In Mark Twain's short story "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," what does the comment "Oh, and him a Baptist" mean?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Mark Twain’s short story “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,” the leading citizens of a town renowned for its virtue (and proud of that fact) are publicly exposed as greedy liars. After they have been humiliated, a bag supposedly containing money – money that they had all strongly desired to possess – is opened, and the alleged money is in fact revealed to be gold-plated pieces of lead. The question then becomes what to do with this bogus treasure. At this point, a citizen of the town identified as “the tanner” speaks up:

"By right of apparent seniority in this business, Mr. Wilson is Chairman of the Committee on Propagation of the Tradition. I suggest that he step forward on behalf of his pals, and receive in trust the money."

A Hundred Voices. "Wilson! Wilson! Wilson! Speech! Speech!"

Wilson (in a voice trembling with anger). "You will allow me to say, and without apologies for my language, DAMN the money!"

A Voice. "Oh, and him a Baptist!"

The comment of the unidentified voice -- "Oh, and him a Baptist!" –  refers to Wilson’s use of the word “damn.” Profanity was righteously condemned by almost all religious teachers and religious people during Twain’s era, and Baptists had a particular reputation for being disdainful of anyone who swore (Mark Twain included). Thus, the comment “Oh, and him a Baptist!” helps call attention to the discrepancy between Wilson’s religious beliefs and the way he has just spoken. Either the anonymous speaker is genuinely shocked by Wilson’s language or (more probably) is having some sarcastic fun at Wilson’s expense.  In a story whose main theme is hypocrisy, Wilson’s use of profanity, even though he is a professed Baptist, is just another example of hypocritical behavior.

Wilson is also hypocritical, of course, in his anger. As a Baptist, he ought to try to control his temper and behave with Christian humility. However, his pride (which is, according to Christians, the root of all sins) has been stung, and he responds with wrath. His rage causes him to use the word “damn,” and thus his double hypocrisy is revealed: hypocrisy in his feelings, and hypocrisy in his speech.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial