Individualism in Literature by Mark Twain

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In delivering his supposedly motivational speech to a club with many young girls, Mark Twain mocks the conventional teachings of adults in raising children. While valuing the importance of individualism and self-thought, he diverges from the speech that many adults expected – a talk on what to do and not to do to become successful in this world. Instead, he takes a comical approach to speaking to the youth, exaggerating real-world problems and portraying the consequences of solely following the advice of adults to depict the impact of their actions.

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Stressing the importance of being an individual, Twain leaves his advice to be interpreted by the youth in their own way, teaching them to think for themselves and to develop their own life’s path while growing up.

Depicting sarcastic examples of real-world problems, Mark Twain stresses individualism in his audience by portraying that advice taken literally will not help resolve serious conflicts. He further humors his audience into contemplating the validity of common advice they hear from respected figures in their lives, urging the need to think before one acts. In his first piece of advice, Twain deliberately repeats the word “you” in order to place an emphasis on the individual while directly targeting the young girls, giving them a sense of freedom – one which may have seemed unlikely to girls in the early 1880s, when women were predestined to work in the domestic sphere, caring for children and the house, under the control of their husband. Twain suggests that the ability to think for oneself and to be an individual is true freedom, urging his audience not to submissively obey everyone and to think for themselves, believing only “you” can make “your” own decisions, not anyone else. Twain implements sarcasm in a potential complication one may encounter in their life, portraying how simple solutions in advice will not always solve problems, emphasizing the need to think before one acts. By exaggerating violence in a story where one hits someone “with a brick” and realizes that the violence was not necessary.

Twain proclaims that a simple apology will not solve anything. He stresses the idea that one has to perceive the consequences of their actions beforehand. For these conflicts can be avoided by foreseeing the potential problems before one acts. By amusing his audience, they determine which part of his advice is true. Clearly, hitting someone with a brick is not Twain’s advice; the audience decides for themselves what the right thing to do is – thinking individually and forming their own opinions. While Twain does encourage one to avoid violence and to respect others, he depicts that relying solely on the advice of others to get one through life will not work; everyone will encounter obstacles, and often times, there is no solution to fix them in their entirety. However, the ability to think quickly on the spot will aid in easing the problem, and one can only achieve that skill through experience. Because this skill is acquired through practice, Twain encourages his audience to start learning to think individually while they are youths, as it will help them in adulthood.

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Individualism in Literature by Mark Twain. (2022, Nov 20). Retrieved from