Pudd'nhead Wilson ~ Mark Twain ~ 3/04 ~ Book Club Online
February 17, 2004 - 11:06 am

from cover of first edition - 1894 American Publishing Company

Mark Twain's lesser known Pudd'nhead Wilson provides an eye-opening picture of race and slavery in the small Mississippi River town of Dawson's Landing, Missouri. It is the story of the mulatto slave, Roxanna, who has swapped her baby son with her master's white baby, hoping for a better life for him. Roxy is considered by many to be one of Twain's best-rendered characters, after Jim and Huck Finn.

Within the framework of this tragi-comedy based on the legal history of the time, there is a murder mystery, a detective story and of course the whole work is peppered with Mark Twain's famous dry humor and wit.

Our thanks to author, Wally Lamb, who referred us to Christopher Barnett, Director of Education and Rachel Rogers, Manager of Community and Performance Programs at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. This should be a tremendous resource and should help us understand and appreciate Twain's ironic treatment of race and slavery in America at this time.

Joan P ~ Discussion Leaders ~ Maryal

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Joan Pearson
February 17, 2004 - 12:18 pm
Hello there! So happy you found your way here - this should be an enriching experience - we are so fortunate to have those in our midst who really know "Sammy" as they call him, the curator/scholars from the Mark Twain House. We have author, Wally Lamb to thank for this. He told them about us.

How long has it been since you read anything by Mark Twain? Sometimes, because of his irony and dry humor, it is difficult to understand what motivates him. Not so long ago I read his Recollections of Joan of Arc - could hardly believe he wrote it. I recently read that this is the only book that he thought had merit.

Pudd'nhead is a sensational story - can't wait to share with you the impact it had when it first appeared in seriel form in Century Magazine back in 1893. The Twain House people will be able to set the mood and help us appreciate the story behind the story.

The tale itself is intriguing...please let us know which edition you are planning to read. Many of them come with Those Extraordinary Twins...MT's first draft on which he based Pudd'nhead Wilson.

Welcome to Dawson's Landing, everyone!

February 17, 2004 - 02:54 pm
to Joan's. I have always enjoyed reading Twain though it has been years since I've read Puddn'head. The book is not long and we'll have a good time with it I suspect. I wonder if this book (like Huck Finn) has had problems being put off the reading list at certain public schools.

Twain honestly faces the racial conflict--rare for his time. For example, in Huckleberry Finn, Twain has Huck and the escaped slave, Jim going down the Mississippi River, an irony in itself since Jim is travelling further and further toward an area where slavery is still widespread.

After coming to know Jim well, Huck, who has been brought up with rigid morality and knows that he should return Jim to his owner, decides to put his own immortal soul at risk. He says that he'll go to hell rather than turn Jim in.


February 17, 2004 - 08:52 pm
I'm delighted to join this discussion. I have read many of Twain's writings years ago, but not this one. I'm hoping to use the "Complete Mark Twain" I got from my father. I'll let you know the details when I find it. He also collected Twain first editions, but I believe they were sold when my mother died. If not, my sister will have them and I'll use that.

February 18, 2004 - 06:36 am
Hi Joan and Maryal and All,

I have the Dover Thrift Edition of Pudd'nhead Wilson. My book is very small, only one hundred twenty two pages. The word "unabridged" is printed on the front of the book.

I am excited about The Mark Twain House.

February 18, 2004 - 07:32 am
I have the electronic text from my Library of the Future- 4th edition. I think that it is the story in its entirety. We shall see!

Joan Pearson
February 18, 2004 - 08:48 am
Andy - thank you so much for the mention of the electronic text. I had intended to include a link here in the heading...Do you see it now? I like it because you can see the original drawings that appear in the print edition.

Hats, good to see you here too - Pudd'nhead is short isn't it? But it is packed with good topics for discussion. Does your edition include "Those Extraordinary Twins?

February 18, 2004 - 09:06 am
Joan, my edition does not include "The Extraordinary Twins." Should I get another edition? I can check my library and pick another copy up for the discussion.

Joan Pearson
February 18, 2004 - 09:09 am
Hats - I wouldn't at this point. Haven't decided yet if we will be discussing the Twins yet - though it is really fun to see the story from which Pudd'nhead sprang. I can probably find that on-line too. It is REALLY short.

February 18, 2004 - 09:15 am

I just checked my library. My library is online. There are many, many copies of Pudd'nhead. I wouldn't know which book to choose. I would like to have a book rather than read an online book. My eyes grow tired from looking at the screen.

February 18, 2004 - 09:21 am
Just down the hall is our other Americanist and Mark had not one but two copies of Puddn'head. The one I got because he insisted on giving me a clean copy (joked he didn't want to help me with his notes) is the Penguin classics edition and it has "Those Extraordinary Twins" in the back.

February 18, 2004 - 09:26 am

My husband just found an edition that includes "Those Extraordinary Twins." It is the Norton Editon. He will bring it home from work.

February 18, 2004 - 09:26 am
Joan--Here's one of "Those Extraordinary Twins" online. There's another one too.


