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Crawford Steve <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 1 Oct 2007 09:43:25 +0300
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I have been interested in how between-group cynicism develops, and in
my literature review I studied cynicism across a wide range of
disciplines. In psychology, cynicism is often described as a distrust
in the motivations of others. Cynicism develops in the individual
over time as a consequence of continued and ongoing personal
setbacks. When I examine Twain's life I see a general trend across
the lifetime toward the development of cynical views toward
governments, institutions, imperialism, business, medicine, life in
general and finally, humanity. This all corresponds with setbacks in
each area that affected Twain directly and as a public citizen. The
Mysterious Stranger for me culminates Twain's experiences into a sort
of philosophical examination of his views toward humanity and
religion. Clearly by then he fit the formula for the development of
deep cynicism, having suffered through many personal and ideological
setbacks. If we live long enough, and hard enough, perhaps there is
no escaping such an end, at least to some significant degree. The
recent news about Mother Teresa's challenges in her faith as a result
of her own personal challenges and observations over time perhaps
provides us with one other notable example.

To be a public figure associated with and outspoken about so many
social concerns, while managing his own acutely personal setbacks,
was perhaps just too much for one person. After all that happened,
would we really expect a happy and sappy ending? His readers, I
think, can empathize with Twain's ending, one that supplied us with a
wealth of lessons to learn should we choose to pursue them.

Steve Crawford
Jyväskylä, Finland