Famous Quotes by Mark Twain

Famous Mark Twain Quotes


Want to look smart in any situation? Quote Mark Twain! Here are some of the most familiar quotes from one of the world’s greatest humorists.


Mark Twain Quotations

I thought I’d ruin your enjoyment of these Mark Twain quotes with some analysis. You’re welcome.

Quote: “Classic–a book which people praise and don’t read.” (Puddin’head Wilson).
Comment: For some reason students find this humorous. I wonder if Twain considers Huck Finn a classic.

Quote: “There are two times in a man’s life when he should not speculate: when he can’t afford it, and when he can.” (Puddinhead’ Wilson).
Comment: Perhaps I should have listened to this advice instead of the “real estate never drops in value” advice I got back in 2006.

Quote: “But in this country we have one great privilege which they don’t have in other countries. When a thing gets to be absolutely unbearable the people can rise up and throw it off. That’s the finest asset we’ve got — the ballot box.”
Comment: That’s a change I can believe in.

Quote: “Always acknowledge a fault frankly. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you opportunity to commit more.”
Comment: Twain provides an example of paradox. The more open you are about your faults the more you can commit and still be forgiven.

Quote: “Our Civil War was a blot on our history, but not as great a blot as the buying and selling of Negro souls” (New York Harold Tribune).
Comment: Twain often ridiculed racism and slavery. It makes the banning of Huckleberry Finn for being racist that much more ironic. I’m sure Twain would offer a wry smile at the development.

Quote: “Men write many fine and plausible arguments in support of monarchy, but the fact remains that where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible.”
Comment: Now would be a good time to review the Declaration of Independence.

Quote: “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.”
Comment: What an excellent time to review the United States Constitution!

ELA Common Core Standards

Teaching Twain’s quotes with the following lesson idea can accomplish the following ELA Common Core Standards.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  2. Common Core Writing Standard 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Teaching Ideas with Mark Twain Quotes

You might as well use these Mark Twain quotations and teach something.

Distribute a list of Mark Twain quotes. Instruct students to choose one and write an analysis paragraph.

  • The first sentence should include the following: “Mark Twain once said…..”
  • The second sentence should be a funnel sentence and state the writer’s opinion on whether or not the statement is logical, true, or accurate.
  • The remainder of the paragraph should include an interpretation of the quote, examples either proving it or disproving it, and additional commentary.

Example: Mark Twain once said, “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Despite this truth, that a lack of education often forces one to find alternative means to self reliance, cash strapped states look to education cuts as the first remedy for budget deficits, not realizing that saving money on education in the short term costs them money in the long run. Education as a vehicle to self reliance shows itself especially during a national economic crisis–ironically, the most common time for education cuts. According to CNN, the unemployment rate for college graduates is less than half of the rate for those with just a high school diploma. For those without a high school diploma, finding a job is nigh impossible. Make all the budget cuts you wish, governor, but make sure you use the money saved to build more prisons and welfare offices.

Mark Twain

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