Joan Pearson
February 18, 2004 - 09:48 am
Andy - thank you so much for the mention of the electronic text. I had intended to include a link here in the heading...will do that now.

Hats, good to see you here too - Pudd'nhead is short isn't it? But it is packed with good topics for discussion. Does your edition include "Those Extraordinary Twins?

February 18, 2004 - 10:51 am
I am reading "Those Extraordinary Twins now, will come back to chaper 5 when I return from lunch this evening. Wow, What a story! Thanks, Maryal.

February 18, 2004 - 03:11 pm
You're welcome, Ginger. You're almost through with it. There aren't that many chapters.

February 18, 2004 - 05:34 pm
Yes you are right 10 chapters in all, they are Very good and I have read them all but will tape my mouth and fingers shut time things get started. Smile.

OH wOW 21 chapters in Pudd'nhead Wilson Well that is next, I do hope it is as good as the twins were.

February 18, 2004 - 05:54 pm
s p e e d r e a d e r ! !

Give us all a chance to catch up!!

I just got the book today and am still reading the introduction.


February 19, 2004 - 10:50 am
I found my Mark twain and it only has "selections from Puddnhead Wilson" Ugh! So I've ordered another (Penguin). It does have the Extrordinary Twins. It should come by March 1. If not, I'll catch up online.

February 19, 2004 - 03:44 pm
I'm very much looking forward to this and I hope everybody will take this grand opportunity to examine one of Twain's lesser known books (I've never read it) and find out more about Twain the man.

That link to the Mark Twain House above is startling! I would never connect that with Clemens. I think of Mark Twain as Tom Sawyer, riverboats, the Mississippi, Huck Finn, and here is a marble mantel from a castle in England in a to die for house!

I have ALWAYS had the feeling that Twain...there is more to Twain that meets the eye, something in his writing, something there that's hard to define, I am really going to enjoy this and learn a lot!

Oh PS: My text does have the Twins in the back of it, it's the Signet Classic paperback, am I right that all the actual texts will be the same, the pagination will be different? Or?


February 19, 2004 - 05:52 pm
Yep, Ginny, that sounds about right. Pagination will be different, but any modern edition should have the same text.

Twain was a fascinating writer. True, he came from Missouri and wrote about the far west (because he went there), but he lived most of his life in the East and was both bemused by and very taken with what was called the "Gilded Age."

As he grew older, Twain's vision darkened and his later works are quite different from the earlier ones. However, the darkness was always there despite the tall tales and the humor.

One of my favorite of Twain's books is Life on the Mississippi which he wrote about his years as a river-boat pilot. That experience also gave him the idea for his pseudonym. The "mark twain" refers to someone on the ship marking how many fathoms of water are below the boat. His real name was Samuel Clemens, and I don't know why he decided to use a pseudonym since everyone knew who he was.

The house in Hartford is one that you might expect a successful businessman and his family would have lived in at the period. It's well worth a visit.


February 19, 2004 - 06:13 pm
Life on the Mississippi has always been my favorite too.

I saw the series on Twain that PBS broadcast last year. I'm sure they will rebroadcast it sometime: watch for it, it's excellant.

I was startled when I first found Twain in the East. My daughter went to college near Elmira, New York. Going through town, there are signs all over -- this way to Mark twain's grave.

He lived all over the place. He got into financial trouble by living and entertaining lavishly -- apparently his house became what in other periods would have been called a salon.

I rather gather that the prissy Eastern establishment adored him. I think he met some notion they had of the noble savage --(my words, not theirs). there is that thread of admiring native simplicity in writings of the time -- look at Henry James. It was the ultra-over-refined Dean Howells, who published him.

I have a feeling that Twain ate all this up. I will always associate Twain with my father, the devoted twain fan. When I saw that special, I was reminded of my father again and again in Twain's outlook on life. Father was a poor working class kid who grew up to be a judge and internationally known n his field. He never lost that feeling of being "tickled" to find himself in poshy places with poshy people. He always made fun of it, but he loved it!! I get the same feeling from Twain.

This got too long. Sorry.

February 19, 2004 - 06:21 pm
Joan K~ What you wrote is not too long and it is completely to the point. It is interesting that Twain always reminds you of your father who came from a humble background and was always tickled by finding himself in posh places.

I just love that description and I think it applies very well to Twain. Howells was his friend and did help him out, and I'll just bet that he thought of Twain as his discovery, the quintesential "American from the plains."

Twain wasn't very good with money. He lost a good deal investing in a type-setting machine that failed to flourish. He also suffered a great deal in his life, losing his favorite child, outliving his wife and another daughter.


Nancy Birkla
February 21, 2004 - 09:59 pm
Well, I kept telling myself no, no, no, I can't possibly get involved in one more thing -- I will not even go in and look at the upcoming Twain discussion site (some of you have already heard about my "love affair" with Mark Twain's works). But then I borrowed the book from an office neighboring English professor -- just to take a look at it, right?

