Posted in Short Stories

Mark Twain’s “The Invalid’s Story”

Pretty soon it was plain that something had got to be done. I suggested cigars.


Comedy rule of thumb: Always let the reader know about the Limburger cheese.

In Mark Twain’s “The Invalid’s Story”, the narrator is accompanying his dead friend from Cleveland to Wisconsin via train. Apparently, in the 1880’s, one actually rode in the same car as the coffin.

Since the narrator is retelling the story and now knows about the Limburger cheese that a stranger left by the coffin, he kindly lets the reader know about it which allows the antics that ensue to be darkly comical as he mistakes the smell of the Limburger cheese for the smell of his dead friend.

This story would not have worked if the Limburger cheese had not been disclosed to the reader up front.

Because the smell of a dead body – well – its just not that funny.


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