ISC English – On the Decay of the Art of Lying by Mark Twain
On the Decay of the Art of Lying by Mark Twain
About the author .. In our childhoods, almost all of us read ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ with great delight. In fact, for most of us reading these books marked the rite of passage from Enid Blyton’s books to more serious and enjoyable fiction. The author, who wrote the two adventure accounts of Sawyer and Finn, is the quintessential American, Mark Twain(1835-1910). His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was the sixth child of his parents. He imbibed all the values Americans call their own — down-right honesty, humor, wit, love for technology, entrepreneurial spirit, liberalism, and regard for human dignity. Mark Twain was a prolific writer, and a much-sought after pubic speaker. He had a very imaginative mind and a compassionate heart. In many of his stories, an underprivileged boy remains at the center.
Mark Twain’s life was punctuated by many resounding successes and heart-breaking financial failures. At one time, he had to approach the court for bankruptcy protection. The mechanical typewriter he developed with great zeal and investment virtually tore his finances apart. But, he retrieved himself from this ignominy through his earnings and lectures and paid back all his creditors to the last penny.
Among his books, the most popular are ‘Jumping Frogs of Calaveras Country’, ‘The Prince and the Pauper’, ‘The Tramp Abroad’ and a few others. Americans still adore him as their most iconic writer, and a venerated liberal intellectual.
The Essay … A cursory look at the title of this essay may lead a reader to believe that the author is a perverse person out to corrupt the society with his immoral sermons. Actually, the case is just the opposite. Mark Twain is too upright a man to stoop low. Through this essay which bristles with humor, satire and mild sarcasm, he has implored his readers / listeners to look within and discover that in quotidian lives, all of them resort to falsehood one way or the other. One need not be so apologetic about it, as saying something that s not entirely correct is a necessity for civilized living. A puritanical love for truth may be morally correct, but speaking it with brutal honesty needlessly hurts the listener. It is always advisable to couch the truth with some cosmetic pleasant words to nullify its sting.
In this world of competitive commerce, trade, diplomacy, and public relations, speaking the truth with o discretion might have devastating consequences. It bruises people, embitters social relations, repulses people, and robs the speaker of his congeniality. So, dogmatic practicing of truth in conversation is fraught, and needs to be eschewed.
How the author makes his point … The author was speaking in a club before its members. The opening lines came as bit f a shock to the audience. They heard how the distinguished speaker eulogized the timeless tradition of telling a lie for various benefits such as recreation, escaping a punishment, solace, or just feeling good. The speaker maintained that this practice has been in vogue from the days of the beginning of civilization. With great humility, the speaker begins his speech admitting that his august audience must be better aware of the fact that the noble art of lying had been so much corrupted in recent times. Such an introduction easily aroused the interest of the listeners.
The speaker begged his listeners not to take offence for being identified as people who lied on occasions. In his view, lying was noble art, and not to be ashamed about it.
The author, in order not to offend anyone, resisted the temptation of naming some eminent people who resorted to lying as a part of their civilized existence.
Quite assertively, the speaker states that the noble art of lying should be taught in schools, and through newspapers. Lawyers lie to win a case, but they do it judiciously. They are adept in this. A common man stands no chance when pitted against a lawyer. The latter would prevail easily. So, the speakers said that it was better to remain silent, than to lie, and be exposed to ridicule.
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