Mark Twain's Whittier Birthday Speech

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Nathaniel Hawthorne Pages: 1 (319 words) Published: February 28, 2009
It is undeniable that, throughout his literary career, Mark Twain established himself as a literary mastermind. It is also beyond a doubt that the main reason for his accomplishments as an author was his wittiness and modern sense of humor. In Twain’s Whittier Birthday Dinner Speech, he uses his skill in satire and humor to a deliver a catastrophic speech during the social gathering of three of New England's literary greats: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Twain had very unique humorist techniques. Whittier Birthday Dinner Speech was a skillfully written humorous satire of the evening's three most prominent guests. “Mr. Emerson was a seedy little bit of a chap—red-headed. Mr. Holmes was as fat as a balloon—he weighed as much as three Hundred, & had double chins all the way down to his stomach. Mr. Longfellow was build like a prize fighter” (Twain 1133). The responses from the guests were unexpected; Twain was met by a cold silence and the outcome was the downfall of the entire affair. And while the seemingly catastrophic speech caused Twain a significant amount of personal grief, he later on came to the realization that the speech debacle depicted him as only human, in a way that is entertaining, as well as endearing to the audience. It is apparent that Twain had no intention to insult the guests at the party. Twain was only acting as his guests were expecting him to. He saw it only as wanting to provide smart entertainment in the way of using some of the most well known literary figures of the time. It was more of an ode to his favorite writers through revered verses, lines of poetry that held dear to his heart.
Twain, Mark. “Whittier Birthday Dinner Speech” Pages 1133- 1136. McMicheal, George. Concise Anthology of American Literature. Sixth Edition. Prentice-Hall. 1993.
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