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Mark Twain

in Mark Twain’s essay “How to Tell a Story,” what does Twain say is the difference between telling a humorous story and telling a comic story?

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sciftw eNotes educator | Certified Educator

The very first difference between a humorous story and a comic story that Twain mentions is the difficulty difference between the two stories. Twain says that of all the types of stories that are out there, the humorous story is the only difficult kind of story to tell.

There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous.

Next, Twain mentions that humorous stories are American, while comic stories are English, and witty…

The very first difference between a humorous story and a comic story that Twain mentions is the difficulty difference between the two stories. Twain says that of all the types of stories that are out there, the humorous story is the only difficult kind of story to tell.

There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous.

Next, Twain mentions that humorous stories are American, while comic stories are English, and witty stories are French. Immediately following that statement, Twain tells his readers that humorous stories depend on how they are told, but comic and witty stories depend on the subject matter of the story. The next difference is a possible difference in length. Twain mandates that comic stories are short; however, humorous stories can be of many different lengths. A humorous story can even be long.

The humorous story may be spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular; but the comic and witty stories must be brief and end with a point.

Probably my favorite difference is the “work of art” difference. Twain says that humorous stories are works of art. This is a huge compliment to the Americans since the humorous story is American. Next, he insults the British and French types of funny stories by saying that they are not art and “anybody can do it.”

Additionally, comic stories announce to the audience that the story will be funny, but a humorous story will be told “gravely,” and the humor is hidden and emerges as the story progresses.

Further Reading:…

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schulzie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

Twain lists eight differences between telling a humorous story and telling a comic one.

1. A humorous story is American and a comic story is British.

2. A humorous story depends on what effect it has on the listener; the comic story depends on details and the fact — the actual subject matter.

3. A humorous story is told in great length,stinging incongruities and absurditites together and “bubbling gently along”; a comic story is told quickly and gets to the point with a “burst”.

4. A humorous story may wander around as much as it pleases, sometimes telling things that have nothing to do with the story and sometimes ending nowhere in particular.  Twain calls it the “slurring of the point” ; the comic story must end with a point to make.

5. Only an artist can tell a humorous story; anyone can tell a comic story.

6. The humorous story is told seriously and often hides the fact that something humorous is in the story; a comic story tells the listener upfront that it is a funny story.  

7.  A pause is an important feature of telling a humorous story; a comic story is  just told without creating any atmosphere.

8. A humorous story will have the teller make little side remarks, as if thinking aloud; the comic story is just told as a story.

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What Is Man? (Twain essay)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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For other uses, see What is man? (disambiguation) .

What Is Man?” is a short story by American writer Mark Twain , published in 1906. It is a dialogue between a Young Man and an Old Man regarding the nature of man. The title refers to Psalm 8:4, which begins “what is man, that you are mindful of him…”.

It involves ideas of determinism and free will , as well as of psychological egoism . The Old Man asserts that the human being is merely a machine, and nothing more, driven by the singular purpose to satisfy his own desires and achieve peace of mind. The Young Man objects, and asks him to go into particulars and furnish his reasons for his position.

The work appears to be a genuine and earnest debate of his opinions about human nature, rather than satirical. Twain held views similar to that of the Old Man prior to writing “What is Man?”. However, he seems to have varied in his opinions of human freedom. [1]

It was published anonymously in 1906 and received such little attention Twain claimed to have regretted its publication. After his death in 1910, the New-York Tribune published a feature on it. Criticism at that time focused on its dark and antireligious nature. [2]

Isaac Asimov apparently had in mind this story when he wrote ” … That Thou Art Mindful of Him “, [3] since Asimov’s title is from the same Bible verse, and two of Asimov’s robots debate the same subject.[ citation needed ]

References[ edit ]

  1. ^ Twain, Mark (author), Paul Baender (editor). What Is Man? and Other Philosophical Writings , 1973, UCP, ISBN   978-0-520-01621-7 , Introduction, p. 4 ff
  2. ^ J. R. LeMaster, James Darrell Wilson, Christie Graves Hamric. (authors) The Mark Twain Encyclopedia 1993, Taylor & Francis, ISBN   082407212X , 9780824072124, p. 784
  3. ^ in Asimov, Isaac. The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories, Doubleday, 1976

External links[ edit ]

  • What Is Man? at Project Gutenberg
  • What Is Man? public domain audiobook at LibriVox
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Mark Twain
  • The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • The Prince and the Pauper
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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Short stories
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  • ” My Late Senatorial Secretaryship “
  • ” Some Learned Fables for Good Old Boys and Girls “
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  • ” A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage “
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  • ” The Great Revolution in Pitcairn “
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  • ” Extracts from Adam’s Diary “
  • ” The War Prayer “
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  • ” The Private Life of Adam and Eve “
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Short story
  • Mark Twain’s (Burlesque) Autobiography and First Romance
  • Sketches New and Old
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  • Punch, Brothers, Punch! and Other Sketches
  • Mark Twain’s Library of Humor
  • Merry Tales
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  • The Curious Republic of Gondour and Other Whimsical Sketches
  • The Washoe Giant in San Francisco
  • Is He Dead?
  • Colonel Sellers
  • Colonel Sellers as a Scientist
  • ” The Awful German Language “
  • ” Advice to Youth “
  • ” English As She Is Taught “
  • How to Tell a Story and Other Essays
  • ” Concerning the Jews “
  • ” A Salutation Speech From the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth “
  • ” To the Person Sitting in Darkness “
  • ” To My Missionary Critics “
  • ” Edmund Burke on Croker and Tammany “
  • ” What Is Man? “
  • ” Queen Victoria’s Jubilee “
  • ” The United States of Lyncherdom “
  • ” Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses “
  • Letters from the Earth
  • Territorial Enterprise letters
  • Letters from Hawaii
  • The Innocents Abroad
  • Roughing It
  • Old Times on the Mississippi
  • A Tramp Abroad
  • Life on the Mississippi
  • Following the Equator
  • Is Shakespeare Dead?
  • Autobiography of Mark Twain
  • Mark Twain’s Notebook
  • King Leopold’s Soliloquy
  • The Private History of a Campaign That Failed
  • Mark Twain’s Weapons of Satire
  • The Bible According to Mark Twain
  • Christian Science
  • ” Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism “
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  • Jap Herron

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