Vanity In The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg By Mark Twain

1200 words - 5 pages

For the love of Money,
People will steal from their brothers,
For the love of money,
People will rob their own mothers…
People who don’t have money
Don’t let money change you…

-- The O’Jays

     After reading "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," by Mark Twain, the (above) song "For The Love of Money," by the r&b singing group The O’Jays resounded fervently in my head. The song’s ongoing message of the ill affects money can have on a person almost parallels that of Twain’s brilliant story of vanity, greed, revenge, and honesty, or should I say dishonesty. The story displays how much an entire town is willing to forsake in order to obtain that which has been known to destroy families, careers, lives, and in this case, the good name of an entire town – money. Yes money – that age-old evil that causes men to cheat, lie, steal, and even kill to consume its pseudo sense of security and power, is at the very root of the theme of the story, which is: when money is obtained through some evil act or dishonest deed, there is no escaping the moral punishment – even if the acts or deeds are unknown. Mark Twain, in my opinion, does an excellent job in supporting the theme of the story by using characterization to bring out the vanity of the town of Hadleyburg, the revengefulness of the stranger, as well as the greed and dishonesty of the people of Hadleyburg.
     Though unconventional, it can be supported that Twain made the town of Hadleyburg a character in the story and equipped it with its own set of flaws and short comings – the biggest being, ironic as it may be, the vanity that came as a result of the town being known as honest and incorruptible. We are first introduced to the fact that the town’s seemingly good reputation had, over the years, taken a bad affect on the attitude of the Town and the way it treats its visitors in the second paragraph of chapter one of the story. The passage that describes it best is as follows: "Hadleyburg had the ill luck to offend a passing stranger – possibly without knowing it, certainly without caring, for Hadleyburg was sufficient unto itself, and cared not a rap for strangers or their opinions." (Perkins 372) Another example of Hadleyburg at its vainest comes at the beginning of chapter two when the news of the gold sack of money reached the news papers and made national headlines. "Hadleyburg village woke up world-celebrated—astonished –happy—vain. Vain beyond imagination." (Perkins 379) Although there are other numerous examples that I can pull from to describe the character of Hadleyburg, none do more to exemplify its character than the following passage: "…this town’s honesty is as rotten as mine is; as rotten as yours. It is a mean town, a hard stingy town, and hasn’t a virtue in the world but this honesty it is so celebrated for and so conceited about…" (Perkins 378)

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