Jacob Blivens Character Analysis

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American humorist Mark Twain is well known for his novels such as Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain also wrote many short stories, such as “The Story of a Good Little Boy,” which describes the short life of Jacob Blivens, who strives to do what is right no matter how many times it backfires. Jacob Blivens is driven by his desire to be “put in a Sunday school book (Twain 329)” and is characterized by his determination, incompetence, and selfishness. This story, though wrapped in a guise of irony and humor, is deeply pessimistic. In Mark Twain’s “The Story of a Good Little Boy”, it is the protagonist’s nature, rather than his virtue, that leads to his demise, suggesting that morality does not always guarantee reward.
Jacob Blivens is driven by “his noble ambition” to join the ranks of the good little boys depicted in his Sunday school books. No matter how many times he was discouraged, “ he resolved to keep trying anyhow (Twain 331).” While it’s admirable that he always strives to do what’s right, the
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These three traits play into each other: his dream is fueled by selfishness, his actions are fueled by his determination, and his consequences are fueled by incompetence. By giving Blivens these three characteristics, Twain highlights three possible reasons why virtue does not always yield pleasant rewards. Above all, Twain suggests that the world’s dealings are not fair. However, Twain could also be introducing the concept that the reward isn’t what we expect. Twain, pessimistic in nature, believed that death could be seen “as a release (Douglas 2).” Blivens’s death causes his story to be passed down, which is what he wants. Overall, through the sacrifice of Jacob Blivens, Twain makes clear that the world may not be fair, but reward can come to us in a way we don’t want it to:
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