“My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever…” (Garrison Keillor, Clint Eastwood, Jim
NARRATOR: After Livy’s death Twain poured his grief and rage into the social commentary that had come to define him – honest, scathing tirades against hypocrisy, dishonesty, greed, and bigotry. No subject escaped his famous “pen warmed up in hell” – politics, business, religion, education, prisons – all affronts were challenged, debated and opined. Twain’s view was sought in all matters.
TWAIN: “Strange – it is just like religion and politics! In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” (Autobiography)
HUCK: “It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:
"All right, then, I'll go to hell" -- and tore it up.
It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.”
TWAIN: “It is an odd and curious and interesting ****, the human race. [And] when the human race has once acquired a superstition nothing short of death is ever likely to remove it.” (Autobiography)
NARRATOR: On most topics, Twain spoke candidly. But many of his controversial writings he suppressed until after his death. In his autobiography, which was published after his death, Twain wrote:
TWAIN: “I have always preached. That is the reason I have lasted thirty years. If the humor came of its own accord and uninvited I have allowed it a place in my sermon, but I was not writing the sermon for the sake of the humor. I should have written the sermon just the same, whether any humor applied for admission or not.” (Autobiography)
HUCK: “And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come… You can't pray a lie -- I found that out.”
TWAIN: “I am saying these vain things in this frank way because I am a dead person speaking from the grave. Even I would be too modest to say them in life. I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead – and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead and then they would be honest so much earlier.” (Autobiography)