The Story Of The Bad Little Boy

Title: The Story Of The Bad Little Boy
Author: Mark Twain [More Titles by Twain]

[Written about 1865]

Once there was a bad little boy whose name was Jim--though, if you will notice, you will find that bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books. It was strange, but still it was true, that this one was called Jim.

He didn't have any sick mother, either--a sick mother who was pious and had the consumption, and would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest but for the strong love she bore her boy, and the anxiety she felt that the world might be harsh and cold toward him when she was gone. Most bad boys in the Sunday books are named James, and have sick mothers, who teach them to say, "Now, I lay me down," etc., and sing them to sleep with sweet, plaintive voices, and then kiss them good night, and kneel down by the bedside and weep. But it was different with this fellow. He was named Jim, and there wasn't anything the matter with his mother --no consumption, nor anything of that kind. She was rather stout than otherwise, and she was not pious; moreover, she was not anxious on Jim's account. She said if he were to break his neck it wouldn't be much loss. She always spanked Jim to sleep, and she never kissed him good night; on the contrary, she boxed his ears when she was ready to leave him.

Once this little bad boy stole the key of the pantry, and slipped in there and helped himself to some jam, and filled up the vessel with tar, so that his mother would never know the difference; but all at once a terrible feeling didn't come over him, and something didn't seem to whisper to him, "Is it right to disobey my mother? Isn't it sinful to do this? Where do bad little boys go who gobble up their good kind mother's jam?" and then he didn't kneel down all alone and promise never to be wicked any more, and rise up with a light, happy heart, and go and tell his mother all about it, and beg her forgiveness, and be blessed by her with tears of pride and thankfulness in her eyes. No; that is the way with all other bad boys in the books; but it happened otherwise with this Jim, strangely enough. He ate that jam, and said it was bully, in his sinful, vulgar way; and he put in the tar, and said that was bully also, and laughed, and observed "that the old woman would get up and snort" when she found it out; and when she did find it out, he denied knowing anything about it, and she whipped him severely, and he did the crying himself. Everything about this boy was curious--everything turned out differently with him from the way it does to the bad Jameses in the books.

Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn's apple tree to steal apples, and the limb didn't break, and he didn't fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer's great dog, and then languish on a sickbed for weeks, and repent and become good. Oh, no; he stole as many apples as he wanted and came down all right; and he was all ready for the dog, too, and knocked him endways with a brick when he came to tear him. It was very strange --nothing like it ever happened in those mild little books with marbled backs, and with pictures in them of men with swallow-tailed coats and bell-crowned hats, and pantaloons that are short in the legs, and women with the waists of their dresses under their arms, and no hoops on. Nothing like it in any of the Sunday-school books.

Once he stole the teacher's penknife, and, when he was afraid it would be found out and he would get whipped, he slipped it into George Wilson's cap poor Widow Wilson's son, the moral boy, the good little boy of the village, who always obeyed his mother, and never told an untruth, and was fond of his lessons, and infatuated with Sunday-school. And when the knife dropped from the cap, and poor George hung his head and blushed, as if in conscious guilt, and the grieved teacher charged the theft upon him, and was just in the very act of bringing the switch down upon his trembling shoulders, a white-haired, improbable justice of the peace did not suddenly appear in their midst, and strike an attitude and say, "Spare this noble boy--there stands the cowering culprit! I was passing the school door at recess, and, unseen myself, I saw the theft committed!" And then Jim didn't get whaled, and the venerable justice didn't read the tearful school a homily, and take George by the hand and say such boy deserved to be exalted, and then tell him come and make his home with him, and sweep out the office, and make fires, and run errands, and chop wood, and study law, and help his wife do household labors, and have all the balance of the time to play and get forty cents a month, and be happy. No it would have happened that way in the books, but didn't happen that way to Jim. No meddling old clam of a justice dropped in to make trouble, and so the model boy George got thrashed, and Jim was glad of it because, you know, Jim hated moral boys. Jim said he was "down on them milksops." Such was the coarse language of this bad, neglected boy.