So here I sit, at close to midnight on a Saturday, holding a well-worn (actually almost falling apart) Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York and London, 1899 copyright edition of PUDD'NHEAD WILSON and THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS (illustrated).

Suffice it to say I'm feeling a bit seduced, for sure . . .

February 21, 2004 - 10:06 pm
Great, Nancy. Welcome, welcome! The great thing about these discussions is that you can spend as much or as little time as you want (unless you can't stay away, of course).

Joan Pearson
February 22, 2004 - 09:26 am
JoanK is right, Nancy...give in to the seduction especially since you have book in hand! As much (or as little) time as you have, your observations will be most welcome. WELCOME!

Joan Pearson
February 23, 2004 - 10:03 am
It's interesting to me that MT wrote the tale from which Pudd'nhead sprang...in Italy! Ginny, yes, there's a lot to this man that is counter to the picture of the country boy from middle America. He came from a very modest background, through his writing made a lot of money...though somehow he was always in financial trouble. Dad investments and a wife with taste for the finer things in life. He lived in a villa outside of Florence when he wrote Twins. Have you read it yet? We will be discussing Pudd'nhead next Monday, but it might be fun to consider Twins beforehand. There's a link to the electronic text in the heading in case your copy of Pudd'nhead does not include it.

In the edition I'm reading, there are some interesting observations made by the author on writing his fiction...
The author "is not acquainted with the tale - he listens as it goes along telling itself." He had a hard time with Pudd'nhead "because it changed from a farce (Twins?) to a tragaedy as it went along." It took months to discover his problem with it...there were two stories in one."
Without going into Pudd'nhead at all (we'll wait for next week to do that), you might like to read Those Extraordinary Twins...just don't judge Pudd'nhead based on this story! I think we are going to have a lot of fun with this one.

Jo Meander
February 24, 2004 - 01:18 am
Just clicked on Those Extraordinary Twins for fun -- and it was! The intro gave me a chuckle! I'm up to chapter 5, and would continue right now but I really have to get some sleep.
I have a copy of Puddn'head and will try to be ready when the gun goes off on opening day. I love Twain! I wasn't sure I'd be able to participate, but I'm going to try.

February 24, 2004 - 06:12 am
I have started The Extraordinary Twins. I hate to admit it, but at first, I felt a little bit uncomfortable with the story. Lately, on the news, there have been a few stories about Siamese Twins. Doctors striving to operate on them and give these twin babies a life apart from one another. Finally, I relaxed and was able to laugh at the situation between Luigi and Angelo. I am ashamed to admit that I took the story in such a serious way.

Jo, I am beginning chapter five. I wonder did anyone else feel uncomfortable while reading The Extraordinary Twins.

February 24, 2004 - 06:40 am
HATS: yes, I did. Being disabled, I dont like to see disabled people made into objects of fun. And being a twin, I am tired of twin jokes.

February 24, 2004 - 06:45 am
JoanK, thank you for answering. I felt very uneasy about my above post. I thought my funnybone had gotten out of joint. I am anxious to know the differences between a farce and a tragedy. I think these definitions will help me better understand Those Extraordinary Twins.

Joan Pearson
February 24, 2004 - 09:26 am
Super! Jo has made a nocturnal visit...and plans to join our merry, though at this point, uncomfortable band! A Twain lover too! You are always WELCOME, Jo!

Hats, yes we DO need to understand the difference between farce and tragedy. At this point I'm wondering about the difference between farce and funny-bone comedy too. The Director of Education from the Mark Twain House plans to join us next week for Pudd'nhead - maybe he can find some time to come in for our pre-discussion on "conglomerate twins" as the author refers to them.

One thing I do know, this work was written over one hundred years ago...and we have to view it through the prism of history. Does your memory stretch back even fifty years? Do you remember carnivals - with a shill outside a tent shouting to come inside to see the fattest woman on earth and other "freaks" of nature? I never went inside, but do remember feeling sorry for the deformed (if in fact they were) who had no other means of support but to travel with the Carnie and have people pay to gape - and laugh at them.

Apparently, Mark Twain saw a similar exhibition in Italy. There's a sketch in my illustrated Twain which illustrates a man, I guess it's Sammy Clemens, standing in front of a poster advertising a Carnival...

I'm wondering what went on in his mind to write a story introducing these twins to middle America? He says in the preface to Twins that he lets the tale tell itself...that he doesn't start out with an idea of what he wants the story to say. Interesting!

Not only will we be reading his work through the prism of history (just wait until we get into racism and slavery in Puddn'head) - but also we will be reading him through the prism of our own experience. JoanK, if it is any consolation, the twins reappear in Puddn'head, no longer conjoined, but I'll bet you wince at "twin" jokes, nonetheless! Twain's twins are certainly individual personalities aren't they? Despite the fact that they are joined?

Ella Gibbons
February 24, 2004 - 11:09 am
My copy of Pudd'nhead Wilson is one of a collection of Twain's works that we inherited from relatives, long ago, with hard green covers and brown-edged, crisp, fragile pages that are rather frightening to turn as they might fall apart at any moment; but I think I can get through the book - I hope so! The very first illustration appears on the title page and is titled "Roxy Harvesting Among the Kitchens."

