Corn Pone Opinions Summary

Mark Twain’s “Corn-Pone Opinions” is a brilliant piece of rhetoric that explores the tendency of humans to conform to societal norms. He uses satire and irony to make his point, and his arguments are still relevant today.

Conformity Mark Twain, though a brilliant comedian, makes an excellent point in “Corn-Pone Opinions”. The observation of humanity and its tendencies to follow what society promotes is a current occurrence. Twain begins with “…that it originates from human nature’s natural desire to be valued by one’s peers and praised and admired by them.

People have always wanted to feel a sense of belonging, and being accepted into society. This idea is still prominent in today’s culture. There are countless articles and studies that show the effects of peer pressure and conformity. A study done by psychologists Solomon Asch in 1951 focuses on “ . . . visual illusions whereby the majority of people will give incorrect answers to simple questions about line length or direction . . .” (qtd. in Myers).

The study was conducted with seven male college students who were asked to participate in a “vision test”. The group was shown two cards, one with a single line segment on it and the other with three lines of different lengths. The task for the participants was to state which line on the second card matched the line on the first card in length. The catch was that all but one of the participants were confederates, or people who were in on the experiment and knew the true purpose.

Asch found that when faced with a group, “ . . . 37 percent of the Ss conformed on at least 1 occasion; 14 percent conform- ed most or all of the time” (Asch 742). Out of the 18 trials done, almost half of them resulted in at least one person matching the incorrect answer given by the majority. People want to appear correct, and feel as if they are part of a group. They would rather go along with what everyone else is doing, even if it is wrong, instead of being an outlier.

Mark Twain’s “Corn-Pone Opinions” is still relatable to society today because people have a tendency to conform to what is popular. Although the essay was published over a hundred years ago, the message still holds true. The idea of peer pressure and wanting to fit in is something that humans will always struggle with.

Humans are inherently weak and prefer to follow the leader. Twain says it plainly: “We are creatures of outside influences; as a rule, we do not think, but only imitate” (719). Throughout the course of human existence, many fashions have been present in order to migrate up and down through the social hierarchy of being wanted.

People, Twain included, do not like to be left out or behind in the trends. Furthermore, by conforming to the majority, one is less likely to be ridiculed. The natural human tendency is to go with the flow instead of being an individual and thinking for themselves. Mark Twain’s “Corn-Pone Opinions” was a way of him 19th century citizens that individuals should think for themselves rather than following what everyone else does.

Corn Pone Opinions is an essay written by Mark Twain in which he states his opinion on humans’ herd mentality tendency and how it forms their opinions. He believes that people are more likely to follow others’ actions and thoughts instead of thinking for themselves. This is due to humans’ natural desire to be accepted by others and avoid being left out. Twain’s main purpose for writing this essay is to encourage individuals to think for themselves instead of blindly following the majority.

While Twain’s opinion may be valid, it is important to consider that there are also benefits to conformity. For example, conformity can provide a sense of security and belongingness. Additionally, it can promote teamwork and cooperation among groups. Overall, while Mark Twain’s “Corn-Pone Opinions” offers a valid perspective on humans’ herd mentality tendency, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of both individualism and conformity before forming an opinion.

People eagerly accept it. One year, one may enjoy a certain blouse while society ridicules them, but the next year society will have accepted said blouse without batting an eye. Human beings strive to be liked by society; this feeling is inherent in them and they are unable to eradicate it. People’s own principles are sacrificed in order to win approval from others, and “self-approval is generally achieved only through the approval of other people” (719).

In 1884, Mark Twain published an essay called “Corn-Pone Opinions” in which he argues that human beings allow themselves to be controlled by outside forces and provides insight as to why this is so. He states that humans have a natural tendency to want to please others and will go against their own grain in order to do so. This is a direct result of the need for approval that all humans feel.

Furthermore, Twain claims that even when individuals believe they are thinking for themselves, they are actually only parroting what they have heard others say. In other words, they are not thinking for themselves at all, but rather regurgitating someone else’s opinion. This is because people are influenced by those around them and are constantly looking to others for guidance. As a result, they are not able to form their own opinions, but rather adopt the beliefs of those around them.

People follow the ideal form of Twain’s little sheep mold that he creates in “Corn-Pone Opinions.” Society enjoys ripping human ethics away as if they were the source of damage rather than society itself, according to Mark Twain. In “Corn-Pone Opinions,” Twain demonstrates humans are virtual sheep who continuously follow their shepherd, society.

Mark Twain creates the perfect example of humans being like sheep early on in “Corn-Pone Opinions”. He states, “When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman” (Twain 3). By using the word “comrades”, Twain immediately gives off the feeling that these are people he grew up with and is familiar with. He is not talking about some random group of people, but rather individuals he knows have good morals.

The fact that all these people want to be steamboatmen supports Twain’s point even more because it shows that even people with good morals can be corrupted by society. It is not just the bad people in society that Twain is talking about, but rather everyone is susceptible to societal corruption. This is an important point because it allows for Twain to further his argument that humans are like sheep being led by a shepherd, in this case society.

In addition to providing an example of how society corrupts humans, Mark Twain also uses rhetoric throughout “Corn-Pone Opinions”. One way he does this is by constantly emphasizing the word “tendency”. He defines tendency as “the thoughtless, unconscious abandonment of one’s self-respect and one’s moral sense of right and wrong” (Twain 4).

By using the word “thoughtless”, Twain is implying that humans do not even realize when they are following societal norms instead of their own morals. They are so used to conforming that they do not even think twice about it. This is a powerful point because it shows just how deep humans will go in order to follow society. They will even abandon their own sense of right and wrong in order to fit in.

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