Summary/Analysis

In The Five Boons of Life, Twain tells the tale of a man who is visited by a fairy. The fairy offers the man five gifts, but instructs him that he must choose only one, and that only one is truly valuable (Five). The five gifts he must choose from are fame, love, riches, pleasure, and death. First he chooses pleasure, but he realizes that it is fleeting and regrets his decision. The fairy returns and offers the man the opportunity to choose again, but reminds him that only one has true value. This time he chooses love. Once again the man is left disheartened from his gift. Next he chooses fame, but it yields a similar result. Then he chooses Wealth as his fourth gift when the fairy returns. Again, the man enjoys initial pleasure from his gift, but it is short lived. Finally, the fairy returns to the man and he wishes for the last gift; however she has already given death away. Twain’s writing style is evident in this story because of his use of irony and satire. The story shows irony because the man expects to be fulfilled by the worldly pleasures that the fairy offers him, but he feels cursed by them instead: "Curse all the world's gifts, for mockeries and gilded lies! And miscalled, every one. They are not gifts, but merely lendings. Pleasure, Love, Fame, Riches: they are but temporary disguises for lasting realities--Pain, Grief, Shame, Poverty. The fairy said true; in all her store there was but one gift which was precious, only one that was not valueless. How poor and cheap and mean I know those others now to be, compared with that inestimable one, that dear and sweet and kindly one, that steeps in dreamless and enduring sleep the pains that persecute the body, and the shames and griefs that eat the mind and heart. Bring it! I am weary, I would rest (Five)." Twain uses this irony to be critical of society’s material desires such as fame and riches. Twain uses this attire to convey the idea that these gifts are fruitless desires. He presents the conclusion that death is the only true gift among the five because the others lead the character to wish for it.