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Mark Twain’s Carnival of Crime Exaggeration (Redux)

A carnival of Mark Twain exaggerations is on full display in one of our Adapted Classics stories, “The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut”. You can now find digital versions of this irreverent tale at both Apple Books and Amazon. If you are reluctant to spend a coupla bucks to test your tolerance or taste for Twain’s irreverence, both sites offer a preview of the book before you make an investment. 

This story would be a useful tool for showing middle school students how exaggeration works as humor. It would also be useful in a lesson that contrasts the positive and negative effects of exaggeration. Exaggeration can be used to make people laugh as long the audience is ‘in on the joke’. But exaggeration can also be used to manipulate people into believing a false narrative or buying into a phony bill of goods. And that ain’t funny for anybody, except maybe the manipulator.

Twain, of course, used exaggeration to great humorous effect and never did it any better than in this tale. To demonstrate, here’s a passage from near the end of our adapted version of the story. Twain describes what he does immediately after attaining personal freedom from moral constraints.

Excerpt – Mark Twain’s Carnival of Crime

I settled all my old outstanding scores,
and began the world anew. I killed thirty-eight persons
during the first two weeks—all of them on account of
ancient grudges. I burned a house that interrupted my
view of the horizon. I swindled a widow and some orphans
out of their last cow, which is a very good one, though not,
I believe, a thoroughbred. I have also committed scores
of crimes, of various kinds, and have enjoyed my work
exceedingly.

You might want to ask yourself what makes this passage funny, even within the small contextual frame provided here. Clearly, Twain provides the reader with a carnival of exaggerations. Even if Twain were to find himself happily free of all moral constraints, would he, would anyone, take pleasure committing these types of crimes? For me the story is funny because Twain takes the exaggeration of obvious untruths to the absolute limit. And Twain fills his whole ‘Carnival of Crime’ story with similar exaggerations, coupled with ludicrous impressions.

Marc Johnson-Pencook

It bears mentioning that Marc Johnson-Pencook’s illustrations follow and emulate Twain’s exaggerations and ludicrous impressions every step of the way throughout the story. To give you an example, we conclude this blog with a Marc’s portrait of a furious Twain about to destroy his nemisis.

With an exultant shout I sprang past my aunt, and in an
instant I had my lifelong foe by the throat. After so many
years of waiting and longing, he was mine at last.

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