“Luck” Summary: Mark Twain Plot Synopsis

“Luck” is a short story by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) first published in 1891. It’s about a highly decorated and widely acknowledged military genius who achieved everything by pure chance. Here’s a summary of “Luck”.

“Luck” Summary

The narrator attends a banquet in London in honor of a military genius, Lieutenant General Lord Arthur Scoresby. He relishes the opportunity to look upon the man, as do many others in attendance who gaze at him with worship.

An acquaintance sitting to the narrator’s left, a clergyman who used to be a military instructor, informs him quietly that Scoresby is actually an absolute fool. Knowing him to be a truthful man, the narrator is surprised by this revelation and aims to find out the details. A few days later, the narrator gets the story from the Reverend.

About forty years ago, the Reverend was a military instructor at Woolwich, where young Scoresby was one of the students. His preliminary examination showed him to be stupid and ignorant. Moved by Scoresby’s pitiful performance, the Reverend tutored him relentlessly on Caesar, the one subject he had a little knowledge of.

Luck Mark Twain Summary Samuel Clemens Plot Synopsis short story
“Luck” Summary

By a stroke of luck, Scoresby’s exam focuses only on the things he knows about Caesar, and he passes easily. The Reverend drills him similarly in math, which goes the same way. Scoresby even wins first prize.

The Reverend’s conscience tortures him. He only wanted to ease Scoresby’s failure a little but has inadvertently set him on a path of unearned responsibility. When the Crimean War breaks out and Scoresby is made a captain, the Reverend is terrified with the possibilities for disaster. He uses his savings to buy a cornetcy in his regiment to help as much as he can.

Scoresby blunders constantly, but no one else knows his true aptitude, so everything is interpreted as genius. His reputation for brilliance continues to grow. He advances from grade to grade until he rises to colonel during a crucial battle.

The Reverend is sure this means death for everyone. Their regiment defends a crucial position. Scoresby orders a charge over a hill for no apparent reason. They charge into an unprepared Russian army. The Russians could kill them all without much resistance, but they believe the entire English army is on the way. The Russians flee in confusion, resulting in a spectacular Allied victory. The Marshal decorates Scoresby right on the field.

It turns out Scoresby made a simple mistake. He was ordered to fall back to the right; he got mixed up and went forward to the left. Because of this blunder, he achieved a glory that will never fade.

Scoresby is as good and honest as a man can be, but he’s a complete fool. Until now, only he and the Reverend knew. It’s only by an astonishing streak of luck that he’s accomplished everything in his life. Every one of his numerous decorations and medals is a remembrance of some remarkable stupidity.

The best thing that can happen to a man is to be born lucky.

I hope this summary of “Luck” by Mark Twain has been helpful.