Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name of Mark Twain, is a widely renowned author whom, throughout his life, wrote countless short stories and essays criticizing politics, media, and other government and social areas. Twain was an avid supporter of civil rights and was extremely critical of the court systems. Twain often criticized how society treatment of criminals changes for every social class. Mark Twain uses his dark humor and irony to convey said theme in three of his more popular short stories, The New Crime, Running for Governor, and A Presidential Candidate.
Mark Twain’s short story, The New Crime, illustrates the positive side of having a high social class and the special treatment from the court systems that comes along with wealth. Twain first writes about a series of ordinary murder cases committed by wealthy men and lords in which the murderers are all pardoned from their crimes and giving the insanity plea. The insanity plea basically states that if a person is mentally insane, they cannot be held accountable for any crimes they commit while insane.
All of the murders from said cases are ordinary murders, which show no sign of insanity. This clearly displays that the men are only acquitted because of their deep pockets. One of Twain’s favorite literary devices is irony and he often uses it to ridicule the government. In The New Crime Twain uses irony when he writes, “The servant girl, Bridget Durgin, at the dead of night invaded her mistress’ bedroom and carved the lady literally to pieces with a knife. Then she dragged the body to the middle of the floor and beat and Lemacks 2
banged it with chairs and such things. …No such insanity plea was offered in her defense. ” (Twain 5) This is ironic because, in Durgin’s case, she is obviously deranged but, since she is of low social standard, she is not offered the insanity plea and, instead, is promptly hanged. The reader knows that Twain is purposefully being ironic because he includes details such as the facts that she has no motive for the murder, saves the woman’s baby, and continues to hike through the snow with the child having left her shoes, which all show how clearly insane the girl is.
In using his precious irony, Twain makes his point very clear and makes sure to drive the message of the judicial systems corruptness through to the reader. In Twain’s short story, Running for Governor, he writes about when he was nominated for governor of New York. He uses said story to show the negative side of having a high social status and how the media will treat one differently when they are put in the spotlight. Twain himself is the main character and has never done a single thing in all his life to be ashamed of.
When his campaign begins, Twain feels that his advantage over his competition is that he possesses good character whereas, Twain’s two opponents are portrayed in the papers as terrible men. The next day newspapers start to come out accusing Mr. Twain of ridiculous crimes. One of the papers says that Twain has been convicted of perjury by thirty-four witnesses against a native woman in Cochin China! Twain is list all of the absurd accusations in the following pages. What Twain is doing is making the charges serious, such as murder, but also incredibly odd.
The reason being to create a subtle, dark humor in all of the newspaper articles so that the reader will see how the media is clearly just making up stories about whomever runs for a political office. Twain uses this same technique in his short story, A Presidential Candidate, in which he jokingly writes that he has made up his mind to run for president but, instead of waiting on Lemacks 3 reporters to publish everything bad about him in the newspaper, he is going to come out with everything bad that he has done in the past.
Twain uses dark humor when he writes, “The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine was correct. … Does that unfit me for the presidency? The Constitution of our country does not say so. ” (Twain 21) Once again, as he did in Running for Governor, Twain is making up silly crimes that, even though they are serious, one cannot help but chuckle at them. Twain succeeds once more in ridiculing the media through dark humor. Mark Twain wrote hundreds of short stories, essays, and sketches.
Many of these works contain two of his favorite techniques; dark humor and irony, which often accompany one another in Twain’s stories. It is through his expert use of the two figurative language devices, along with many others, that Twain was able to criticize the difference in treatment towards different social classes to the extent that he did. Lemacks 4 Works Cited Twain, Mark. Taming the Bicycle: And Other Essays, Stories, and Sketches. Ed. Eric C. Link. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2009. Print.
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