Mark Twain: Journalism in Tennessee

Ad Hoc Short Story Week featuring Mark Twain:  Day One

Today I’m posting about Mark Twain’s short story, “Journalism in Tennessee”.  As one might expect, wit and sarcasm abound.

The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain

The story is told from the point of view of Twain’s fictionalized version of himself as he takes on a job with a Newspaper in – you guessed it – Tennessee.  He doesn’t initially understand his boss’s instructions when told to write an article on a particular subject. Apparently, journalism in Tennessee is much more cut-throat.  While the barbs are flying in the op-ed section, bricks and bullets and hand grenades fly between the varying newspapers in the community.

I wondered at the point Twain was trying to make in this story.  Aside from simply being funny, it made me ask several “deeper” questions.  Can one write opinions to the extent that they seem like bullets or bricks or hand grenades?  There is that old adage “The pen is mightier than the sword”.  Maybe Twain’s humor serves to enforce that idea.  I also had to think of this story from a different perspective.  Do opinions, written on paper, really warrant the anger and offense and fear that people sometime take to them?  It could be worse, they could be real bullets.  Then there is another question:  Do real bullets begin with opinions written on paper?

Much to ponder in such a short story.


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