The Tragedy of Pudd'Nhead Wilson


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(1894)




A WHISPER TO THE READER:



There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar



A person who is ignorant of legal matters is always liable to make mistakes when he tries to photograph a court scene with his pen; and so I was not willing to let the law chapters in this book go to press without first subjecting them to rigid and exhausting revision and correction by a trained barrister—if that is what they are called. These chapters are right, now, in every detail, for they were rewritten under the immediate eye of William Hicks, who studied law part of a while in southwest Missouri thirty-five years ago and then came over here to Florence for his health and is still helping for exercise and board in Macaroni Vermicelli's horse-feed shed, which is up the back alley as you turn around the corner out of the Piazza del Duomo just beyond the house where that stone that Dante used to sit on six hundred years ago is let into the wall when he let on to be watching them build Giotto's campanile and yet always got tired looking as Beatrice passed along on her way to get a chunk of chestnut cake to defend herself with in case of a Ghibelline outbreak before she got to school, at the same old stand where they sell the same old cake to this day and it is just as light and good as it was then, too, and this is not flattery, far from it. He was a little rusty on his law, but he rubbed up for this book, and those two or three legal chapters are right and straight, now. He told me so himself.

Given under my hand this second day of January, 1893, at the Villa Viviani, village of Settignano, three miles back of Florence, on the hills—the same certainly affording the most charming view to be found on this planet, and with it the most dreamlike and enchanting sunsets to be found in any planet or even in any solar system—and given, too, in the swell room of the house, with the busts of Cerretani senators and other grandees of this line looking approvingly down upon me, as they used to look down upon Dante, and mutely asking me to adopt them into my family, which I do with pleasure, for my remotest ancestors are but spring chickens compared with these robed and stately antiques, and it will be a great and satisfying lift for me, that six hundred years will.--Mark Twain.




At the beginning of this novel 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. Yet it is not a mystery novel. Seething with the undercurrents of antebellum southern culture, the book is a savage indictment in which the real criminal is society, and racial prejudice and slavery are the crimes. Written in 1894, Pudd'nhead Wilson glistens with characteristic Twain humor, with suspense, and with pointed irony: a gem among the author's later works.











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Recent Forum Posts on The Tragedy of Pudd'Nhead Wilson

Pudd'nhead wilson

Book info needed! Recently discovered original book by Mark Twain but the title dosen't match others. The title of my book:Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins. This book also seems to have an original signature in the front. The title of what everyone else lists: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson. Help! Chacho


Epiphany

I read Huckleberry Finn as a requirement for school and thought it rather mediocre. I drew the conclusion that Mark Twain was not worth my time. This book proved me wrong. Very wrong.


Mark Twain

To even hint that a greater percentage than less of Twain's writing is "southern dialect" from the 1800's... is to say the least----short sighted. Twain was a brilliant writer who understood adverbs that "ly" around lazily (ahem), should be shot on sight, and adjectives are stronger the farther apart they are spaced. Twain's bi-polarity was a gift. Being bi-polar is like sitting on a tanker of rocket fuel with a lit match ---- You can burn yourself and those closest to you, or you can use it to soar high above the mundane.

"I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
-Mark Twain in a Letter to Joseph Twichell, 9/13/1898


The Tragedy of Pudd'Nhead Wilson

Anyone trying to understand the unique American culture needs to first understand where we came from. Mark Twain is one of the best authors who helps us understand our history and laugh about it at the same time. Puddin' Head Wilson is an immensely entertaining book which challenges the reader to think about difficult racial issues. The book is hard to read due to the heavy use of slang, but it is worth the effort and remains one of my favorite American classics.


No Subject

Despite all the bad comments that I have heard about the book Puddnhead I am so excited to read it and I think that challenging books make you a better reader and a better understanding of the subject. You just have to be motivated and not lazy and be open to taking time and understanding. I play volleyball which takes up a lot of my time but I will find time to read it


No Subject

I chose to read Pudd'nhead Wilson for my term paper, and I am glad I did. It is a beautifully crafted piece, it contains many detailed characters and it has an intriguing, complete, and clear storyline. It can be boring at first, but once you get into the later chapters, the story is a little more fun.


No Subject

I watched this movie in 7th grade puddin head wilson I liked it. I am a black 22 year old female and it amazes me the legenths a mother will go through for her child. I am not saying it was right to make the other kid have such a difficult time either.


Puddin'Head Wilson

I had to read this book for a class assignment within 2 weeks and I admitt that it was challenging to understand the dialect and the book in such a short period of time when you don't get home until 7:00 o'clock and have to wake at 6:00. But back to the subject I agree with what EMMAK in a way because you really have to think when reading the novel. I'm a ninth-grader and I admitt the dialect was a bit challenging but the book began gaining interest towards the end but when ever I get a chance I may another one of his novels to help me get a better understanding. But until then I have to keep working on my project for this book because it is due Friday and today is Wednesday. So keep reading and congratulations to those have finished the book.


pudd'nhead wilson

ya know what. I started to read this book in class, and I didn't like it. I will honostly say that I didn't really like any of the book, until the very end. It seemed to get better as the book got on. I would actually recomend this book for a good, challenging (the southern dialect was difficult) read!


No Subject

I would have to say I disagree completely with Merrisa. In "Huckleberry Finn", Huck and Jim are well developed, amazing characters- their story is one of fear, excitement and suspense. I respected the characters in Huckleberry Finn for their ingenuity and originality. Conversely, the characters in "Pudd'nhead Wilson" are ridiculous. Does it really make any sense that NO ONE would notice Tom, dressed up as a woman with a veil, stealing spoons at the party? Roxy is an intelligent character, however she is overly selfless, selling herself into slavery. Yes, she does come back and show her frustration with Tom, but the statement that a white woman would do anything for her baby and thus she would as well makes no sense. Tom is one dimensional and many of the other characters, including Puddn'nhead, are not well developed. Yes, it has some brilliant moments, like all Twain novels... ie the derivation of the name Pudd'nhead, but overall, this book is superficial and feels forced; at the time when Twain was writing the book, he was in debt and one of his children had recently died, in my view, it seems that the book suffers from those distractions- it feels like it was written to make money, not for the passion of the written word.


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