Is there any word that is alternative word to 'sufferer' in the context? Here is the example, which is from a novel 'Baker's blue-jay yarn' by Mark Twain.

As for the plot of this novel, there is a blue-jay that has found a very deep hole, and keeps dropping acorns in there without realizing the fact that the hole is actually not a hole but a knothole of the roof. I guess that's why the author calls the blue-jay a sufferer.

"Another jay was going by, and heard him doing his devotions, and stops to inquire what was up. The sufferer told him the whole circumstance, and says 'Now yonder's the hole, and if you don't believe me, go and look for yourself.'

  • 1
    A wretch? A poor wretch? Aug 12, 2015 at 11:24
  • Maybe a victim.
    – Khan
    Aug 12, 2015 at 11:42
  • Wow, Mark Twain wrote a story about me!
    – Jay
    Aug 12, 2015 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


This is religious lingo, used ironically and humorously.

The blue jay is uttering profanities atop the roof. The narrator ironically calls these acts his "devotions" (i.e. prayers). In this context, a sufferer is one who is unjustly persecuted for his beliefs, or one who must endure the troubles, pains, and afflictions of our worldly existence, or the world's injustices.


He just had strength enough to crawl up on to the comb and lean his back agin the chimbly, and then he collected his impressions and begun to free his mind. I see in a second that what I had mistook for profanity in the mines was only just the rudiments, as you may say.

Another jay was going by, and heard him doing his devotions, and stops to inquire what was up. The sufferer told him the whole circumstance, and says, ‘Now yonder’s the hole, and if you don’t believe me, go and look for yourself.’

  • I don't want to get into an argument about it, but I don't see a religious allusion here. Yes, Twain says "doing his devotions" as a euphemism or metaphor for swearing, but I don't see anything in the context that indicates that he's using "sufferer" in any religious sense. The bird is literally suffering from doing a lot of hard work, not from any outside persecution. Yes, it's true that Christians use the word "sufferer" to refer to someone who suffers for his beliefs, but there's no special theological meaning that I know of. Christians use "worker" for someone who works for his faith ...
    – Jay
    Aug 12, 2015 at 13:54
  • ... "visitor" for someone who visits a church, etc. I wouldn't suppose that everyone who uses the word "visitor" is making a religious metaphor because of that.
    – Jay
    Aug 12, 2015 at 13:55
  • @Jay; There's no "allusion", Jay. It's simply the language (jargon) of prayer meetings and revivals.
    – TimR
    Aug 12, 2015 at 14:24
  • I've been to a lot of prayer meetings and revivals, and I'm hard pressed to recall the word "sufferer" being used. :-) But what I was trying to say was, it's an ordinary English word, with no INHERENT religious meaning, and I don't see from the context any reason to attach a religious meaning to it. It makes more sense to understand it to mean that the bird was suffering because it was working so hard in the literal, physical sense.
    – Jay
    Aug 12, 2015 at 18:59
  • "Sufferer" gets its religious connotations (and its humor) by its proximity to "devotions". You have not been to prayer meetings and revivals in the 19th and early 20th century.
    – TimR
    Aug 12, 2015 at 23:03

A "sufferer" is, simply, one who suffers. In this case, the bird was suffering because of all the work it was doing. It was working hard but not seeing any benefits from its labor.

You could substitute some other word or phrase that indicates a victim of misfortune. I'm hard pressed to think of a single word that would do, but options include "unfortunate one", "down-and-out", "sad case", or "hard-pressed".

In context he's talking about someone suffering because he's working so hard, so you could also use words that mean someone who works, like "worker", "hard worker", "laborer", "toiler", etc.

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