Rating: 5 out of 5
I heard about this story from a history of American 19th century thinking where the short story was described as a satire of the ever-popular genre of “bad boy becomes good after harrowing experiences”. This didn’t tell me too much about the story, not having had a prior experience of the genre. However, having read this, I can say that Twain’s trademark humour comes through excellently and the tale achieves at least two disparate goals.
Twain’s homage to the originals is so strong one can read this and not have to read the others. The majority of events that the antagonist ‘bad boy’ goes through are, after all, described as “Atypically this young fellow did not experience a change of heart after narrowly avoiding death”. As these instances where “the little bad boy” does not correct his behaviour are in the tens, the modern reader quickly exhausts the variety of options that 19th century writers had for life-changing events in the life of the ‘crooked’ young man.
That said, Twain’s way of approaching all these events is far more realistic and the story is very well-written. The “young boy” in Twain’s treatise is a more life-like (when compared to the subjects of the satire) who isn’t swayed by a quick fable and who still manages to go through life in his own way. I heartily recommend this short story!