Posted in Short Stories

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

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I chose the Nine of Diamonds this week which meant I read Mark Twain’s short story “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”.  It was typical Twain humor, satire and sarcasm as he started the story explaining how the honesty of Hadleyburg was known around the country:

It was many years ago.  Hadleyburg was the most honest and upright town in all the region around about.  It had kept that reputation unsmirched during three generations, and was prouder of it than of any other of its possessions.


Underneath all of the pleasantries in describing this Edenistic little town, Twain puts a little tongue-in-cheek attitude toward its so-called honesty.  He seems to say “Nobody can really be this honest”.  And just as the reader might suspect, a stranger finds his way into Hadleyburg and is offended.  In an attempt to avenge himself, the stranger constructs an elaborate scheme to expose the true colors of Hadleyburg’s finest.  It includes money.  Throw a little money in the works and honesty doesn’t look so inviting – or so Twain seems to say.

The complexity of the scheme is probably what makes the entire story so humorous.  I laughed continuously as eighteen of the most prominent families of Hadleyburg were exposed to the general public.  The reaction of the public kept me laughing even more.   It seems like Twain put himself in the taunts and mocking of the public as they realized how Hadleyburg’s honesty only went so deep.

I know this is only the third story I’ve read in my Deal Me In 2014 project, but its my favorite so far.

7 thoughts on “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

    1. Jay, I like your post about this story, also. I found the stranger’s plot to be a little elaborate and sometimes confusing, but that somehow made it work in the story. I think from a lesser writer and in a lesser story, it would have just stayed at confusing. But the complexity made it that much funnier and made the prominent Hadleyburg people seem more “bumbling”.

  1. Growing up in Missouri, one gets a goodly amount of Twain assigned in school, but this is one I’ve never read. He just gets better and better, so I’ll have to look this up!

    1. I’ve been to Hannibal, MO several times and have always enjoyed it – as well as St. Louis and Lake of the Ozarks. I had not heard of this story until I found it in a collection of Twain’s short stories. In school, it seemed like everyone read “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” – which I liked, also.

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