The transition from youth to adulthood seems to scare many who have already experienced the adjustment. Adults are frightened that young people are insensitive to the social and moral balance of their generation. Some adults try conforming individuals into what they consider socially acceptable by society. Grownups seem to neglect the crucial detail that society will inevitably change. Adults currently practice what was practical in their generation; however, the same rationalities and precautions do not necessarily pertain to the impending adults.
Mark Twain recognizes the stentorian call for the encouragement of individualism. In a speech to class-advancing young people, “Advice to Youth”, Twain’s use of satire rejects society’s mainstream teachings, encouraging the development of unique individual character. After listening to the author’s point of view, adults approving of conventional thought may not understand that the individually unique art of satire was used to expose a glitch in matured societies and in a result become personally offended by what was said. People promoting individual complexion, however, would agree fully with his speech.
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In the beginning, Twain introduces his thoughts and ideas concerning a speech in a very formal and serious manner. Twain mentions the speech should be “didactic [or] instructive”. The author primarily introduces himself with such an elegant poise that adults immediately gain respect for him. Twain’s use of diction connotes a serious tone leaving the readers with a humourless mood. When learning the set expectations for Twain’s speech, one subconsciously sets the tone of the remaining words based on the author’s strict articulation.
However, Twain foreshadows his approaching opinions by introducing his position in the hierarchy of society. When including himself and the young people in one category by stating “my young friends”, readers are confused what to expect because of the irony he created. Was he interjecting himself with the seemingly less-knowledgeable portion of society facetiously? Twain breaks the accustomed hierarchy of society by considering the young people as his “friends,” thus leaving readers curious to other twists in his seemingly traditional and serious speech.
Twain pokes fun at the traditional view that going to be early and getting up early “is wise.” Though at first he seems to be agreeing with the traditional adult opinion, it is clear he is not when satirizing older people who physically cannot seem to stay asleep later than “half past nine.” Twain chooses to associate waking up early with the nuisance of a “lark.” Using the name “lark” connotes feelings of annoyance and a bothersome inconvenience creating humour towards the ridiculous recommendation of early evenings and mornings.
Young people have the ability to sleep later than sun rise, and Twain frowns upon those who attempt to steal that wonderful pleasure away merely because one is envious. Adults may take the witty humor as mockery and not see the harmless message trying to emerge.
While both groups are entertained by the view Twain shares about the “art of lying,” adults are predominantly offended. Parents spend a great deal of time showing their children the difference between right and wrong and do not want the opposed habits encouraged. To their dismay, Twain includes much detail in the formation of a well “accomplished” lie. Though this seems ironic for a speech of “instructive [and] didactic” advice, there is an underlying message meant to enlighten both hierarchies.
The author does not want the young to “injure” their reputation in “the eyes of the good and pure.” While satirizing the moral value of lying, Twain simultaneously reveals the obscure reality that all human beings lie. Twain creates this image to stress that youth are still “learning how” to handle the opportunities they have to lie. Twain supports his opinion by encouraging the “practice of this gracious and beautiful art early.” Adults may misinterpret the advice intending is to be careful about lying by the sarcastic recommendation towards the matter.
Twain recognizes society’s habit to conform youth in an attempt to alter their evolving path. In “Advice to Youth,” Twain not only advises youth to look at methods and values in a different manner and but also provides adults with an important underlying message. The author manipulates satire to uniquely explain his thoughts and opinions concerning youth and society. Some may have found his messages obscure and take offence; however, others found the piece entertaining and informative. Individual character is important to society and any obstruction to this should be removed.
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