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Twain on cliche and insincere sermonising

Extract from Tom Sawyer about composition and moralising, first paragraph just setting up the context for the disparagement of the second:

The prime feature of the evening was in order, now—original ‘compositions’ by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon) and proceeded to read, with laboured attention to ‘expression’ and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades. ‘Friendship’ was one; ‘Religion in History’; ‘The Advantages of Culture’; Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted’; ‘Melancholy’; ‘Filial Love’, etc., etc.

A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of ‘fine language’; another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that conspicuously marked and marred them was
the inveterate and intolerable sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brain-racking effort was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient to-day; it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their composition with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and least religious girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious.

Reminds me of most American TV dramas too - that bit at the end where even the villians and vile characters are made to realise the errors of their ways ... and just in case we didn't see it a helpful narrator elucidates the moral of the story for us.

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