Mark Twain’s “A True Story”


Mark Twain’s “A True Story” is an interesting approach to the first-person narrator that contributes and elevates the story as a whole. The story begins in first-person from the point of view of Misto C– but then transitions to the first person point of view of Aunt Rachel, as she tells the story of losing her family to the practice of slavery. The power of the story is contained in the question that Misto C–asks Aunt Rachel in the beginning and in the answer that she provides him. Misto C—asks, “Aunt Rachel, how is it that you’ve lived the two years and never had any trouble?” Aunt Rachel tells him a tragic tale of her family and then concludes with “Oh no, Misto C–, I hain’t had no trouble. An’ no joy!” While throughout the story her response doesn’t seem sarcastic, this reply appears to be so. Perhaps, it’s Mark Twain’s way of portraying comic irony, as if to make her say that without trouble, there would be no joy.

 “A True Story” is an excellent example of Mark Twain’s gift as a storyteller who ‘shows’ rather than ‘tells.’ His intentions are hard to figure out because he is rendering the contradictions, the absurdity, the irony, and the hypocrisy that exists in the world all around us without much apparent judgment. Since essays are written for the purpose of constructing and arguing a position, the power of this story would be greatly diminished if it were presented in that way. Instead the power comes from the reader and the reader’s ability to draw his own conclusions regarding meaning.

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