for a considerable sum if the townsfolk allow
him to stamp on the coins the names of the eighteen men who wrote notes.
The audience overwhelmingly approves the proposal, but all of the eighteen
men except Clay Harkness vehemently object. Harkness, a wealthy man, is
running for the legislature against Pinkerton in an extremely close race,
and both men have been doing their best to win it. Harkness, who is sitting
near the stranger, leans over to him and whispers that he will buy the
sack. The stranger says it will cost $40,000. Harkness agrees to pay the
sum to him at the latter's hotel the following morning at 10 o'clock. No
one else is to know of the agreement. .......The
stranger rises and excuses himself from the proceedings, asking Burgess
to keep the sack for him until morning. He leaves three $500 bills for
Richards as a down payment on the reward for his honesty. The meeting ends. .......At
home, Edward and Mary are gloomy in spite of seeing the money lying on
a table before them. .......In
the morning, the stranger takes the sack to his hotel and at ten o'clock
completes the transaction with Harkness. At eleven, he calls at the Richards
home, leaves an envelope, and abruptly exits. Mary recognized him as the
stranger who attended the meeting the night before. Edward is suspicious.
He thinks the stranger is trying to trick him the way he tricked the others
the previous evening. He says the stranger wants the world to laugh at
him. The envelope contains checks and a note. Edward tells his wife to
burn the checks, then snatches them from her and goes to the stove. There,
he discovers that they are signed by Harkness. They amount to $38,500.
The note says,
I am a disappointed
man. Your honesty is beyond the reach of temptation. I had a different
idea about it, but I wronged you in that, and I beg pardon, and do it sincerely.
I honour you~ez_mdash~and that is sincere too. This town is not worthy to kiss the
hem of your garment. Dear sir, I made a square bet with myself that there
were nineteen debauchable men in your self-righteous community. I have
lost. Take the whole pot, you are entitled to it.
and Mrs. Richards are overcome with guilt. A messenger arrives with another
note, this one from Burgess. In it, the minister says he saved Richards
the previous evening by not reading his note. This favor~ez_mdash~this lie~ez_mdash~was in
return for a favor that Richards once did for Burgess. (Burgess is referring
to the serious offense of which he had been accused. Richards covered up
for him. However, Burgess is unaware that Richards could have exonerated
him but did not do so.) .......Mary
and Edward are now more miserable than ever before. .......Three
days before the election, each voter receives one of the fake coins, stamped
with the image of Pinkerton. The electorate thus perceives him as the sole
culprit from Friday's proceedings, making Harkness the overwhelming favorite
in the election. .......Meanwhile,
Edward and Mary Richards's guilt begins to ease. .......At
church on Sunday, the sermon centers on people who hide serious sins. When
Mr. and Mrs. Richards leave, they nod hello to Burgess as he turns a corner,
but he does not notice them and consequently does not return their greeting.
They think he is deliberately ignoring them. The narrator says, ~ez_ldquo~Was it
possible that he knew that Richards could have cleared him of guilt in
that bygone time, and had been silently waiting for a chance to even up
thinks that his servant must have heard an incriminating conversation between
himself and his wife, then later repeated it to Burgess. While talking
the matter over, their fear of being exposed eats at them. And they recall
that Burgess never returned the note Richards submitted in the competition
for the gold. Edward thinks Burgess kept it to use against him. During
the night, Edward and Mary become so sick with worry that they call a doctor.
The rest of the populace is deeply concerned, for Edward and Mary are the
pride of the town. Within two days, they become delirious, and nurses attending
them say they show off checks amounting to $38,500. Where could they have
gotten this new money? .......The
next day, the Richardses destroy the checks, telling the nurses that the
windfall had come from the devil. They then begin to ramble on about strange
things, and the doctor tells the nurses not to repeat their words. But
a rumor circulates that Richards had written a note to claim the gold and
that Burgess ignored it at the proceedings but later revealed it. Faith
in the Richardses dwindles as their guilt further sickens them. .......Six
days pass. On his deathbed, Richards summons Burgess and, in front of him
and other witnesses, confesses that he did in fact submit a note in the
competition for the gold. Moreover, he owns up that he once could have
saved Burgess when the latter was falsely accused of wrongdoing. But he
did not speak up. In retaliation, he says, Burgess decided to expose him
shortly after the proceedings at the town hall. Burgess denies doing so.
But in his delirium, Richards does not hear him. Instead, with his dying
breath, he says he forgives Burgess for exposing him. His forgiveness of
Burgess actually becomes a second wrong against the minister, since the
minister in fact did nothing to expose Richards. Richards's wife dies shortly
the ensuing days, the legislature enacts a law that changes the shameful
name of the community. .......~ez_ldquo~It
is an honest town once more, and the man will have to rise early that catches
it napping again,~ez_rdquo~ the narrator says. .
climax occurs when the town-hall proceedings expose the prominent citizens
The Evil Within
Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, ~ez_ldquo~A goodly apple rotten at the
heart. O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!~ez_rdquo~ (1.3.83-84). In ~ez_ldquo~The Man
That Corrupted Hadleyburg,~ez_rdquo~ Mark Twain develops the theme that corruption
underlies the pristine exterior of a community that vaingloriously promotes
its integrity. The stranger (also referred to as a foreigner and a gambler)
schemes to expose Hadleyburg as a fraud. He succeeds. All of the principal
citizens who avow uprightness use deceit to attempt to win the gold.
suffering an undisclosed offense in Hadleyburg, the stranger seeks revenge
against the town. He is willing to go to great lengths to achieve his goal.
town redeems itself after the deceivers are exposed. As the narrator says
in the last sentence of the story, ~ez_ldquo~It is an honest town once more, and
the man will have to rise early that catches it napping again."
title implies that Hadleyburg was morally upright until the stranger corrupted
it. However, the story indicates otherwise. Even before the stranger set
foot in the town, Hadleyburg was vain and self-righteous. Moreover, crime
apparently was a problem, as Mary Richards indicates when she is alone
for the first time with the sack of gold.
on us, and the door not locked!"
