The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg


Mark Twain

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The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg Themes

Themes and Colors
Vanity and Virtue Theme Icon
Revenge and Redemption Theme Icon
Guilt and Shame Theme Icon
Outsiders and Insularity Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Vanity and Virtue

Many of the characters in “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg” trick themselves into believing they’re honest and moral. They’re able to delude themselves into thinking this because they’ve been told their entire lives that they belong to an “unsmirched” community renowned for its “incorruptible” honesty. Despite the high esteem in which they hold their morality, though, their integrity has never actually been tested—everybody simply takes it for granted that they posses an unimpeachable sense of…

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Revenge and Redemption

Having suffered a grave injustice in Hadleyburg (the details of which Twain never reveals), Howard Stephenson is determined to take revenge on the citizens of this supposedly upstanding town. To this end, he decides to expose the dishonesty of Hadleyburg’s nineteen most well-respected citizens (the Nineteeners) and their wives. For a town that defines itself based on its reputation as an honest, virtuous place, revealing immorality in the community wounds Hadleyburg and its sense of…

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Guilt and Shame

In “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” shame is cast as torturous, something that can warp a person’s happiness. Edward and Mary Richards experience this most acutely, since they’re the only couple out of the town’s nineteen most well-respected families to escape seemingly unscathed from Howard Stephenson’s act of revenge. Although Edward and Mary deserve the same public embarrassment as everybody else—since, like the other Nineteeners, Edward lied in order to claim a sack of

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Outsiders and Insularity

The town of Hadleyburg is insular and uninterested in accommodating foreigners, an attitude that makes enemies out of strangers. Because the townspeople believe Hadleyburg is “sufficient unto itself,” they are blissfully unaware of how outsiders like Howard Stephenson view them. They even celebrate the various cultural aspects they think make them different from other American towns. According to these citizens, they live in a veritable utopia, and they don’t “give a rap” about the world…

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