I've never read any of them, but, of course, have heard all my life about Mark Twain. The "Twins" story is at the back of this book and I will try to read it tonight; yes, I remember the freak shows, even at a young age I winced at those that had to make a living by being shown as such and laughed at - it seemeed so cruel. There has been some progress in our society since then and it bodes well for the future as many deformities can be corrected at an early age.

I'm looking forward to discussing this book with all of you.

February 24, 2004 - 12:45 pm
I wasn't able to bring up the electronic text on my computer, but I did come across some comments from other sources about the story.

Author's note to Those Extraordinary Twins:

"I once started to write - a funny and fantastic sketch about a prince and a pauper; it presently assumed a grave cast of its own accord, and in that new shape spread itself out into a book. Much the same thing happend with "Pudd'nhead Wilson." I had a sufficiently hard time with that tale, because it changed itself from a farce to a tragedy while I was going along with it - a most embarrassing circumstance. But what was a great deal worse was, that it was not one story, but two stories tangled together; and they obstructed and interrupted each other at every turn and created no end of confusion and annoyance.

I carried the manuscript back and forth across the Atlantic two or three times, and read it and studied over it on shipboard; and at last I saw where the difficulty lay. I had no further trouble. I pulled one of the stories out by the roots.

Originally the story was called "Those Extraordinary Twins." I meant to make it very short. I ahd seen a picture of a youthful Italian "freak" or "freaks" - which was - or which were an exhibition in our cities - and I thought I would write an extravagantly fantastic little story with this freak of anture for hero - or heroes - a silly young miss for heroine, and two old ladies and two boys and their doings, of course. But the tale kep spreading along and spreading along, and other people got to intruding themselves and taking up more and more room with their talk and their affairs. Among them came a stranger named Pudd'nhead Wilson, and a woman named Roxana; and presently the doings of these two pushed up into prominence a young fellow named Tom Driscoll, whose proper place was away in the obscure background. Before the book was half finished those thee were take things almost entirely into their own - a tale which they had nothing at all to do with, by rights.

After the book was finished, I didn't know what to do with Rowena. I was sorry for her as anybody could be, but the campaign was over, the book was finished, she was sidetracked, and there was no possible way of crowding her in, anywhere. So at the top of Chapter XVII I put a "Calendar" remark concerning July the Fourth, and began the chapter with this statistic:

"Rowena went out in the backyard after supper to see the fireworks and fell down the well and got drowned."

It seemed abrupt, but I thought maybe the reader wouldn't notice it, because I changed the subject right away to something else. Anyway it loosened up Rowena from where she was stuck and got her out of the way, and that was the main thing. It seemed a prompt good way of weeding out people that had got stalled, and a plenty good enough way for those others; so I hunted up the two boys and said, "They went out back one night to stone the cat and fell down the well and got drowned." Next I searched around and found old Aunt Patsy Cooper and Aunt Betsy Hale where they were aground, and said, "They went out back one night to visit the sick and fell down the well and got drowned." I was going to drown some of the others, but I gave up the idea, partly because I believed that if I kept that up it would arouse attention, and perhaps sympathy with those people, and partly because it was not a large well and would not hold any more anyway.

There was a radical defect somewhere, and I must search it out and cure it. The defect turned out to be the one already spoken of - two stories in one, a farace and a tragedy. So I pulled out the farce and left the tragedy. This left the original team in, but only a mere names, not as characters. Their prominence was wholly gone; they were not even worth drowning; so I removed that detail. Also I took those twins apart and made two separate men of them. They had no occasion to have foreign names now, but it was too much trouble to remove them all through, so I left them christened as they were and made no explanation.

February 24, 2004 - 03:48 pm
When I was in high school we lived in Bangor, Maine. Every summer there was a big fair in town, half agricultural and half games and rides and sideshows.

Like Joan, I never went into a sideshow, but at our fair, there was generally one of the "curiosities" outside with the barker. This was to encourage people to pay the extra dollar to get in to see all the freaks. Also outside were the posters advertising each freak. I remember seeing the snake man (outside) who most likely had a skin disease of some kind and the fat lady, who was indeed fat. But neither of them was as distorted as the posters made them look.

Everybody please remember that "Those Extraordinary Twins" is the part that Twain took OUT of the story. Pudd'nhead is altogether different and as Joan mentions, the twins are no longer conjoined.

I think it is very important to remember the times and the public interest in the strange and unusual. Remember "Ripley's Believe It or Not"? It was in the Sunday funnies all the time I was growing up. Now there are Ripley's museums all over the place.

Welcome to Nancy and Jo!

February 24, 2004 - 04:06 pm
JOAN P: " Twain's twins are certainly individual personalities aren't they? Despite the fact that they are joined?"

That's actually one of the twin stereotypes --- that there is a good twin and a bad twin. I've actually been asked which one I am!!!

