The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

by

Mark Twain

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The Sack of Gold Symbol Analysis

The Sack of Gold Symbol Icon

The sack of fake gold that the stranger brings to Hadleyburg symbolizes how easily people succumb to temptation if they’ve never had to test their integrity. Because the citizens of Hadleyburg are so proud of their morality, they work hard to ensure that their children are never exposed to anything that might corrupt their supposedly honest dispositions. As a result, nobody in town has actually had to confront true temptation, making the residents susceptible to even the slightest enticement. Knowing this, the stranger manipulates the town’s nineteen most well-respected citizens into trying to claim the sack of gold as their own, even though they have no right to collect such a reward. The sack of gold is the first temptation to ever infiltrate the Hadleyburg community, encouraging the Nineteeners to lie, cheat, and conceal their immorality. Unsurprisingly, they all quickly abandon their morals in order to win the gold, proving once and for all that their reputation as honest, morally upright people is just that: a reputation and nothing more.

The Sack of Gold Quotes in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

The The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Sack of Gold. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Vanity and Virtue Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg published in 2005.
Section 1 Quotes

Very well, what shall we do—make the inquiry private? No, not that; it would spoil the romance. The public method is better. Think what a noise it will make! And it will make all the other towns jealous; for no stranger would trust such a thing to any town but Hadleyburg, and they know it. It’s a great card for us.

Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 424
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Oh, I know it, I know it—it’s been one everlasting training and training and training in honesty—honesty shielded, from the very cradle, against every possible temptation, and so it’s artificial honesty, and weak as water when temptation comes, as we have seen this night. God knows I never had shade nor shadow of a doubt of my petrified and indestructible honesty until now—and now, under the very first big and real temptation, I—Edward, it is my belief that this town’s honesty is as rotten as mine is; as rotten as yours is. It is a mean town, a hard, stingy town, and hasn’t a virtue in the world but this honesty it is so celebrated for and so conceited about; and so help me, I do believe that if ever the day comes that its honesty falls under great temptation, its grand reputation will go to ruin like a house of cards. There, now, I’ve made confessions, and I feel better.

Related Characters: Mary Richards (speaker), Edward Richards
Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 430
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 2 Quotes

At this stage—or at about this stage—a saying like this was dropped at bedtime—with a sigh, usually—by the head of each of the nineteen principal households: “Ah, what could have been the remark that Goodson made?”

And straightaway—with a shudder—came this, from the man’s wife:

“Oh, don’t! What horrible thing are you mulling in your mind? Put it away from you, for God’s sake!”

But that question was wrung from those men again the next night—and got the same retort. But weaker.

And the third night the men uttered the question yet again—with anguish, and absently. This time—and the following night—the wives fidgeted feebly, and tried to say something. But didn’t.

And the night after that they found their tongues and responded—longingly:

“Oh, if we could only guess!”

Related Characters: Barclay Goodson
Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 433
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Had he rendered that service? Well, here was Goodson’s own evidence as reported in Stephenson’s letter; there could be no better evidence than that—it was even proof that he had rendered it. Of course. So that point was settled…. No, not quite. He recalled with a wince that this unknown Mr. Stephenson was just a trifle unsure as to whether the performer of it was Richards or some other—and, oh dear, he had put Richards on his honor!

[…] Further reflection. How did it happen that Richards’s name remained in Stephenson’s mind as indicating the right man, and not some other man’s name? That looked good. Yes, that looked very good. In fact, it went on looking better and better, straight along—until by and by it grew into positive proof. And then Richards put the matter at once out of his mind, for he had a private instinct that a proof once established is better left so.

Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 436
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Section 3 Quotes

The house was in a roaring humor now, and ready to get all the fun out of the occasion that might be in it. Several Nineteeners, looking pale and distressed, got up and began to work their way toward the aisles, but a score of shouts went up;

“The doors, the doors—close the doors; no Incorruptible shall leave this place! Sit down, everyone!”

Related Characters: Reverend Burgess
Related Symbols: The Sack of Gold
Page Number: 451
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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The Sack of Gold Symbol Timeline in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sack of Gold appears in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Revenge and Redemption Theme Icon
Outsiders and Insularity Theme Icon
...know him, and that he’s only passing through town. Now that he has dropped off the sack , he will be on his way. “There is a paper attached to the sack... (full context)
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Despite her trepidation, Mary can’t contain her curiosity. Closing the door, she opens the sack and the letter attached to it. The note explains that the sack contains “gold coin... (full context)
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...him a written note that states the remark he uttered on that fateful night. Inside the sack , there is a sealed envelope that holds the correct response. If the claimant’s submission... (full context)
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...kind enough to act); and let Mr. Burgess there and then destroy the seals of the sack , open it, and see if the remark is correct; if correct, let the money... (full context)
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...she muses, “for we are so poor, so old and poor!” She then remembers that the sack contains “gambler’s money,” though, meaning that she couldn’t possibly “touch it,” since it represents the... (full context)
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...home, he and his wife make guesses as to who is the rightful claimant of the sack . “Barclay Goodson,” they both say at the same time. Goodson was known as a... (full context)
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Mary and Edward both start thinking again about the sack of gold, growing increasingly irritated as they ponder the riches contained therein. “Lead us not... (full context)
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...To make things worse, they know that Goodson—who they believe is the rightful claimant of the sack —is dead, meaning that taking the gold wouldn’t have been robbing him of his reward.... (full context)
Section 2
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By the next morning, news of the stranger’s sack of gold has traveled far and wide, making it into national newspapers. “Hadleyburg village woke up world-celebrated—astonished—happy—vain,”... (full context)
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...the “legitimate heir” of the dead man’s reward. In other words, Edward is “entitled to the sack of gold.” (full context)
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...Burgess is astonished to receive nineteen envelopes, all from people trying to claim ownership of the sack . (full context)
Section 3
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...which has been decorated to celebrate the highly-anticipated event. At the front of the room, the sack sits on a table for all to see. Addressing his fellow townspeople—along with a number... (full context)
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...Billson’s note contains the word “very,” whereas Wilson’s does not. As such, Burgess reaches into the sack to determine the exact wording of the real phrase. Inside, he finds that there are... (full context)
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Somebody in the crowd wonders aloud who gets to keep the sack . “That’s easy,” says the Tanner. He then proposes that the money should be divided... (full context)
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...a new renown—one that will stick—and spread far,” he writes. “If I have succeeded, open the sack and summon the Committee on Propagation and Preservation of the Hadleyburg Reputation.” When Burgess opens... (full context)
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...insists that Jack Halliday—who is quick and charming—stand up and conduct an auction, so that the sack of “gilt” becomes something of a commodity, the proceeds of which will go to Edward... (full context)
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...says, since these men should be the ones paying for their lies. “They must buy the sack they tried to steal,” he says. “They must pay a heavy price, too—some of them... (full context)
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Once the stranger wins the sack , he announces that he is a “speculator in rarities,” saying that he deals with... (full context)
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...and addresses the other citizens, who are still yelling. “I ask the Chair to keep the sack for me until to-morrow,” he says, “and to hand these three five-hundred-dollar notes to Mr.... (full context)
Section 4
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...exclaims. He and Mary then wonder if Burgess kept Edward’s “test-remark” (his submission to win the sack ) in order to “destroy” them. That night, the couple falls ill, and the town’s... (full context)