Humans are not equipped to stand their own ground; they prefer to follow the leader. Twain puts it simply, “we are creatures of outside influences; as a rule we do not think, we only imitate” (719).
Twain clearly makes his point noticeable to his audience, holding back no opinion throughout the whole piece. He explains that throughout the lives of those inhabiting the earth; many fashions attend the cycle of entering and leaving the social status of being wanted. People willingly allow such to happen. One year one will find oneself enjoying a certain blouse while society mocks them and the next year society will have welcomed said blouse without batting an eyelash. Human beings constantly yearn to be accepted by society; this feeling tends to be in their nature and they cannot simply make the feeling disappear.
People sacrifice their own morals in order to gain society’s approval and often, “self-approval is acquired mainly from the approval of other people” (719). With such actions, people follow the perfect mold of little sheep Twain creates throughout “Corn-Pone Opinions”. Society enjoys taking the morals of humans and ripping them away as if their morals were the ones creating damage and not society itself, unmistakably stated by Mark Twain himself. Through using examples and rhetorical devices within “Corn-Pone Opinions”, Twain states humans are virtual sheep, continuously following their shepherd, society.
To make his argument even more resilient, Twain uses multiple examples of everyday life for his audience to relate. First, Twain targets women. Being extremely influenced by opinions of others, women fail to sturdily stand against society’s harsh verdict. Twain, attacking the willingness to change fashion without thinking first, speaks to women closely. Twain states, “One woman abandons the fashion; her neighbor notices this and follows her lead; this influences the next woman; and so on and so on . . . ” (718). To this day women continue to experience this identical process.
Although one may love her Christmas sweater, if her neighbor does not own one or wrinkles her nose at the idea of wearing such a thing, she will immediately go home and dispose of the sweater without thinking twice about her actions or her personal feelings toward the item of clothing. Twain also mentions how “twenty-five years ago” there would be “six of eight wine glasses” given to each person attending a dinner party, and they were to be used, “not left idle and empty”, but today “there are but three of four” wine glasses and on average and only two are sparingly emptied by each guest (719).
Twain follows this observation by expanding his opinion on conformity. He offers the idea that people follow certain trends without thinking them through. The people attending these dinner parties have no idea why they only consume two glasses when twenty-five years ago people consumed three to four times as much. Humans, in general, do not look for the answer to the question “why? ”, but instead only worry about what other people do and if their actions are satisfactory to those surrounding them.
Twain also gives an example of families wanting to be accepted by the families they are acquainted with by mentioning, “The Smiths like the new play; the Joneses go to see it, and they copy the Smith verdict” (719). Humans, whether knowingly or unknowingly, fall into society’s trap of wanting the sense of acceptance. In return, they conform to the fashion, actions, and opinions to those around them. Twain, in order to continue his argument on conformity throughout “Corn-Pone Opinions”, uses the rhetorical device of anaphora.
While talking about people and their tendency to follow those around them, Twain says, “They swarm with their party, they feel with their party, they are happy in their party’s approval; and where the party leads they will follow . . . ” (720). In Twain’s mind people are of a social nature. Without the acceptance of others and without others approving their actions or ideas, people would not be able to function.
By using anaphora and repeating the word “they” Twain emphasizes the point he is trying to make to people who conform. In another nstance, Twain accentuates the word “it,” referring to the idea that when one has feelings one is actually thinking. He says, “Its name is Public Opinion. It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it the voice of God” (720). Through this method of repeating a specific word, Twain clearly reiterates his point of view on conformity and allows the reader to better understand the hold society obtains to make people want to conform. People tend to view society as a comfort blanket, people tend to want their acquaintances to have acceptance towards their actions, and people tend to change their morals if not accepted by society.
Throughout “Corn-Pone Opinions”, with anaphora, a rhetorical device that repeats a certain word to enhance a message, and examples observed throughout society, Twain effectively makes this argument about conforming to society evident in his essay.