I'm not in academia, but I can't resist commenting on this thread. Having
read everything by and about Twain that I could find, I often wonder
if some of the critics have read his books and essays & letters. [I also
wonder if some of them got some of the jokes, but that is another topic.]
Of course Twain was cynical! He was both highly intelligent and an idealist.
(See Huck, Joan, the entire body of his work.)  A cynic is almost by
definition an idealist who is not wearing blinders. (And humor is a standard
defense strategy in such a case.)

It didn't require any family deaths or business failures to make him a
cynic. In spite of all of Twain's accurate observations about the damned
human race, he was, I think, right up to the end, hurt and disappointed
when he received fresh proof of human evil. Someone whose cynicism is
not based on idealism doesn't bother to rage against injustice - he just
pockets his share of the proceeds.

Now I'll sit back and wait for the flames.

Peggy A Dolan