Review: “Good Little Boy” and “Bad Little Boy” by Mark Twain – 830 Words

There is a common belief that people get what they deserve and, if their actions are not for good, they will not receive any good in return. However, two stories about Good Little Boy and Bad Little Boy by Mark Twain prove that such an algorithm does not always the case.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, The Story of the Good Little Boy narrates about the boy who makes incredible efforts at being good to the surrounding people, although it brings in no recognition on the part of the community. Yet, The Story of the Bad Little Boy focuses on Jim’s bad and even unlawful acts that were never punished or disregarded.

The contrastive children’s prototypes embody significant symbolic meaning that relates to controversial issues of the epoch. Thus, the purity and innocence of actions is replaced by the distorted dogma on the original sin. The corruptive perspective of urban industrialization, as well as expanding commerce, predetermines the development of a new society with immoral and materialized values.

In a highly industrialized society, good actions are not justified without a price. The discussions about unjust and immortal treatment of Native Americans and slaves at the end of the nineteenth century are exemplified in the documents under analysis because they paradoxically deny the universal values.

Instead, the emphasis is placed on the values that correspond to societies’ industrialized and consumerist views. Hence, ethnic minorities need to make efforts to be recognized in a dominating society. The Good Little Body Jacob is of Eastern origins whereas the Bad Little Boy Jim is the representative of the white population who is endowed with all privileges of capitalist society.

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Both stories refer to the necessity to establish conformity with the primary values of industrialization that relate directly to material rather than spiritual wellbeing. As an example, in the Story of the Good Little Boy, Twain remarks, “Whatever this boy did he go into trouble.

They very things the boys in the books got rewarded for turned out to be about the most unprofitable things he could invest in”1. Although Jacob strives to commit good actions, his genuine intentions are not altruistic.

Twain’s narrations illustrate children’s deeds that proceed with higher awareness of moral integrity undermining the status quo. In particular, children’s behavior is rebellious against the existing unjust and inhumane treatment. The corrupted environment, therefore, is seen through presenting the reverse outlook on morality.

Thus, the bad boy is illustrated as constantly justified despite his unjust actions whereas good boy undergoes significant troubles in his effort to bring in good and morale. At the same time, each of the stories have certain contradictions, which makes the readers believe that bad boy commits his action unlawfully due to the lack of awareness of genuine virtues.

In contrast, the good boy realizes the consequences of good actions and resorts to moral acting on purpose. At this point, both heroes can be considered as examples of moral degradation as a result of industrialization and economic growth. The shifts in societal values explain the transition from cultural underpinnings to consumerist outlook on community’s development.

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With advent of industrialization, the state of education leaves much to be desired. Twain emphasizes this fact in the Story of the Bad Little Boy while providing ironic depiction of Sunday-school books’ content to emphasize the satirical background.

Then, the author puts it aside and presents a realistic environment: “He struck his little sister on the temple with his fist when he was angry and she didn’t linger in pain through long day, and die with sweet words of forgiveness”2. Despite the threats of religious vengeance, the boy manages to lead a perfect life and become wealthy aftermath.

Despite the fact that Jim’s story contrasts Jacob’s experience, Little Good Boy still focuses on anti-altruistic and demoralized concepts although these virtues are highly discussed in schools. Hence, Twain criticizes the ideological underpinnings of the educational institutions in the light of industrialization.

Moreover, the texts shed light on the author’s rebellion spirit and his explicit reluctance to support the capitalist development of society. Finally, Twain stresses that living in industrialized community implies disobeying such values as altruism and spiritual commitment, which leads to prosperity and growth.

In conclusion, the documents under analysis bear deep historical meaning and significance. They present contextual background of industrialized epoch at the threshold of the nineteenth century. The stories about good and bad boys reflect the deployment of moral degradation among children who believe that each value has a certain price.

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Hence, the consumerist perspective makes people focused on the materialistic rather than on spiritual aspects that define the key terms for social and economic welfare. The author also criticizes the educational system during this period because it opposes the actual needs of society.

In general, despite the texts provide explicit examination of morale and ethics, they contain in-depth focus on the outcomes of industrialization process that premises on the corrupted aspects of societal development.


Twain, Mark. The Story of the Bad Little Boy. 1875. Web.

Twain, Mark. The Story of the Good Little Boy, 1875. Web.


  1. Twain, Mark. The Story of the Good Little Boy, (1875), n. p.
  2. Mark Twain. The Story of the Bad Little Boy. (1875) n. p.
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