In Mark Twain's short story "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," what does the repetition of the word "grind" in this phrase imply?
"Always at the grind, grind, grind, on a salary-another man's slave, and he sitting at home in his slippers, rich and comfortable."
Mark Twain’s “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg” is a short story about the frailty of human virtue and how easy it is to destroy it.
Hadleyburg is a town that has intentionally cultivated a reputation for honesty. They drill it into their citizens from birth. In so doing, they subject themselves to other problems, such as the sin of excessive pride. One day they insult a man who vows revenge. This man later returns with a sack of gold and an ingenious plan to destroy Hadleyburg’s reputation. He will use temptation to break down the town’s sense of honesty.
He drops the sack off with an old woman named Mary Richards, who guards it fearfully until her husband Edward returns for work. When he finally does, he utters the following remark:
I am so tired—tired clear out; it is dreadful to be poor, and have to make these dismal journeys at my time of life. Always at the grind, grind, grind, on a salary—another man’s slave, and he sitting at home in his slippers, rich and comfortable.
Twain uses repetition with the word “grind.” His purpose here is to characterize Edward’s situation. He has to show the reader how his characters will struggle with temptation now that there is a great deal of money to be had if only they will be dishonest about it. Edward has an unrewarding job and thinks of himself as “another man’s slave,” but if he just keeps the sack of gold instead of turning it over like he is supposed to, he won’t have to work anymore. By repeating the word “grind,” Twain gives emphasis to how dull and dreary this job is. By the time Edward and his wife try to devise a plan to keep the gold for themselves, it makes sense to the reader.
By the end of the story the reader also realizes that it has been a terrible “grind” on the citizens of Hadleyburg to try to maintain their reputation for honesty. They also discover that, like every other town, Hadleyburg has its secrets.