‘Hunting The Deceitful Turkey’ by Mark Twain

Twain, Mark 1906

Hunting The Deceitful Turkey by Mark Twain, 1906

The magic trick:

Making the narrator the butt of the joke

Mark Twain is a pretty funny guy. He’s also pretty judgmental. That’s where the fun can cross over to anger. His later material – and hey, the man was dealing with more than his fair share of personal tragedy by then – often makes me really sad more than it makes me laugh. Its judgments aren’t incisive humor as much as the works of a depressive misanthrope. Not the “Deceitful Turkey” though. It’s pretty much wonderful. The humor is of course judgmental – Aren’t humans ridiculous? Isn’t everything we do ridiculous? But it’s not mean. In fact, the butt of the joke is the narrator himself. That’s the best strategy for keeping humor on the funny side of angry. And that’s quite a trick on Twain’s part.

The selection:

More than once, after I was very tired, I gave up taking her alive, and was going to shoot her, but I never did it, although it was my right, for I did not believe I could hit her; and besides, she always stopped and posed, when I raised the gun, and this made me suspicious that she knew about me and my marksmanship, and so I did not care to expose myself to remarks.


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