Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The structure of “The Chronicle of Young Satan” is similar to Twain’s The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), a thematically similar novel set in the fourteenth century. Both tales are related by elderly narrators recalling periods during their youth when they were close to remarkable beings that appeared not to be of this earth. The Joan of the novel is the historical French girl whose accomplishments in leading armies against English invaders made her seem divinely guided. The narrative technique in both these stories enabled Twain to balance the intimacy of first-hand observation against the distance of time.

All versions of Twain’s so-called Mysterious Stranger stories are remarkable in their inventiveness and would have been regarded as pioneering works in science fiction and fantasy had they been published during his lifetime. Among the many literary innovations in “The Chronicle of Young Satan” are mind-reading, telekinesis, and teleportation. Although written more than a century ago, this comparatively unknown story is still capable of transporting readers into a world of ceaseless surprises and wonderment and is an important demonstration of the range of its author’s creative powers.