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"Advice to Youth" by mark twain

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Rachel Bailey

on 4 March 2015

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Transcript of "Advice to Youth" by mark twain

About the Author
Born November 30, 1835 - Died April 21, 1910
Real name: Samuel Clemens
Grew up in Hannibal, MI
Married Olivia Langdon in 1865
Had three daughters
American author, essayist, lecturer and humorist
Early years worked as a typesetter and wrote articles for his brother's newspaper
Literary career launched by his short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" -brought national attention
Most famous for his classic American novels,
The Adventures of Tom Sawye
r and
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Award named after him: Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
Being told I would be expected to talk here, I inquired what sort of talk I ought to make. They said it should be
something suitable to youth-something didactic, instructive, or something in the nature of good advice.

Very well. I have a few things in my mind which I have often longed to say for the instruction of the young; for it is one's tender early years that such things will

take root
and be most enduring and most valuable. First, then. I will say to you my young friends -- and
I say it beseechingy, urgently
Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run, because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.

Be respectful to your superiors,
if you have any, also to strangers,
and sometimes to others. If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not,
do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit
him with a brick

That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him;
acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to
Yes, always avoid violence; in this age of charity and kindliness, the time has gone by for such things. Leave dynamite to the low and unrefined.

"Advice to Youth"
Twain was asked to write something to the youth of America, which he saw as an opportunity to criticize society's conventional teachings and authority figures. This essay is an example of Juvenalian satire, where his sarcasm is targeted towards these authorities.
"Advice to Youth" by mark twain
Utilizes a speech format to insert his role
as an elder in society.


Go to bed early, get up early -- this is wise. Some authorities say get up with the sun; some say get up with one thing, others with another.
But a lark is really the best thing to get up with.
It gives you a splendid reputation with everybody to know that you get up with the lark; and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time -- it’s no trick at all.


Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught. Once caught, you can never again be
in the eyes
to the good and the pure, what you were before. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy and ill finished lie, the result of carelessness born of incomplete training. Some authorities hold that the young ought not to lie at all.

That of course, is putting it rather stronger than necessary; still while I cannot go quite so far as that, I do maintain , and I believe I am right, that the young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable.

Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail

-- these are requirements; these in time, will make the student perfect; upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence.

Think what tedious
years of study, thought, practice, experience

went to the equipment of that peerless old master who was able to impose upon the whole world the lofty and sounding maxim that “Truth is mighty and will prevail” -- the most majestic
compound fracture of fact
which any of woman born has yet achieved. For the history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are
sewn thick with evidences
that a
truth is not hard to kill, and that a
lie well told is immortal

There is in Boston a monument of the man who discovered anesthesia; many people are aware, in these latter days, that that man didn’t discover it at all, but stole the discovery from another man.
Is this truth mighty, and will it prevail? Ah no, my hearers, the monument is made of hardy material, but the
lie it tells will outlast it a million years.
An awkward, feeble, leaky lie is a thing which you ought to make it your unceasing study to avoid; such a lie as that has no more real permanence than an average truth.

Why, you might as well tell the truth at once and
be done with it. A feeble, stupid, preposterous lie will
not live two years -- except it be a slander upon
somebody. It is indestructible, then of course, but
that is no merit of yours. A final word: begin your
practice of this gracious and beautiful art early -- begin now. If I had begun earlier, I could have learned how.


Never handle firearms carelessly. The sorrow and suffering that have been caused through the innocent but heedless handling of firearms by the young! Only four days ago, right in the next farm house to the one where I am spending the summer, a grandmother,
old and gray and sweet
, one of the loveliest spirits in the land, was sitting at her work, when her young grandson crept in and got down an old, battered, rusty gun which had not been touched for many years

was supposed not to be loaded,
pointed it at her, laughing
threatening to shoot.

In her fright she ran screaming and pleading toward the door on the other side of the room; but as she passed him he placed the gun almost against her very breast and pulled the trigger! He had supposed it was not loaded. And he was right -- it wasn’t. So there wasn’t any harm done. It is the only case of that kind I ever heard of.

Synecdoche- eyes as the whole person
Polysyndeton- excessive conjunctions
This passage represents a parody because instead of someone getting hurt resulting in a lesson learned, the gun had no bullet and nothing happened.
Therefore, just the same, don’t you meddle with old unloaded firearms; they are the most deadly and unerring hings that have ever been created by man. You don’t have to take any pains at all with them; you don’t have to have a rest, you don’t have to have any sights on the gun, you don’t have to take aim, even. No, you just pick out a relative and bang away, and you are sure to get him.

A youth who can’t hit a cathedral at thirty yards with a Gatling gun in three quarters of an hour, can take up an old empty musket and bag his grandmother every time, at a hundred. Think
what Waterloo would
have been if one of the armies had been boys armed with old muskets supposed not to be loaded, and the other army had been composed of their female relations. The very thought of it make one shudder.

There are many

of books;
but good ones are the
for the young to read. Remember that. They are great, and inestimable, and unspeakable means of improvement. Therefore be careful in your selection, my young friends; be very careful; confine yourselves exclusively to
, Baxter's
Saints' Rest
The Innocents Abroad
and works of that kind.
But I have said enough. I hope you will
treasure up
the instructions which I have given you, and make them a
guide to your feet and a light to your understanding
. Build your character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon these precepts, and by and by, when you have got it built, you will be surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else's.
Song- Champagne Supernova by Vitamin String Quartet- iTunes

The object of Twain's essay is to point out that children are being reformed to become just like everyone else in society and that their individuality is being suppressed. He addresses types of teachings for youth that are utilized in every generation, like respecting your elders. The author's sarcastic and judgemental tone helps to convey his belief that adolescent's identities should be cultivated on their own, without the influence of society.

Asyndeton- omission of conjunctions
Historical Allusion
Full transcript