A mysterious stranger is somehow insulted during a visit to the town of Hadleyburg, proud of its reputation for scrupulous probity. We are never told the nature of the insult, but the stranger’s revenge is to destroy the town’s hard earned reputation. His weapon is greed, which infallibly brings down eighteen of the leading townspeople. For the nineteenth citizen, and his wife, Twain allows their greed to lead all the way to the grave, dying raving and bitter.
It is of course a morality tale. Though I know little of Mark Twain’s politics, I interpret The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg as a criticism of emerging consumerism and a generational shift in attitudes to debt.
In some cases light-headed people did not stop with planning to spend, they really spent-on credit.
To bastardise a speech from the book, this story is not without merit, not without interest, not without grace; yet I was pleased to reach its conclusion.
[Read as part of Frances’s and Melville House’s The Art of the Novella Reading Challenge.]
Hmmm. That is not exactly a ringing recommendation. Worrying now that this is one of Twain’s less than subtle offerings that annoy a little. Hope you are on to something better next.
“…one of Twain’s less than subtle offerings that annoy a little.”
That’s an almost perfect summary of my feeling about this book. Does Twain ever write with subtlety?
I love the works of art you are including with your reviews!
Thank you for your comments and for dropping by.