The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg is considered a short story rather than a novel, but many argue about this, as the work is too big to be a short story, and too small to be called a novel. Thus, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg stands on the outskirts of genre cataloging.
In the end of the 1899 The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg appeared in a monthly magazine of literature and culture called Harper’s Magazine, a very prestigious and well known magazine. Mark Twain was already a famous writer, and another piece of fiction released from under his skillful pen was well and warmly accepted by both the audience and critics.
The events of The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg are set in a small town, which is proud of its infallible reputation. But one day someone brings to the cashier’s house of a local bank a heavy bag with a letter notifying, that there will be a reward to a resident of the town who has showed once incredible generosity to the anonymous donor, when he had been ruined and desperate. A rather impressive sum of money must be transferred to the citizen who correctly reproduces the phrase that was said in the past. The citizens, unshakably honest, take the only moral decision in automatic mode, show later weakness, look for loopholes, joyfully grab the seductive opportunity to deceive themselves and others. And as a result, exposing themselves as a laughing stock in front of the whole world.
Twain would not be Twain if he made a tragedy out of this story. The final is quite in his spirit: the local moneybags redeems coins that turned out to be fakes, mints on them the name of his political opponent, and wins the elections. And the money goes to the very same old people into whose house it had been brought. They will suffer the most in this story; the shame and fear of exposure, or rather the dagger and poison, will bring the old people to the grave.
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg is about how the temptation corrodes from within the hardest souls in virtues, and that the unjustly acquired, brings no good.