Posted in Short Stories

Mark Twain’s “Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning”

Well, sir – continued Mr. McWilliams, for this was not the beginning of his talk – the fear of lightning is one of the most distressing infirmities a human being can be afflicted with.


After reading Mark Twain’s story “Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning”, I wondered if it would be considered a farce. Of course, I wasn’t sure of the exact definition of a farce so I looked it up on

a light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character.

Mr. and Mrs. McWilliams are recurring characters in Twain’s stories where Mr. McWilliams, though irritated, gives in to the irrational fears of his wife. In the case of this story, Mrs. McWilliams has herself hidden in a closet during a lightning storm. Because the closet is only big enough for her, she yells out directions to her husband about how best to protect himself from the lightning – given that he can’t fit in the closet with her.

Ultimately, the situation builds and builds with one humorous act after another. It reminded me of an episode of I Love Lucy. I think most sitcoms could be considered farces – as well as this story.

Here’s my post about another McWilliams story, “Experience of the McWilliamses with Membranous Croup”. 

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