An enigmatic person strolls into a humble village secluded in the mountains, ignorant to many things. The enigma then enlightens the villagers to the truth whether good or bad. Mark Twain uses such a scenario in many of his works such as The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, and The Mysterious Stranger. In both stories are set in small towns who’s residents are oblivious to their own moral hypocrisy. The sudden appearance of a stranger spreading a sort of knowledge, initiates a chain of events the leads to certain residents to self-evaluate their own character and that of the whole human race. It’s is through these “Mysterious Strangers” and the events they trigger that Twain is able to depict his unfiltered cynical view of the moral status of the damned” human race.
”Hadleyburg was the most honest and upright town in all the region around about.”(Twain “Hadleyburg” 20). This is the description of the town before the Stranger gets done with it. Hadleyburg, a honorable town with good morals, and a pristine reputation for honesty that eventually transformed into a sort of vanity. It is because of this vanity that the residents of the town unknowingly offend a passing stranger.(Twain “Hadleyburg” 20) The vanity displayed by Hadleyburg stems from an innocent naivety that goes unchallenged until the arrival of the stranger. The stranger’s scheme challenges that naivety and forces the dishonesty of Hadleyburg’s high profile and “incorruptible” family’s to surface. The Strangers actions could be compared to those of a prophet trying to coerce a revelation out of his followers, and in the Strangers case the revelation being that due to the removal of all temptation Hadleyburg is just as vulnerable to dishonesty as the next town if not more…
… the human condition. Flaws such as its poor excuse for morals, hypocrisy, corruption. It is evident that Twain believed that if he is able to draw to a problem through his writing his readers will take note of it and work to finding a solution.
Chard, Leslie F., II. “Mark Twain’s “Hadleyburg” and Fredonia, New York.” American Quarterly 16.4 (1964): 595-601. JSTOR. Web. 30 Sept. 2013. .
Gervais, Ronald J. “”The Mysterious Stranger”: The Fall as Salvation.” Pacific Coast Philology 5 (1970): 24-33. JSTOR. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. .
Twain, Mark. “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.” The Mysterious Stranger And Other Stories. Mineola: Dover, 1992. 20-55. Print.
Twain, Mark. “The Mysterious Stranger.” The Mysterious Stranger And Other Stories. Mineola: Dover, 1992. 55-121. Print.