I'm just being grouchy about this. It's not a big deal. I've found that many people are fascinated by twins, and take out some of their fantasies on them. Some people seem to assume that a twin would be the perfect friend they never had-- one that would understand them completely because they were just like them. I wonder if the good twin/bad twin thing is a recognition that there are two sides to their personality.

Traude S
February 24, 2004 - 05:30 pm
JOAN, I cannot read the linked text of the Extraordinary Twins. A yellowish "post'm" is in the way on the upper left of the screen, and when I scroll past ist, the lines tumble into each other.

Is reading the Twins a prerequisite to reading/understanding Puddn'head ?

February 24, 2004 - 07:08 pm
Odd that some of you can't read the online text of "Those Extraordinary Twins." It must be something about the browser. It comes up fine for me (IE 5 or 6).

Ella Gibbons
February 24, 2004 - 07:11 pm
I love Mark Twain’s writing, although I’ve barely begun to read him. It takes Seniornet, its Discussion Leaders and its readership to make one aware of the books that one has missed in a lifetime!

I’ve just finished “THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS” and at first you are rather shocked at the entrance of Angelo and Luigi as is Aunt Patsy and Rowena who were paralyzed, amazed and confused at “that weird strange thing that was so soft-spoken and so gentle of manner and yet had shaken them up like an earthquake with the shock of its gruesome aspect.”

And they are also at a loss as to whether to call the twins an “it” or “they” and I’m not sure that they ever solve the problem. But then the twins are so friendly and you begin to see the convenience (hahaha) and then the problems of two personalities.

I never did understand why Twain chose dogs to illustrate the “common human prejudice against lack of conformity” – does anyone have any idea?

A few words I have never heard before crop up – “laudations” and “roached” his gray hair!

But then I started smiling and then laughing out loud! The twins outrageous statement that the “change” regulates clocks all over the world and then…..

the trial with Pudd’nhead Wilson for the defense! It’s hilarious!

I don’t know if Mark Twain was a moralist, but I’m wondering if the extraordinary twins are meant to illustrate the ordinary man with twin desires that we each possess to some degree.

February 24, 2004 - 07:13 pm
OK, all those of you who can't get the text of "Twins," try this one.


(Pat--If you're around, could you make that link clickable, please?)

February 24, 2004 - 07:14 pm
I fixed it for you, Maryal, we were posting together and Ella, and Jo, we were posting together, too!

Everybody's posting at once here, everybody's excited about Twain!

I think you make some GREAT points, Ella, don't worry about you and fiction, that was a great post!

I came in to answer another thread, tho. I actually have been to quite a few side shows as we used to call them, I guess you could call them freak shows, they were on the outskirts of the big tent in their own little wagon tent like things. In some shows you'd have to walk past them to GET to the big tent, in others they would be quite a bit out. My mother expressly forbade them that's why I went all the time.

They were almost always disappointments, they were never what they were billed as, you'd pay your money, the hawkers would be standing out screaming at people and the lurid signs would promise all kinds of strange LIVE!! Whatever, and you'd go in and it would be dark, and you'd have seats in an audience way back from the stage, or you'd walk up some kind of ramp and the curtains would fly back after a while, and there would be...nothing, sometimes the two headed calf would be long dead, or maybe another head or leg obviously sewn on, or floating in some kind of tank, I seem to remember a lot of tanks.

Sort of a Cabinet of Curiosities.

I'm trying to remember all of the things I saw, the lighting was always poor, the wolf boy, who was wearing some sort of skins, often the subject was not alive, or crudely fastened together, there was the fat lady and the skinny man and the snake boy, and the tattooed (illustrated man) and some awful stuff with a guy who was a contortionist and the bearded lady, the fire and sword swallowers, I've seen them all, I'm afraid. Even as I’m writing this, some flicker at the edge of my mind that are not so pleasant, and wasn't the Elephant Man, Herrick, exhibited?

HAVE we come a long way? I wonder. It's true we don't put people who are different in shows, and we exhibit tolerance on the surface...but I am not so sure, if anybody has ever seen a Maury Povich Show, am thinking particularly of the one on obese children where he had the "child" running around in diapers to show how heavy he was, if we have come any further than what I saw as a child.

Whoops! Am answering old questions, will read the Twins immediately!


Jo Meander
February 24, 2004 - 07:18 pm
This duality Twain has concocted is one of his jokes. I didn’t read it as a mockery of real disability; I read it as a fantasy displaying Twain’s wild imagination and unique sense of humor. The twins are a nuisance to each other most of the time, as one is a freethinker and the other a Methodist(?), and one smokes a pipe which the other can’t abide, and one is a drinker and the other a teetotaler: “… it was not he, but the other half of the freak, that had drunk the liquor that made him drunk; that her (Rowena’s) half was a prohibitionist and had never drunk a drop in his life... although tight as a brick three days in the week.”
On the other hand, when Luigi tells the story of how he helps his brother in time of need, how they cooperate at mealtime making sure that each gets what he needs, and how they take turns every week in making the decisions about where their legs are going to take them, the widow is moved to tears! The silliness and the image of constant aggravation can’t be taken too seriously …can it? And weren’t many of those sideshow characters really phonies, got up to appear they were deformed or distorted or conjoined when they actually weren’t? A way of making a living!

