Responding to Reading

In your opinion, is this story better or worse for not having an ending?

A few aspects of the story to analize are :

  • What character traits of John Brown´s lead him into this difficult situation?

    Think about :
    his position at the church and his reputation in town.
    why he went into the river.
    why he wanted to impress the mother and helped the sisters.

  • What kinds of expectations do the other characters have about Brown?

  • What are the elements for a satisfactory ending of this story?

  • Would Brown's problem be a problem at all in the 2000's?

Literary Concept


This is the method an author uses to define the characters in a story. In Mark Twain's story the characters are revealed to the reader in several ways: through direct explanation about them, through physical description, through their thoughts or actions, and through the dialogue.
Can you find examples of these in the story?


The humor in "A Story Without an End" comes from the ironic situation in which the main character finds himself.
It is ironic that such a modest and proper man is caught with his pants off just when he wants to impress some ladies. What else is ironic in the story?
This use of irony is very different from Montressor's ironies in "The cask of Amontillado". Because the irony here is coincidental and unprepared, not verbal.

Writing Options

If you wish to practice your writing, try one of the following exercises

  1. Write a final scene for the story. Your ending should meet Twain's requirements for a happy ending.
  2. What would be one of the many disastrous endings for John Brown?
  3. Write your preferred ending for this episode.

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