Mark Twain’s “Buck Fanshaw’s Funeral”

“Now we’re alright, pard. Let’s start fresh. Don’t you mind my snuffling a little – becuz we’re in a power of trouble. You see, one of the boys has gone up the flume-“

“Gone where?”

“Up the flume – throwed up the sponge, you understand.”

“Thrown up the sponge?”

“Yes- kicked the bucket-“

“Ah-has departed to that mysterious country from whose bourne no traveler returns.”

“Return! I reckon not. Why, pard, he’s dead!”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Oh, you do? Well I thought maybe you might be getting tangled some more. Yes, you see he’s dead again-“

“Again! Why, has he ever been dead before?”

mark-twain

“Buck Fanshaw’s Funeral” really isn’t about Buck Fanshaw. His funeral is simply a way for Scotty Briggs to talk to a minister to ask him to perform the funeral service.

Scotty Briggs is a miner from the West Coast while the minister is from the East Coast. The minister also is more educated than Scotty. The conversation that ensues becomes something of a “who’s on first” routine as Scotty attempts to ask the minister to officiate using lower class slang and poker analogies. Not understanding, the minister responds with long-winded remarks containing large theological words and concepts – which of course sounds foreign to Scotty.

I loved the fact that the reader gets to hear both men and is able to find both of them funny. Twain doesn’t seem to be taking sides between West and East or between lower class and upper class. The path to understanding is hilarious from both points of view.

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