Now I think that Ella has made a wonderful point! Isn't Twain-like that he would use this extreme situation to say something about the common human condition?!

Ella Gibbons
February 24, 2004 - 07:21 pm
Hi Ginny, I don't know either, but medicine has come a long way and every once inawhile you hear of Siamese twins being operated on - depending, of course, where they are joined together!

I did want to say a big HELLO to all who are here, - I recognize most of you, although I am usually discussing nonfiction. It's a big leap for me and I see Joan and Maryal have questions in the heading.

Later, on a second reading (it doesn't take long to get through this story) I'll attempt to give my opinion, which may be very amateurish, I'm not very good with fiction.

Ella Gibbons
February 24, 2004 - 07:25 pm
Hi JO! We were posting together, but I agree with you and I, too, read it not "as a mockery of real disability; I read it as a fantasy displaying Twain’s wild imagination and unique sense of humor."

Would you then say that it is a farce?

Joan Pearson
February 24, 2004 - 09:42 pm
Ella! Isn't this a pleasant surprise! What do you MEAN you "aren't good at fiction." You picked righ up on the nuances of Twain's humor on your very first reading - You and your marvelous sense of humor are most WELCOME here!

Traudee, I'm so glad you asked. No, Twins is not necessary to understanding Pudd'nhead...it's just interesting - and it does help us to understand Twain and where he's coming from. Many editions carry both stories bound together. We're looking at Twins this week, since it is the story from which Pudd'nhead evolved and we won't have time for it in March when we will concentrate on Pudd'nhead. (I keep wondering why Twins is always published AFTER Pudd'nhead, do you wonder that too? It makes me a tad uneasy - should we be looking at Twins BEFORE we talk about Pudd'nhead?)

Remember, this is NOT the Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson story...as Maryal cautions, "Those Extraordinary Twins" is the part that Twain took OUT of the story. Pudd'nhead is altogether different. "

February 24, 2004 - 09:50 pm
JO and ELLA: I've read more of the twins (to Chapter 4), and I agree with you. Now I begin to see what he means by two stories: farce and tragedy. He starts out treating the situation as farce, shifts into using it to comment on the human situation, and back. It reminds me very much of his treatment of the slave boy Jim in Huckleberry Finn. Jim starts out as a farcical character, based on the racist stereotypes of the day, slides into a human being bravely facing a tragic situation, and then back into a farcical stereotype. I had wondered if Twain did this deliberately, to make a story about freeing a slave acceptable to those who were frightened of the idea. But instead, I think Twain was a man who was a prisoner of the ideas of his time most of the time (as all of us are), but occasionally could rise above them.

I'm sure we'll talk about this again with Puddnhead. Perhaps some of the documents made available to us will shed some light.

Joan Pearson
February 24, 2004 - 10:31 pm
JoanK - you are up late...you were posting as I was typing. Good thought on the whole farce-tragedy realization process. Twain started out in a light-hearted vein, making sport of one facet of human nature and somewhere along the line the reality of the human condition struck him into considering the tragic aspects. A fine line often separates the two in comedy, don't you think?

Anne, you bring up Twain's comment on how Twins turned from farce to tragedy somewhere along the line. I've got this funny picture in my head - Twain sailing back and forth between Italy and New York bundled up in a chaise on deck studying his manuscript until he finally realizes what is happening to his story - the change from farce to tragedy.

Several of you have brought up the "farce" question and observed that laughing at disability makes you uncomfortable. Do you still feel he is laughting at the twins? Ginny - you did it? You went into the tent! So bold, after your mother warned you against it too! How old were you? You don't seem to have been too impressed with what you saw...not even the bearded lady? I remember midgets too. I never had the nerve to go in though. I think that Mark Twain really did see conjoined twins, (not fakes) perhaps not as he has portrayed them here, but they made enough of an impression on him to get his imagination wheels spinning. Or maybe all he needed to see was the carnival poster. But the farce aspect... maybe we need to be clear on that before we can relax and appreciate the humor, the hilarity Ella, Jo...and Hats came to appreciate once they realized he was not laughing at the twins, or at their disability, but at something else.

My American Heritage defines farce as
  • 1. a humorous play having a highly improbable plot and exaggerated characters
  • 2. a ludicrous empty show - a mockery
  • On all counts, Ella, we have a farce on our hands...but what is Mr. Twain "mocking," making sport of here? JoanK, you bring up "stereotypes"...the good and the bad. Did you notice that Luigi is dark, swarthy with a bass voice, while Angelo is the fair, the blond, "good as gold"... the tenor, delicate, "greatly blessed"? (JoanK, forgive me, I've always been fascinated by twins. Always hoped for twins whenever I was pregnant. Will try to restrain from asking you questions...but know that I'm the one who always approached you grinningly in the market or in the park when your mother had the two of you out for a stroll. Lolligagging. Please don't be grouchy, I didn't know I was a bother. So, which one were you, the good or the bad? hahaha, I'm sorry, I am. I won't ask again. Please don't go away)...I was interested in your observation..."I wonder if the good twin/bad twin thing is a recognition that there are two sides to their personality.

