As you may be aware, today is April Fool’s day — and while we won’t be playing any childish pranks here at Flavorpill, we do enjoy a good practical joke or two, especially when said joke is fictional and thus lacking in real-world consequences. Kurt Vonnegut said, “All of fiction is a practical joke—making people care, laugh, cry or be nauseated or whatever by something which absolutely is not going on at all. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, your pants are on fire.’” That may be so, but there are just as many pranksters in the pages of books as there are holding the pens — some innocent, and some not so innocent. Note: practical jokes can range in severity and style, so just so we’re all on the same page, the definition we’re working with is “a mischievous trick played on a person, especially one that causes the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort.” Click through to read our list of ten of the best pranks and practical jokes in literature, and pitch in with any we’ve missed — or just watch Maya Angelou punk Stephen King and Jonathan Franzen.
Tom’s whitewashing hustle in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Oh, Tom Sawyer, you rascal. In Mark Twain’s classic, Tom is punished for playing hooky from school and getting his clothes dirty by being made to whitewash a fence — but of course, he manages to trick his friends into actually paying him for the privilege to do his work for him. It may be more of a swindle than a true practical joke, in truth, but given our definition of the term, we think it definitely counts.