Lying is “man’s best and surest friend.” Discuss with reference to Mark Twains’ essay, ‘On the Decay of the Art of Lying.’

A superficial look at the title of Mark Twain’s essay ‘On the Decay of the Art of Lying’, might tend to misguide the reader upon the intentions of the writer. But through this essay, Twain has implored people to look within and discover that in reality, everyone resorts into some sort of lying. One need not be apologetic about it for it depends upon the manner and circumstances which leads to the Act of Lying.

Speaking to the members of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford, Connecticut, he eulogizes the timeless tradition of telling lies for various reasons. He says that lying is “man’s best and surest friend.” It is a practice that is immortal and unperishable. Addressing his audience, he seems to acknowledge the length of attention, encouragement and conscientious practice and development that the art of lying has received from the club’s members.

Twain emphasizes upon lying as a necessity of the circumstances, which becomes a virtue when in need. Through a proverb, “Children and fools always speak the truth,” Twain showcases the fact that the adults and wise people never speak complete truth and do resort to lying when needed. Quoting Parkman, “The principle of truth may itself be carried into an absurdity,” Twain completely rules out the possibility of any mark of existence of such people who speak absolute truth. He admits that no individual can merely survive upon speaking blatant truth always, for somewhere or the other, one does feel the necessity to take resort into lying. He furthet says that, a “habitual truth-teller is simply on impossible creature.” Speaking about people who believe that they never lie is a mere ignorance on their part. According to him, every single person lies purposely. Lying is a clearly thought out action. Everybody lies every day, every hour, either asleep while dreaming or when awake, in state of happiness or mourning. Not merely by uttering lies, people lie without speaking too, either through the action of their hands, feet, eyes or even their attitude which conveys deception ‘Silent lie’ is one such mode of lying that obstinate truth-mongers resort to. Twain believes that even sermons carry lies and this has become more of a cliche.

Supporting his opinion, Twain has stated several incidences like ladies in a far country who went out to pay calls expressing wish to meet each other whereas, the truth was that they wanted to stay out of home. Another example is about general exchange of greeting between people or the ‘so called joy’ of having met an acquaintance. In all these incidences, Twain says that a careful and judiciously spoken lie is much appreciated for it tends to keep everyone away from being inflicted with an unnecessary pain.

Twain also states an event wherein a lady resorts to silent lying and in order to make her realize her fault, even Twain resorts to thoughtful lying but with an unselfish motive.

Hence, Twain says that lying is necessary and should be done thoughtfully and judiciously for an unselfish act and not an evil one. Its important that lying should have a healing effect and should be done charitably and humanely. One should lie gracefully and graciously.

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