Posted in Short Stories

Mark Twain’s “The Burning Brand”

The letter was a pure swindle, and that is the truth. And take it by and large, it was without a compeer among swindles. It was perfect, it was rounded, symmetrical, complete, colossal!


The themes in Mark Twain’s short story “The Burning Brand” are classic Mark Twain themes. I’ve learned that it’s not uncommon for him to poke fun of ethics, morals and religion and in this story, he sets up a great situation to do this. However, it doesn’t come off as funny as some of his other stories.

A prisoner writes a letter telling in great detail of his religious conversion letting the recipients know all the ways in which he has changed. As the letter roams from church to church it causes great emotion and lots of tears at the thought of a wayward son returning to the flock. In the middle of the story, we are told that the letter is a fake. I think finding this out in the middle might be one of the reasons it’s not that funny. This revelation could be a great “shocker” at the end.

I’m also not sure of the significance of the title. Perhaps, I just passed over something while reading it. Twain’s titles are not always that descriptive of the story but I can’t figure this one out. Any thoughts, let me know!

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