But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn't get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday and didn't get struck by lightning. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh, no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.

This Jim bore a charmed life--that must have been the way of it. Nothing could hurt him. He even gave the elephant in the menagerie a plug of tobacco, and the elephant didn't knock the top of his head off with his trunk. He browsed around the cupboard after essence-of peppermint, and didn't make a mistake and drink aqua fortis. He stole his father's gun and went hunting on the Sabbath, and didn't shoot three or four of his fingers off. He struck his little sister on the temple with his fist when he was angry, and she didn't linger in pain through long summer days, and die with sweet words of forgiveness upon her lips that redoubled the anguish of his breaking heart. No; she got over it. He ran off and went to sea at last, and didn't come back and find himself sad and alone in the world, his loved ones sleeping in the quiet churchyard, and the vine-embowered home of his boyhood tumbled down and gone to decay. Ah, no; he came home as drunk as a piper, and got into the station-house the first thing.

And he grew up and married, and raised a large family, and brained them all with an ax one night, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality; and now he is the infernalest wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and is universally respected, and belongs to the legislature.

So you see there never was a bad James in the Sunday-school books that had such a streak of luck as this sinful Jim with the charmed life.

-THE END-
Clemens] Mark Twain's short story: The Story Of The Bad Little Boy



1. What was the name of the main character in ‘The Story of the Bad Little Boy’?
Bobby
Joe
Jim
Johnny


2. In what activity is the bad little boy’s nefarious behavior in stark contrast to most other boys?
Little League Baseball
Boy Scouts
Choir
Sunday School


3. What was different about this bad little boy in regards to his mother that was usually not the case with bad little boys?
She was terminally ill.
She was not his true biological mother.
She was blind and deaf.
She was not sick.


4. One day the bad little boy stole the key to his mother’s pantry. What bad little deed did he commit after doing this?
He ate all of his mother’s jam and then filled the empty bottle with tar.
He emptied the honey jar into his mother’s shampoo bottle and replaced the empty bottle with corn starch.
He stole all of the food in the pantry, sold it to his friends, and then used the money to buy comic books.
He put dog food in his mother’s cereal.


5. What did the bad little boy steal when he went on Farmer Acorn’s property?
Oranges
A dog
Apples
A pig


6. Another example of the bad little boy’s evil actions came when he stole a teacher’s penknife and slipped it onto another boy to get him in trouble. Of course he picked ‘the good little boy of the village,’ George Wilson, to do this to. Where did the bad little boy place the penknife on George so that it’d fall out and he’d get in trouble?
Into his cap
In his shoe
In his shirt pocket
On his belt


7. The bad little boy hated moral boys. What coarse language did the bad little boy use to describe his opinions about moral boys?
I’d rather be a flobberworm than one of dem moral kind.
I’m down on them milksops.
If I had littleuns that always followed dem rules I’d knock of sense into ‘em.
I’ve grown to hate two things in life: good little boys and okra.


8. The bad little boy habitually went out boating and fishing when he was not supposed to. Why was the bad boy not supposed to go fishing or boating when he did?
He did not own a life jacket, lights on his boat, a boating license, or a fishing license.
He could not swim.
He boated and fished on the Sabbath.
The lake where he went fishing and boating contained alligators.

9. Which of the following statements about the bad little boy’s later life is false?
He married and raised a large family whom he ‘brained with an axe one night.’
He introduced foreign species like Tasmanian devils and piranhas to his village.
He got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality.
He became a universally respected member of the legislature.

10. Consistently throughout the story the bad little boy is described as being unique from other bad little boys for a particular reason. What distinguishes the titular character from other young miscreants?
The bad little boy rarely got caught for committing wicked deeds.
The bad little boy was shunned and hated wherever he went.
People came to respect the bad little boy because he was the best at pulling off dangerous and mischievous stunts.
Bad things did not happen to the bad little boy after he committed his wrongful exploits that typically happen to boys that engaged in those activities.

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