During the final years of his life, Twain’s writings echoed a rancorous pessimism and a palpable misanthropy.
These attitudes are conspicuous in such works as the sharply acerbic The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg, What is Man, and the thoroughly dark The Mysterious Stranger, in which he claims that life is “all a dream – a grotesque and foolish dream” from which there is no escape.
This final work is Twain’s most profoundly negative view of “the damned human race.” By the end of his life, Twain was convinced that human beings find endless pleasure in wreaking cruelty while masking it cleverly as a noble cause. Whether because of an deranged or detached Creator or a degenerate nature, the human species is doomed. In 1900, Twain wrote “the time is grave. The future is blacker than has been any future which any person now living has tried to peer into.”