    I can see Twain starting out with a lighthearted spoof (our job is to figure out what exactly he is mocking, and somewhere along the line, he senses a deeper tragedy of the human condition....

    Ella, don't know about those dogs, (or who let them ou)t - but you mention the "common human prejudice against lack of conformity” - nd Jo and Ella..."Isn't Twain-like that he would use this extreme situation to say something about the common human condition?!

    I'm interested to hear what you all thought of the way the townspeople received these twins...I want to know who Twain is making sport of ...these twins or the people of Dawson't Landin

    Jo Meander
    February 24, 2004 - 10:36 pm
    Twain's humor is an implement for digging up the truth. I always have the feeling that under the most farcical, bizzare situations he is still commenting on something serious. He is discovering (uncovering for us?) some truths that weren't clear before he began to work his way toward them on paper. He characterizes his writing as a discovery process in the intro to TWINS.

    Joan Pearson
    February 24, 2004 - 10:40 pm
    Jo, now I KNOW I'm up too late if you're here! hahaha I'm beginning to see the whole process as one of realization...that the human situation is really worse than he thought when he started out...

    Jo Meander
    February 24, 2004 - 10:44 pm
    Joan, I don't think this is an empty show or a mockery as indicated in point #2 of the farce definition. As for the people of Dawson's Landing, yes, he is having fun at their expense, exaggerating their credulity and nosiness as well as their inappropriate reactions, but then he makes fun of everybody! (If I remember a character or a situation when he played it completely straight, I'll be the first to say so!)

    Jo Meander
    February 24, 2004 - 10:46 pm
    Joan, aren't you getting to be just as bad as I am??? 'Night!

    Joan Pearson
    February 24, 2004 - 10:50 pm
    Yes, I'm up, but not by choice...I'm half asleep, you are bright-eyed - nocturnal, a regular "bat". You don't think that Twain is mocking anyone in this piece? Rowena, Patsy Cooper?

    Jo Meander
    February 24, 2004 - 10:57 pm
    I do think he's mocking them, but it isn't just empty mockery! The trial scene shows a mixture of mocking (or poking fun, which I prefer) and showing affection for characters at the same time. If he's mocking, he's including himself. For example, when he thought he'd try to get rid of Rowena by having her and everyone else that seemed to be in his way fall down the well, he feels bad, because even though Rowena was annoying he had grown fond of her!

    This bat must fly into her cave! Appointments tomorrow!

    February 25, 2004 - 05:38 am
    Thanks for fixing my link to the TWINS, Ginny. Did you see it back there, Joan? If it works for the people who can't open the link in the heading, perhaps we need to add it?

    Twain's process of discovery is fascinating. He tells us of the writing process and of the "problem" with the original manuscript. He was writing about those twins and several conventional characters, a couple of older ladies, a young woman who would be the love-interest, and then along came some other characters, Roxana (Roxy) and Pudd'nhead and they turned out to have very different (and to Twain, more interesting lives).

    These unplanned for characters took over the book, and thus Twain decided that the others would have to be killed off (by falling into wells and dying). He describes the process of separating out the original material (the false start as I think of it) and then concentrating on the characters who had emerged. He calls it a "literary caesarian."

    When we get to Pudd'nhead, I think you will discover that Twain has not removed quite all of the similarities because in addition to keeping the twins' names, he still thinks of them as joined. More on that point later.

    Late this afternoon I will spend two plus hours having oral surgery. Everyone hold good thoughts for me between 5:30 and 7:30 EST.


    February 25, 2004 - 05:40 am
    Joan--Your unease must be soothed. Yes, "Twins" was published later because it was the excised material. Probably Twain didn't originally plan to publish it at all once he had removed it from Pudd'nhead, but he was enormously popular, so eventually it was published.

    February 25, 2004 - 05:58 am

    Maryal, good luck today and take it seriously, my husband just had oral surgery, it's no joke, take care of yourself, and do what they say!

    NANCY!! I am so glad to see you here!

    Looks like you all have decided Twins is Farce instead of Tragedy, I keep forgetting and being reminded that there are several definitions of tragedy? I am interested to know which one we will be using in this discussion?

    Here are three different ones:
  • For instance in the course I'm taking in the Iliad, of course we're using the Aristotelian definition: a dramatic presentation that arouses pity and fear in the audience, thus stimulating a catharsis of these emotions.

  • The problem with that is, there's no famous tragic flaw. I always thought tragedy occurs, I guess this is sort of the later classical definition, when the protagonist, (heroic in nature) falls thru his own mistake (tragic flaw), (hubris) but the defeat was NOT certain but CAUSED by his own mistakes.

    The sticking point seems to be what determines his downfall, fate or himself?

    That's where I get in trouble, trying to apply THAT one to everything I read.