Richards flew to it all in a tremble and locked it, then pulled down the
window-shades and stood frightened, worried, and wondering if there was
anything else she could do toward making herself and the money more safe.
She listened awhile for burglars, then surrendered to curiosity, and went
back to the lamp and finished reading the paper:
addition, racial prejudice existed in the town, as indicated in a passage
in which Edward Richards is trying to recall the "great service" that he
supposedly performed for Barclay Goodson. The narrator says,
Goodson, years and
years ago, came near marrying a very sweet and pretty girl, named Nancy
Hewitt, but in some way or other the match had been broken off; the girl
died, Goodson remained a bachelor. . . . Soon after the girl's death the
village found out, or thought it had found out, that she carried a spoonful
of negro blood in her veins. He [Richards] seemed to dimly remember that
it was HE that found out about the negro blood; that it was he that told
the village; that the village told Goodson where they got it; that he thus
saved Goodson from marrying the tainted girl. . . .
in spite of Hadleyburg's moral failings before the arrival of the stranger,
the title seems apt. True, "The Man That Exposed Hadleyburg" would be more
accurate than "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." But corrupted
is a stronger word; the reader can feel its cutting edge. There are times
in literature when the wrong word is right and the right word can only
sit back and grumble.
are examples of figures of speech in the story. (For definitions of figures
into fits of absence
could have helped
a suffering stranger
with so noble a sum
at his wife, whose face was
become very pale;
he could hear his
microbes gnaw, the place was so still
A major irony in
the story is that the stranger uses lies and deceit to expose lies and
deceit. One may fairly argue that Hadleyburg corrupted him before he corrupted
The house had gotten
itself all ready to burst into the proper tornado of applause. . . .
Comparison of the sound
of applause to the sound of a tornado
The house submerged him in
tides of approving applause
Comparison of applause
to ocean tides
an angry cloud began
to settle darkly upon the faces of the citizenship
Comparison of the cloud
to a person. (Only humans become angry.) Comparison of a facial
expression to a dark cloud
there was a buzz
of conversation going on
A low murmur
sifted through the house
bread upon the waters:
After the stranger leaves the sack at the home of Edward and Mary Richards,
Mary thinks, "What a strange thing it is! . . . And what a fortune for
that kind man who set his bread afloat upon the waters!" The clause that
ends the sentence alludes to the first verse of the eleventh book of Ecclesiastes
in the Old Testament. The King James version of the Bible renders this
verse as "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after
many days." The New Living version of the Bible renders it as "Send your
grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you." What
the passage means, in simple terms, is that those who perform a kindness
will eventually reap a reward.
wages of sin: Allusion
to the following passage in the New Testament: "For the wages of sin is
death" (Romans 6: 23). In other words, when a person sins, the payment
he earns is death. A person who lives righteously, however, receives eternal
life as his payment.
open sesame: Allusion
to the tale of Ali Baba in the Arabian Nights. In this tale, a woodsman
happens upon a cave hiding the treasure of forty thieves and causes the
portal of the cave to open by uttering "Open sesame."
Sam Lawson: Benevolent
loafer and fisherman in Sam Lawson's Oldtown Fireside Stories,
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896).
P. T. Barnum (1810-1891):
American showman famous for bizarre attractions such as Siamese twins and
the 25-inch-tall midget Tom Thumb.
Questions and Writing Topics
an essay defending the thesis that the stranger, in exposing the hypocrisy
of a small town, represents the author, Mark Twain.
is extremely proud of its reputation. The narrator says that after a nationwide
newspaper story makes the town famous,
woke up world-celebrated~ez_mdash~astonished~ez_mdash~happy~ez_mdash~vain. Vain beyond imagination.
Its nineteen principal citizens and their wives went about shaking hands
with each other, and beaming, and smiling, and congratulating, and saying
THIS thing adds a new word to the dictionary~ez_mdash~HADLEYBURG, synonym for INCORRUPTIBLE~ez_mdash~destined
to live in dictionaries for ever.
However, a previous passage
says, "Hadleyburg had the ill luck to offend a passing stranger~ez_mdash~possibly
without knowing it, certainly without caring, for Hadleyburg was sufficient
unto itself, and cared not a rap for strangers or their opinions." Now,
then, how do you reconcile these two passages? One says, in effect, that
Hadleyburg residents care about what the world thinks of the them. The
other says they do not care "a rap" of what outsiders think of them. 3...Write
an essay defending or attacking the thesis that competition for money brings
out the worst in people. 4...Write
an essay defending the thesis that competition for money brings out the
best and the worst in people 5...Who
is the most admirable character in the story? Who is the least admirable?
Explain your answers. 6. Mark Twain peppers the
narrative with humor. An example is the passage in which Edward Richards
is trying to recall the good deed he performed for Barclay Goodson and
considers the possibility that he had saved Goodson from drowning. He almost
convinces himself that he "tugged Goodson ashore in an unconscious state
with a great crowd looking on and applauding." But then Richards remembers
that he does not know how to swim. What are other examples of humor in