This article is a critical reevaluation of Mark Twain’s “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.” The story is typically regarded as at best a piece of literary miscellany from Twain’s peculiar late period, and at worst a caricature of the religious sentimentalism of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. While these claims have validity, they don’t tell the whole story. It is also a carefully worked-out meditation on a series of questions—belief, mortality, justice, and the quest for the most humane arrangement of life—with which Twain grappled throughout his whole career. This is accomplished by making the case for reading it not just as a light joke on or a cruel tirade against religious belief, but also as a Menippean satire. This case is made by drawing on thinkers like Northrop Frye, Gershom Scholem, and Richard Rorty in this effort, as well as historian of religions Jeffrey Kripal and Twain scholar Harold K. Bush. Repositioned in this light, “Stormfield” emerges as a crucial piece in assembling the puzzle that is Mark Twain.

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