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Kyle M. | Certified Educator with Masters, Tutoring 3rd Grade Through CollegeCertified Educator with Masters, Tutorin...
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It seems to me that Twain is actually satirizing adult or "learned" behavior, or perhaps conformity in general. Notice how he treats several topics, such as obedience, deference or respect, and lying. He inserts certain words that betray the stated purpose. For example, he writes, "obey your parents, when they are present," because they "think they know better than you," actually implying that parents do not know more. Regarding respect, he writes, "Respect your superiors, if you have any...," as if to say there may be none superior to you. His discussion of lying is very interesting. He warns youth "to be very careful about lying," or else "you are nearly sure to get caught." He then continues the discussion of how we should not lie until we've grown & learned enough to become "perfect" liars, with "confidence, elegance, and precision." He then continues to further support his theme of the adult world that so admires a "lie well told" that it rewards the liar with profit & accolades. Twain advises youth to start "early" to learn "this gracious and beautiful art...If I had begun earlier, I would have learned how."
One view might be that he is advising youth to prepare to join & be competent in adult life, in which disobedience, disrespect, and lying might be considered survival skills. However, considering that the true purpose of satire is to try & bring change, it is more likely that Twain is satirizing the "do as I say - not as I do" adult world. I believe his comments are actually aimed at adults - not youth. He is probably trying to point out the errors of adult cynicism, with a view toward making society more honest, cooperative, and rational In the long term.


so the issue that twain is satirizing is the behavior of youth???
sorry i still dont get it
so he is giving advice to young people on how they can become better than their pass generation.He probably wants then to be smarter because he advice them to practice becoming better lairs. so the issue is that twain is satirizing is the education and influence of young people???????
Twain actually sounds like he prefers the judgement & behavior of youth, but wishes adult behavior to improve. Although the title says "Advice to Youth," Twain's true purpose seems to be to improve adults. This is satire - think of it as "tongue-in-cheek" - using Twain is pretending to address youth, while actually griping at adults for the ways adults behave - and wanting adults to change for the better. In a sense, it is ironic - pretending to do one thing while actually intending another.
You can hardly ever take Twain literally. He was a satirist & humorist. If he said or wrote a particular thing, or made some specific comment, you can bet he was actually referring to something else! Think of it this way: this piece has two objects, youth & age. If he says he's addressing youth, he must really be addressing age.
Mark Twain speaks heavily on the "never handle firearms carelessly" and I was wondering what he was mocking. My guess is he is satiric about how people use examples and false analogies to support absolute statements. Or is he poking fun at how people have unreasonable fear for things (like how people warn against old unloaded muskets instead of a functional new musket) since he goes into "think of how waterloo would have been with old muskets supposed not to be loaded".. Do you have any insight on that particular section?
Hi, Melanie! I had forgotten about this post, as I had never again heard anything from Daisy. I tried my best to help her with the concept of satire, but I cannot be confident that I was successful. I enjoy Twain very much & have a fair understanding of him & his wry wit, but I'm not a great literato. My background may be suitable for assisting struggling students with basic literary concepts, but my deeper understanding of literature will be hit & miss. Nonetheless, I enjoy meaningful discussions of stimulating ideas & would enjoy sharing some thoughts with you - if you will please forgive that my modest understanding might leave significant stones unturned.
I remember puzzling over this section when assisting Daisy, and I obviously chose to focus on the more approachable satire in this speech - so as to direct her in grasping the basic concept of satire. Looking at it further under you direction, I find a few ideas that might illuminate Twain's meaning. However, I must admit that I like your idea about unreasonable fear, which I view as a learned behavior characteristic of adults. Children tend to have fewer such fears, as experience has not yet affected them in such ways as to make them so fearful. I might be able to relate this also to your notion about using false analogies to support absolutes.
