The man who is ostentatious of his modesty is twin to the statue that wears a fig-leaf.

What did Mark Twain mean by:

The man who is ostentatious of his modesty is twin to the statue that wears a fig-leaf.


This quote is a satirical commentary on the concept of false modesty. Ostentation refers to the act of displaying wealth, knowledge, or virtues in a showy or pretentious manner. Here, Twain is referring to individuals who make a show of their modesty, which is inherently a contradiction. Modesty is a virtue characterized by humility and lack of pretense, so to be ostentatious about it is to undermine its very essence.

The comparison to a statue wearing a fig-leaf is a sharp and humorous illustration of this concept. In classical art and sculpture, fig-leaves were often used to cover the nudity of statues, as a symbol of modesty or decency. However, the act of adding the fig-leaf draws more attention to the fact that the statue is, indeed, nude underneath. Similarly, when someone is ostentatious about their modesty, they draw attention to their own virtue, which contradicts the principle of modesty itself.

Applying this idea to today’s world, we often see instances of this in social media where people might showcase their good deeds or humility for validation and praise. This act of showcasing modesty or humility can sometimes come off as insincere and self-serving, which is contrary to the genuine essence of these virtues.

This quote can also be a significant lesson in personal development. It encourages us to be genuinely modest and humble, without feeling the need to broadcast our virtues. True modesty and humility come from within and do not need external validation or recognition. Being ostentatious about modesty is not modest at all, but a form of self-promotion. Therefore, one should strive for authenticity in their virtues, rather than displaying them for show.

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