Mark Twain educates the reader on etiquette at a funeral, adding humorous instructions with an attitude that understates the serious atmosphere of funerals



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Mark Twain educates the reader on etiquette at a funeral, adding humorous instructions with an attitude that understates the serious atmosphere of funerals. He ridicules the social norms that society views as “proper and civil” in funerals, while Twain believes that funerals should not appear as so mournful or daunting. Though he is aware of such social etiquette in funerals, Twain dismisses it as overly strict, for his use of diction, selection of detail, and use of the unexpected reveal his humorous and light-hearted attitude that challenges the social norms expected at a funeral. (Ok)

Twain creates a light-hearted atmosphere out of the funeral using diction in order to introduce his own view on how to act in funerals. Rather than choosing words with a negative and mournful connotation, he chooses diction with a neutral connotation, causing the reader to pause and question his choice of words. He describes the container housing the deceased as “equipment” rather than a “coffin” in order to make a point that the funeral should not be housed with such negative ideas of death and anguish from “coffins”, but instead should be treated as a neutral event where the plain “equipment” is set up in order to serve the guests. Twain furthermore euphemizes the funeral as “entertainment”, bringing forth memories of joy and excitement that contrast with the despairing memories usually perceived of in funerals. This gives “funerals” a joyful and exciting atmosphere that contradicts its original connotation; thus the “funerals” are a place of enjoyment, reminding the reader of similar experiences felt in places such as amusement parks, or tea parties where guests may remark at the equipment used, like curtains and floral-patterned chairs. (How does this relate to diction?) The “equipment” and “entertainment” transforms the funeral into a cheerful environment where, Twain believes, the funeral service should not appear so grave.

Twain describes the details of an encasement in order to furthermore reduce the funeral as overly serious. He openly cautions the reader from taking too much notice at the encasement, or either the handles of the encasement, in order to point out the hilarity in such trivial matters. (Clarify topic sentence) Usually, a guest of the funeral would not take such a heightened interest in the “equipment” used, such as the encasement. Yet Twain mocks the social norms expected in funerals by explicitly stating “make no remarks” especially by how magnificently “plated” the “handles”, suggesting how although there is no written rule of conduct on behavior at funerals (why does he do so?), Twain believes the social etiquette at funerals to be overly demanding and simply superfluous such that it dictates how guest should behave. Thus his warning against taking too much notice of the handles of an encasement serves to ridicule such imposition upon guests who just want to give their prayers to the deceased.



After explaining directions on funeral etiquette to the reader, Twain ends his piece unexpectedly in such a way to draw the veil on his humorous attitude towards funerals. When one reads through the piece, specific descriptions are illustrated and described in detail in order to emphasize the strict code present in funerals. Out of nowhere, Twain ends the piece bluntly by advising funeral guests to “not bring your dog”. To the common reader, this piece of advice would seem to be obvious, yet there is truth behind his last warning. With the fact that social etiquette at funerals are not written down, breaking a rule should not be misconstrued as such of a huge ordeal since guests are not warned beforehand before breaking such rules. Yet Twain might have felt the need to warn against this had he seen a guest bring a dog to a funeral, revealing how this social etiquette is ultimately a failure if it fails to cause every single guest in the funeral to act “according to the norm.” In other words, the fact that the social etiquette at a funeral is unable to prevent guests from leaving their dogs at home shows how it is largely ineffective at establishing norms (Why?), and thus Twain ends his piece in a humorous sort of realization that shows how funerals should be enjoyed lightly without worrying about tending to etiquette or acceptable behavior. (unclear)

Twain remarks the severity of funerals and wishes to dispel that atmosphere with a sense of humor that completely introduces funeral in a new and comical light. Funerals should not comprise of hours of mourning or tears; rather those invited to these funerals should make the best of the events and celebrate the person that has passed away.

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