Taking these ideas, I realize that it was always adults - especially older adults - who sent young men off to war against other young people, whose elders had likewise pushed them into the fray. Typically, these young men were equipped with the best, most modern & accurate weapons available. Young men in war slaughtered one another by the hundreds using such weapons - under the order & direction of older adults, of course. Officers, those older & more experienced personnel, may have been safer due to their preferred positions on the battlefield. Twain possibly satirized here that adults might seem so fearful of a truly ineffective weapon, while they would direct young men to be slaughtered by effective ones. Is it not adults then who "carelessly" use firearms - by putting them into young hands that slaughter their peers? He seems to be pointing to adult hypocrisy, with a view toward bringing a change among adults.
Your idea of "false analogy" is perhaps a bit difficult for me. Is his story of the grandmother, who knows the musket is not loaded, use of a false analogy? Is Twain exaggerating an adult's unreason to the point that the story becomes incredible & ineffective - and there false?
I tend to see many things as symbolical, but Twain might not have intended the same. For example, I noticed that the old, rusted, and unloaded musket could symbolize old people, while a modern & efficient gun, loaded with multiple shots, might represent young people. However, I don't have the energy at the moment to make anything of such symbolism - and it might be the proverbial goose chase.
For now, I will leave it at that. Hopefully, you will return to continue this very fascinating discussion, so that I might further benefit from your input.
Hello Mr. Kyle M! I appreciate your response and thoughtfulness in your post. I turned in a rough draft analysis essay and received some feedback from my professor. He told me that Twain is simply commenting on how dangerous firearms are and how people will assume an old gun is unloaded and safe but they wind up shooting someone unintentionally. I did not think to take this advice Twain gives literally, but my professor said to not read too much into his points. The example Twain gives with the grandmother is purely comedic and not insightful into anything else. I completely misinterpreted that part but at least it was only a rough draft. My professor said there really is not any underling meanings but just mocking cliches and humoring the audience. I am thankful for your insight and your previous points made to Daisy were really helpful. I am going to mostly talk about how Twain is against conformity. In case you were interested, I was also told that the section about superiors is Twain advising the youth to be more respectful to their superiors and not burn bridges because the youth often does not view anyone as superior. I did not make that connection either but in case you were curious with other ideas! Thank you Mr. M!
Fascinating. Perhaps my instinct about that section was better than I thought. Surely your professor doesn't think the entire piece is just humorous quips - this could not be an example of satire if there were no satire. Nonetheless, I might still disagree with your professor about the grandmother & the gun - or he may be simplifying this for young college students. Anyway, I'm grateful that I could help.
Hey Kyle M. we are analyzing this piece in my English class. While we were discussing it today, one of my peers brought up that the rusty old find could be a symbol for old ideas, referencing how ignorance to history can cause it to repeat itself, contrary to my instructor's interpretation. I thought I'd like to throw that in here two year later haha. I enjoy reading forum posts analyzing pieces to see different viewpoints before we go writing essays in class and this conversation caught my attention. I really enjoyed reading what you had to say about it. Thanks! - Charles
Thanks, Charles! I'm grateful that my ideas are helpful, but I admit that my view has changed slightly - due in part to Melanie's discussion. It originally appeared to me that Twain was satirizing adults, but I do now agree - in part - with Melanie's professor, whom Melanie believed Twain was satirizing youth.
Here's how I see it now:
Twain is addressing youth (live, in person, at a college graduation, you'll recall) & making humorous remarks as he, himself, were a stubborn youth, with no superiors & with no need for advice from elders. Twain further implies that our elders are often "perfect liars," but they must have perfected this art since youth. Therefore, I now see Twain as taking advantage of an opportunity to influence his youthful audience, through humor & satire, to bring change in the coming generations by taking any good influences from adults, while avoiding many of the negative, learned behaviors that had previously spoiled adults. This view is the somewhat the same, but takes into account that youth is more capable of & susceptible to change than are adults, whose stubbornness & negative behaviors are deeply engrained.