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The Five Boons of Life by Mark Twain

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Mark Twain’s short story, The Five Boons of Life, is a fable signifying the meaning of life. The tale is a series of interactions between a fairy and a man who grows to learn the lesson the fairy tries to teach him, only to understand the moral before his death. The five boons of life- fame, love, riches, pleasure, and death- are the gifts the fairy offers to the man who is allotted one choice. The story gives light to the point that life should not be squandered away on meaningless frolics, and the importance of wise choices. Twain organizes the story into chapters, each encompassing a new trial for the man who cannot seem to find peace in his heart.

The first chapter tells of the fairy offering the gifts to the man who is now a youth, warning him to choose wisely. “Only one of them is valuable,” she warns. The youth immediately chooses Pleasure, saying there is no need to consider any of the other choices. Time passes and the youth regrets his decision after seeking out happiness and finding himself disappointed. The tale reveals that the pleasure was short lived and did not meet his expectations. The man wishes to go back and choose his gift more wisely.

Lo and behold, the man’s wish is granted, for the fairy appears again in chapter two. She presents the gifts to the man again, warning once more to choose carefully, for only one gift is precious. The man considers long and hard, and decides that Love would be his most wise choice. Yet the man is disappointed once again, for love only leaves him with a dead wife and grief overflowing. The man again wishes to turn back time and change his decision

The fairy appears in chapter three to explain that the fairy offers the man again to choose more wisely. The man picks Fame, and earnestly hopes that this will fill his soul. Again, the man is disappointed to find that fame has only decayed to being envied and hated by others. The man thinks to himself yet another time how he wishes he could turn back.


The relentless fairy appears again in chapter four, pleading with the man to choose out of the last two gifts wisely. Suddenly the man has an epiphany and comes to the conclusion that all along he had been forgetting the one thing that could make him happy: Wealth. The fairy is visibly disappointed and goes away only to come back years later to find the old man sitting gaunt and naked, distraught by his life. Only then does the man want the last gift-Death-to console him from the evils of this world.

In the fifth and final installment of the short story, the fairy appears to the man and explains to him that she has given Death to a child who let her pick for him. The man wallows in his sadness and cries out to her, asking what is left for him. The fairy is harsh but sympathetic in telling the man that the inevitable has been brought on him-a gift the fairy says the man does not deserve-old age

Mark Twain’s short story The Five Boons of Life is an interesting perspective on the importance of life and priorities. Although the ending is not a joyful one, the fable does effectively teach a lesson. The story signifies the importance of wise choices, and the importance of not squandering your life away. Twain reaches readers in a universal resource of a story, and in a compelling tale persuades readers to live their life out to the fullest.



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