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The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson is a novel by Mark Twain. The setting is the fictional Missouri frontier town of Dawson's Landing on the banks of the Mississippi River in the first half of the 19th century. David Wilson, a young lawyer, moves to town and a clever remark of his is misunderstood, which causes locals to brand him a "pudd'nhead" – a nitwit. His hobby of collecting fingerprints does not raise his standing in the townsfolk's eyes, who see him as an eccentric and do not frequent his law practice. Puddn'head Wilson moves into the background as the focus shifts to the slave Roxy, her son, and the family they serve. Roxy is only one-sixteenth black, and her son Valet de Chambre (referred to as "Chambers") is only 1/32 black. Roxy is principally charged with caring for her inattentive master's infant son Tom Driscoll, who is the same age as her own son. After fellow slaves are caught stealing and are nearly sold "down the river", to a master further south, Roxy fears for her life and the life of her son. First she decides to kill herself and Chambers to avoid being sold down the river, but then decides instead to switch Chambers and Tom in their cribs so that her son will live a life of privilege. The narrative moves forward two decades, and Tom Driscoll (formerly Valet de Chambre), believing himself to be wholly white and raised as a spoiled aristocrat, has grown to be a selfish and dissolute young man. Tom's father has died and granted Roxy her freedom. Roxy worked for a time on river boats, and saved money for her retirement. When she finally is able to retire, she discovers that her bank has failed and all of her savings are gone. She returns to Dawson's Landing to ask for money from Tom.
At the beginning of Pudd'nhead Wilson a young slave woman, fearing for her infant's son's life, exchanges her light-skinned child with her master's. From this rather simple premise Mark Twain fashioned one of his most entertaining, funny, yet biting novels. On its surface, Pudd'nhead Wilson possesses all the elements of an engrossing nineteenth-century mystery: reversed identities, a horrible crime, an eccentric detective, a suspenseful courtroom drama, and a surprising, unusual solution.
This is an annotated version of the book1.contains an updated biography of the author at the end of the book for a better understanding of the text.2.This book has been checked and corrected for spelling errorsPudd'nhead Wins His Name.Tell the truth or trump--but get the trick.--Pudd'nhead Wilson'sCalendar.The scene of this chronicle is the town of Dawson's Landing, on theMissouri side of the Mississippi, half a day's journey, per steamboat, below St. Louis.In 1830 it was a snug little collection of modest one- and two-storyframe dwellings whose whitewashed exteriors were almost concealed fromsight by climbing tangles of rose-vines, honeysuckles, andmorning-glories. Each of these pretty homes had a garden in front fencedwith white palings and opulently stocked with hollyhocks, marigolds, touch-me-nots, prince's-feathers and other old-fashioned flowers; whileon the window-sills of the houses stood wooden boxes containingmoss-rose plants and terra-cotta pots in which grew a breed of geraniumwhose spread of intensely red blossoms accented the prevailing pink tintof the rose-clad house-front like an explosion of flame. When there wasroom on the ledge outside of the pots and boxes for a cat, the cat wasthere--in sunny weather--stretched at full length, asleep and blissful, with her furry belly to the sun and a paw curved over her nose. Thenthat house was complete, and its contentment and peace were mademanifest to the world by this symbol, whose testimony is infallible. Ahome without a cat--and a well-fed, well-petted and properly reveredcat--may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?All along the streets, on both sides, at the outer edge of the bricksidewalks, stood locust-trees with trunks protected by wooden boxing, and these furnished shade for summer and a sweet fragrance in springwhen the clusters of buds came forth. The main street, one block backfrom the river, and running parallel with it, was the sole businessstreet. It was six blocks long, and in each block two or three brickstores three stories high towered above interjected bunches of littleframe shops. Swinging signs creaked in the wind, the street's wholelength. The candy-striped pole which indicates nobility proud andancient along the palace-bordered canals of Venice, indicated merely thehumble barber shop along the main street of Dawson's Landing. On a chiefcorner stood a lofty unpainted pole wreathed from top to bottom with tinpots and pans and cups, the chief tinmonger's noisy notice to the world(when the wind blew) that his shop was on hand for business at thatcorner.The hamlet's front was washed by the clear waters of the great river;its body stretched itself rearward up a gentle incline; its mostrearward border fringed itself out and scattered its houses about thebase-line of the hills; the hills rose high, inclosing the town in ahalf-moon curve, clothed with forests from foot to summit.Steamboats passed up and down every hour or so. Those belonging to thelittle Cairo line and the little Memphis line always stopped; the bigOrleans liners stopped for hails only, or to land passengers or freight;and this was the case also with the great flotilla of "transients."These latter came out of a dozen rivers--the Illinois, the Missouri, theUpper Mississippi, the Ohio, the Monongahela, the Tennessee, the RedRiver, the White River, and so on; and were bound every whither andstocked with every imaginable comfort or necessity which theMississippi's communities could want, from the frosty Falls of St.Anthony down through nine climates to torrid New Orleans.Dawson's Landing was a slaveholding town, with a rich slave-worked grainand pork country back of it. The town was sleepy and comfortable andcontented. It was fifty years old, and was growing slowly--very slowly, in fact, but still it was growing.
This eBook has been formatted to the highest digital standards and adjusted for readability on all devices. At the Missouri frontier town, on the banks of the Mississippi River, the intrigue revolves around two boys—one, born into slavery, with 1/32 black ancestry; the other, white, born to be the master of the house. The two boys, who look similar, are switched at infancy and each grows into the other's social role.
The two narratives published together in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins are overflowing with spectacular events. Twain shows us conjoined twins, babies exchanged in the cradle, acts of cross-dressing and racial masquerade, duels, a lynching, and a murder mystery. Pudd’head Wilson tells the story of babies, one of mixed race and the other white, exchanged in their cradles, while Those Extraordinary Twins is a farcical tale of conjoined twins. Although the stories were long viewed as flawed narratives, their very incongruities offer a fascinating portrait of key issues—race, disability, and immigration—facing the United States in the final decades of the nineteenth century. Hsuan Hsu’s introduction traces the history of literary critics’ response to these works, from the confusion of Twain’s contemporaries to the keen interest of current scholars. Extensive historical appendices provide contemporary materials on race discourse, legal contexts, and the composition and initial reception of the texts.
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This collection seeks to place Pudd’nhead Wilson—a neglected, textually fragmented work of Mark Twain’s—in the context of contemporary critical approaches to literary studies. The editors’ introduction argues the virtues of using Pudd’nhead Wilson as a teaching text, a case study in many of the issues presently occupying literary criticism: issues of history and the uses of history, of canon formation, of textual problematics, and finally of race, class, and gender. In a variety of ways the essays build arguments out of, not in spite of, the anomalies, inconsistencies, and dead ends in the text itself. Such wrinkles and gaps, the authors find, are the symptoms of an inconclusive, even evasive, but culturally illuminating struggle to confront and resolve difficult questions bearing on race and sex. Such fresh, intellectually enriching perspectives on the novel arise directly from the broad-based interdisciplinary foundations provided by the participating scholars. Drawing on a wide variety of critical methodologies, the essays place the novel in ways that illuminate the world in which it was produced and that further promise to stimulate further study. Contributors. Michael Cowan, James M. Cox, Susan Gillman, Myra Jehlen, Wilson Carey McWilliams, George E. Marcus, Carolyn Porter, Forrest Robinson, Michael Rogin, John Carlos Rowe, John Schaar, Eric Sundquist

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