Some of us fell in love with Mark Twain the first time we read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and some of us understood his genius much later on, when we were finally old enough to appreciate his humor and satiric commentary on humanity. Twain’s polished use of irony is ever-present throughout the brief book, Advice to Little Girls, re-published this year with beautiful, and equally provocative, illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky. I loved it immediately.
Whether or not Twain intended this book to fall into the hands of sweet little girls, we’ll never know. And I’m undecided about sharing it with Maggie. Of course, I want to raise a creative, independent thinking, strong daughter, but somehow I think Twain’s “advice” might give her more ideas than she is (and I am) ready for. She’s already managed to exhaust me with her picky eating habits, her refusal to brush her hair, ever, and her snail’s pace at doing just about anything I ask of her.
“If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.”
See what I mean?
“Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.”
Clearly Twain is exercising his sharp wit, but there are truths to be found in his “advice.” While I believe in taking the high road, there is at times, the occasion to mirror another’s behavior. Right?
“Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. You ought never to ’sass’ old people unless they ’sass’ you first.”
As much as I’d like to brag about how smart my daughter is, her first grade vocabulary isn’t quite up to Advice to Little Girls. Maybe I’ll get a few more years of deferent behavior from my child?