~ On the Hypocrisy of the characters in the short story "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" by Mark Twain, and in general.
"Volatile and intense as always, Mark Twain's sharp reactions were those of the Sam Clemens of 23, whom Orion described as one 'whose organization is such to feel the utmost extreme of every feeling'". (Allen, p. 275).
People can be such hypocrites - it is a sad fact that many, if not most people exhibit this dishonest trait every day of their lives, saying one thing but actually doing another - by word but not deed. This is poignantly illustrated in the story "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" by Mark Twain, made clearly evident by the character therein, seemingly puritanically wholesome, but as is illustrated time and again, when you show some green, or in this case, gold, people show THEIR true colors. It has been said that everyone has a price; and I argue that this is most often the case.
The apparently Rockwellian facade of Hadleyburg belies its true character, or lack thereof, first seen in the treatment of a stranger who comes into town for a short time, and is treated terribly by the overwhelming majority of the residents. Their erstwhile "kindness" only seems to be reserved for others of their social strata, although even that is a dubious display at best. People pass him by with scorn and upturned noses, like so many turkeys drowning in the rain of their own pretentiousness. They assumed no harm would come of it, but they assumed wrong, to their ultimate detriment. Indeed, they treated the wrong person in this despicable passive-aggressive manner.
"It was mankind's malice that unleashed Mark Twain's tirades against the 'damned human race'. In the hopelessness of ever doing it justice, he broke into such wild drolling as 'The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg'". (Allen, p. 295).
So the townspeople exist in a miasma of ignorance and indifference, except for petty issues swirling in their myopic comprehension. Seeking only egotistical acknowledgment, their vapidness, therefore, swells into a veritable dirigible set for infernal deflation. Mark Twain effectively acts as a devilish storyteller, presenting the opposing and brutally truthful viewpoint to that of the common Pollyanna anthropic fairy-tale scenario of wishful thinking.
Man is, at the core, a vengeful beast, naturally seeking those traits ascribed as so-called "evil". He reveals human motivations lain naked in the sight of empirical observation metaphorically and dramatically described.
"Interestingly suggestive of Mark Twain's later "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg", this semi-allegorical story effectively preaches against the evils of lobbying". (French, p.230).
And it certainly reveals that viewpoint, with every two-faced assumption and accusation leveled against those deemed not of their kind, and in most cases, those very same within their sheltered existence. The mysterious stranger who enters into the fetters of their own pleasant-ville carried the so-called "root of all evil" with him, which, by and by, releases its nefarious influence within the minds of those whose repressive value-system allowed for such an inevitable explosion of contained emotion, like a bubbling, over-flowing witch's brew, or a Pandora's Box of festering wickedness.
Little by little, the walls begin to crumble around the city acclaimed for its perceived beauty in aesthetic and moralistic platitudes. So the revenge is virtual poetry in action, and invariably, receives it from its own hand and effort, while at the same time acting as a catylistic mirror reflecting their own rottenness of character. A justification is made by the following statement:
"...we realize too, while Hadleyburg was a savage and ironical variable in the hypocrisy of human virtue, and the ease of human temptation..." (Geisman, p.257).
It is demonstrated that sometimes it takes pain to evolve the race towards progress and change - as a veritable pitchfork prodding the self-righteous herd onwards.
"...malice and cruelty of it, the unnecessary pain of it, sent him into storms. He cursed the human race until his family wearied of it." (Allen, p.295).
Twain despised pretentiousness in all of its foul manifestations, whether displayed by religion, society, or individual people, and believed countering it fire by fire, that the flame of reason and honesty might purify the deadness besetting those zombie-like progenitors of delusion, who all the while blame others for their un-admitted, programmed foolishness, burning away the topical, stagnant contagion to reveal a fresh perspective, likened the revolution of the seasons in the processes of regeneration, only to bring forth a change in a different and improved form.
Stupidity and ignorance are a terrible combination, which frequently spawn each other in kind, resulting in birthing unnecessary destruction, which frequently brings forth realization wrought of pain or discomfort; enough to contribute to revelations profoundly pondered. Thus, contemplation and actualization can forthwith bring enlightenment. For so-called "Evil", like catastrophe, has always been a catylist for change.
Finally, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" is a marvelous allegory, which remains as relevant now as the day it was published, arcanely and contemporarily displaying the mask of shallow superficiality when people try to impress others instead of themselves, many times harming others who do not deserve it, who may prove to be far more sensitive than they*; for the mask gazes at the mirror, revealing the truth within, and when it is shattered, so too is their false perception. ∞
* Of course, if there are cooperative efforts working towards a mutually gratifying goal with others of like mind, then so much the better.