Summary of Advice to Youth by Mark Twain

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, American literature Pages: 5 (831 words) Published: September 17, 2013
Eng 111 03D
June 18, 2013

“Advice to Youth”
by Mark Twain
a summary by
Tricia Jenkins

Mr. Mark Twain was an American author and humorist born in 1835. His birth name was

Samuel Langhorn Clemens. He was responsible for such literary masterpieces as The Adventures of

Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, which became known as the Great American

Novel. He was admired by many of the great novelists of the era, including William Faulkner, Earnest

Hemingway, and Norman Mailer. Before his death in 1910, he had penned over thirty books. He then

had two more books publish after his death. In 1907, he received and honorary doctorate from Oxford

University. He is known as one of the greatest American writers of all


Mark Twain's Advice to Youth is an interestingly contradictory speech with a comedic

approach aimed toward the teenage audience. His intent is not to undermine the common family values,

but to provide an honest real-life approach to those values so as to be better understood by the less

developed teen mind. In this paper I will be discussing the main points of Mr. Twain's speech and

analyzing the meaning behind those points.

Mr. Twain begins with the common parental argument of “listen to what I tell you”. His

statement, “Always obey your parents, when they are present.”(Twain,1882) does not necessarily say

to the young to disobey their parents, but rather to use the time when their parents are absent to make

their own decisions and mistakes. Teenagers are destined to disobey their parents in an attempt to create

their own identity. Mr. Twain seems to understand this and therefore, rather than condemn teens for

this, he encourages them to carve their own path while still giving their parents a sense of complete

control. As a teen, I recall my parents always “harping” on me about who my friends were, speak

eloquently, and sit up straight. Had I read Mr. Twain's speech back then, perhaps I wouldn't have been

in as much trouble with my parents so frequently.

Next, he discusses the subject of respect. In this, Mr. Twain's intention is not to mock the value

of respecting others, but rather to remind that sometimes revenge is necessary. He uses the example of

if someone has wronged you simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick(Twain,1882) as a

means to relate to the teenage common practice of engaging in altercations to solve their disputes. I

recall myself as a teen resorting to violence to rectify majority of my petty conflicts. Mr. Twain does,

however, remind his audience that if indeed the retaliation was ill thought out and undeserving, to

take responsibility for ones actions and apologize.

Mr. Twain then goes on to discuss the importance of getting plenty of rest. He suggests “Getting

up with the lark”(Twain,1882) as the best possible method. His meaning behind his rhetoric with

regards to this matter is to ensure your reputation remains a pleasant one by allowing others to believe

you are an early riser, whilst still getting the required sleep to be at your best in your endeavors. I as a child as well as a young adult often had a very hard time getting to sleep at a decent hour or waking in

time to complete most of my required tasks for the day. This advice would have come well in handy.

Perhaps his best advice to his audience is to refrain from the recreational use of firearms. He

points out that although the weapon may be perceived to be unloaded, there is always a chance that is

not the case. He goes on to describe an incident of child antics that, although it did not, might have

resulted in a tragic death. I can relate completely with this advice, as I myself have lost many loved

ones to gun violence, both accidental and malicious. He then goes on...
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