In his work, Mark Twain extensively used satire, which is defined as the intentional humorous exaggeration and irony, mostly aimed at exposing people’s stupidity and failings. In the books, stories, and essays, Twain sought to shed light on the stupidity and hypocrisy of people around him, specifically to ridicule the close-mindedness of small towns, the religious hypocrisy of people, the dishonesty of politicians, as well as the long-standing practices such as slavery and imperialism. While Twain is mostly known for his Horatian satire, which is characterized by light-heartedness and the presence of humor, the Juvenalian satire, which has a harsher tone, is also present in the writer’s work.
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The change in satirical tone can be seen from the early days of Huckleberry Finn. The works are characterized by the increased social commentary of the author, with satire being used to shed light on the problems that Twain found important to point out. For example, in the quote “I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix,” Huck reflects on the human nature and the existence of slavery, suggesting that no person, even the ones who have committed serious crimes, deserves to be a slave (Twain, 1886, p. 103). Slavery and racism are prevalent themes in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and due to their severe impact on society, Twain did not shy to comment on them. Commenting on slavery was important for the writer because it was a complicated part of America’s history. The emergence of Juvenalian satire in Twain’s work illustrates the urgency to discuss slavery and other socially complex issues in the context of a light-hearted adventure narrative.
Twain, M. (1886). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s comrade). Charles L. Webster and Company.