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 ...
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...ding the story of and dissecting the characters in "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," by Mark Twain, I was quite impressed with Mr. Twain’s clever ability to develop a quality short story that clearly uncovered the evils that the desire for money can cause. In conclusion, Mark Twain effectively used characterization to thoroughly support his central theme, which is as follows: 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.
Fishkin, Shelley F. Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg & Other Stories & Essays, Mark Twain The Oxford University Press (1900):
Kent, Rasmussen, R. Mark Twain A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life &
Writings, Oxford University Press, November 1996
LeMaster, J. R. / Wilson, James D., ed. Mark Twain Encyclopedia
Garland Publishing, Incorporated, February 1993
Perkins, George; Perkins, Barbara, ed. The American Tradition in Literature, 9th edition McGraw-Hill COLLEGE 1999
O’Jays, The Best of Old School, "For The Love Of Money"
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