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Mark Twain’s Is He Living or Is He Dead Review

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    This review is about Mark Twain’s short story entitled “Is He Living or Is He Dead”,published in 1893. This is the story of four artists who can’t seem to sell any of their paintings and come up with a plan that would bring them richness and greatness. Mark Twain’s satire on the realist Francois Millet in this story didn’t actually looked that funny but a little bit of reality as he incorporate the story with the real life of an artist before he or she achieves greatness.

    Art As A Plot Paper

                The short story entitled “Is He Living or Is He Dead” (1893) by Mark Twain was a story of a group of struggling artists wherein three of them were young ones and with them was an older man who teaches them how to draw and paint. This satire of Mark Twain depicts the life of struggling artists and what happened to them before achieving greatness or maybe not achieving it at all.

                It was March 1892 at Mentone, Riviera where the writer met Smith who pointed out a man whose name was Theophile Magnan, a rich silk manufacturer. According to Smith, Magnan always looks sad and he doesn’t talk to anyone so he concluded that he is alone in the world. Later that night, Smith invited the writer to smoke and drink hot Scotch, Smith started to tell a story and a secret he kept many years ago.

                Smith was a young artist and was able to go around France while sketching the things and places he saw as he wandered everywhere. He was joined by two other young artists, Claude and Carl. Although they were poor, they were happy and they laughed at their poverty. In a Breton Village, Smith and the two boys met an artist who is also poor but took care of them and saved them from starving. He was Francois Millet. The writer was surprised upon knowing that the person infront of him was a student of the great Francois Millet.

                But the three young artists and Millet can’t even sell their paintings and Carl thought of an idea that could save all of them and would probably make them rich. He suggested that someone must  pretend to die  and disguise himself as a sick person who will die soon and they will go everywhere and tell everyone of his greatness.

                The following day, only the three boys went out and they immediately started their plan. They began to sketch and talked about Millet to every people and they were able to sell his paintings. After sometime, they were able to raise a huge amount of money and Millet died. Of course, he didn’t really die. He disguised as another person and Smith told the writer that Magnan was Millet.

                The whole story focused more on the issue of painting and the struggle to survive. Twain made fun of the characters and Francois Millet in a way that he used him as a painter who needs to die first before achieving greatness but, in some parts of the story, Mark Twain’s satire is not completely funny but touching as he include some words and phrases that is quite good to hear or to be read.

                Mark Twain’s last paragraph was the most touching of all and shows reality. His view of art and the painter’s struggle to achieve fame which most of the time was given to him after his death and after he already starved to death. He mentioned these lines in the person of Smith as he stated that the people for once  a great painter did not starve to death and did not put the money collected from his paintings in another person’s pocket as a reward.

                This story of a painter’s struggle to live and find his greatness and the use of the great Francois Millet as a character showed that his short story although it is a fiction, somehow has the touch of reality and truth.


    Twain, Mark. (1893). Is He Living or Is He Dead. (Year Published and publishing house and place).

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    Mark Twain’s Is He Living or Is He Dead Review. (2016, Jul 24). Retrieved from

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