Two bad behaviors
PTAVE, January 11, 2011
There are two bad behaviors which appear to spring from a common root, and arguments in their defense follow a common thread. Can you identify them?
Here’s a clue:
“… I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it… The local pulpit taught us God approved of it, that it was a holy thing, and that the doubter need only to look in the Bible…”
If you answered “spanking,” you got one right. See below for the other.
“In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it. No one arraigned it in my hearing; the local papers said nothing against it; the local pulpit taught us God approved of it, that it was a holy thing, and that the doubter need only to look in the Bible if he wished to settle his mind – and then the texts were read aloud to us to make the matter sure; if the slaves themselves had an aversion to slavery they were wise and said nothing. In Hannibal we seldom saw a slave misused; on the farm, never.
“There was, however, one small incident of my boyhood days which touched this matter, and it must have meant a good deal to me or it would not have stayed in my memory, clear and sharp, vivid and shadowless, all these slow-driftng years. We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from someone, there in Hannibal. He was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and had been brought away from his family and his friends, half-way across the American continent, and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing – it was maddening, devastating, unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper, and went raging to my mother, and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break, and I couldn’t stand it, and wouldn’t she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes, and her lip trembled, and she said something like this —
Poor thing, when he sings it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad.
“It was a simple speech, and made up of small words, but it went home, and Sandy’s noise was not a trouble to me any more. She never used large words, but she had a natural gift for making small ones do effective work. She lived to reach the neighborhood of ninety years, and was capable with her tongue to the last – especially when a meanness or injustice roused her spirit. She has come handy to me several times in my books, where she figures as Tom Sawyer’s ‘Aunt Polly.’ I fitted her out with a dialect, and tried to think up other improvements for her, but did not find any. I used Sandy once, also; it was in Tom Sawyer; I tried to get him to whitewash the fence, but it did not work. I do not remember what name I called him by in the book.”
Excerpt from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain;
Edited by Lucy Rollin, 2006