Both “The Man who Corrupted Hadleyburg” and “Huckleberry Finn” have truthful but unfavorable views of human nature and society in general. Some might call Mark Twain a pessimist but I think he is a realist who uses humor and fiction to expose the hypocrisies of everyday life. The town of Hadleyburg uses an exterior fix (changing its name) to change an interior problem (that its citizens are greedy and spiteful just like everywhere else). Perhaps what Twain is trying to say is that it is not hopes and wishes and illusions of being a good person that makes one a good person. Instead it is that person’s behavior. Huck is a good person based on accumulation of his good deeds not necessarily his intentions or his words. Hadleyburg on the other hand is a corrupt town and will remain a corrupt town whether or not they keep their name.
The stranger in Mark Twain’s “The Man who Corrupted Hadleyburg” is motivated by the desire to expose supposedly honest people for who they truly are. The stranger appears to be someone who hates hypocrisy and no longer wants to tolerate the lie that Hadleyburg perpetuates. It has to be a lie because the citizens of Hadleyburg are human beings and like human beings everywhere they are capable of lies, deceit, and greed. While the stranger sets out and succeeds in corrupting the town, he does not do anything more than expose the citizens for who they secretly are and were all along. After all, the town’s solution to their reputation problem in the end of the story is not to address the underlying acts but rather to change their name and pretend nothing happened.