  • There also seem to be many other definitions of tragedy which change in reflection of times, a modern definition in Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia: "the spectacle of a human being of nobility, idealism, and courage in conflict with his or her own frailty or with a hostile or indifferent universe." and so I think that's an excellent question in the heading, wonder what we think of as modern tragedy and wonder what the definition of "tragedy" we'll use in THIS discussion for THIS book is?

  • Deems
    February 25, 2004 - 08:13 am
    Maybe we ought to come up with a definition for tragedy that seems to coincide with Twain's distinction.

    I think what Twain meant when he saw farce and tragedy mixed up in the original manuscript of Pudd'nhead, was essentially that he saw a comic plot all mixed up with a serious plot. If we rigidly adhere to any specific definition of tragedy, I think we will miss the point.

    Ginny provides us with Aristotle's definition. It is almost always useful to check out what Aristotle had to say because he categorized everything he could think of to categorize and he had such a good mind.

    However, when Aristotle wrote that famous definition, he was basing the definition of "tragedy" on the actual Greek plays that he was familiar with in order to explain what already existed.

    If yoy read or see Oedipus the King, for example, you are going to find a person who falls from a great height (being king) to blindness, both literal and spiritual, to death. Watching the play is what produces the pity and the terror--as well as the catharsis that Aristotle posits. Aristotle's definition was created to describe plays. There weren't any novels then.

    Catharsis itself makes for an interesting discussion since it is hard to define just exactly how watching the enactment of terrible events, one that causes us the audience to feel pity and terror, can be purged in the experience of watching that performance.

    So I'll return to the definition of comedy (under which farce falls) and tragedy that I find most useful--the one used in Shakespeare's day. A play is a tragedy if the play ends with the death of the central character; a play is a comedy if the play ends happily, usually with a marriage.


    February 25, 2004 - 09:25 am
    TRAGIC FLAW:I think from my reading the idea of a tragic flaw came later than Aristotle. In Greek tragedy, events are dominated by fate: you have a given fate (for example as revealed by an oracle) and there is nothing you can do to avoid it. The steps you may take to avoid it are the very steps that lead you to it (eg as in Edipus). But our modern notion of tragedy is different. One of my professors called it the Protestant ethic version of tragedy. In this, there is fate, but you can avoid your fate through character, If you fall, it is because of a tragic flaw in that character.

    Having said all that, I don't think Twain is using tragedy in these senses. He sees the human condition as a tragedy. Not having yet read the parts he excised, I can't comment on that. But there is that remarkable passage in Twins where Angelo reflects on how horrible it would be to be separate: to wake up alone, to walk alone.

    February 25, 2004 - 10:23 am
    Farce or satire was very popular in the 1800s when Twain was writing. If written today I'm sure the censors would have something to say about it. Our time seems to have gone out of their way to get as far away from farce as we can get. We forget that sometimes if we can laugh at something we can better understand it. The "Freak" show in the 1800s had the same affect that I think the "Reality" shows have for our time. They are both billed as entertainment. But are they really?

    February 25, 2004 - 10:52 am
    Thank you Maryal, I realize I was not clear in my initial post and have bulleted the three different definitions of tragedy there, I enjoyed your explication of catharsis, especially.

    So if we are saying for the purposes of this discussion A play is a tragedy if the play ends with the death of the central character; a play is a comedy if the play ends happily, usually with a marriage, then that seems simple enough and completely eradicates, doesn't it, the need for the reader to have to struggle with issues of fate versus hubris or tragic flaws, it's all plot, then?

    I think it would be fun to apply that definition to many different works, in fact I'm having a great time applying it as we speak.

    But then in connection with Twain it looks like we need to heed this one, too: If we rigidly adhere to any specific definition of tragedy, I think we will miss the point.

    You know what would really be great? Someday we must do a comparison of Tragedy? I think it would be very enlightening? How the definition of tragedy has changed and does change over time? Read different works of literature and see which application of "tragedy" applies to them and why? I think people tend to get stuck in ONE example, like me, tragic flaw, and then hope to apply that to everything! This would have saved me all the arguments I've brought up in The Iliad! hahaha I really would love to see a project for our Books on The Faces of Tragedy in Literature in the future.


    February 25, 2004 - 11:24 am
    Joan K--Yes, Twain does see life as a tragedy. In the very most general sense--the one I provided above--life is a tragedy if you believe that there is nothing after this death. Life is a comedy if you believe there is a better life after this one. It all depends on the ultimate ending.

    Ginny--I didn't mean to sound doctrinaire. If I did, I apologize. I just reread Twain's remarks on working with the original manuscript and taking out all the "Extraordinary Twins" plot stuff and what I read him as saying is that while he started out to write a farce (comedy), certain characters began to take over the comic plot and he saw that he had two plots and one of them was tragic. Since it is generally not a bad idea to mix the two, he took out the farcical plot.

    February 25, 2004 - 11:41 am
    Docrtinaire? Certainly not, our Maryal, even if you would be, so much the better, we'll learn more. My posts were not clear, and I have edited them. Does he identify (or I guess I need to wait and ask that question?!?) what the tragic elements ARE? I'll wait, that looks like fuel for the coming weeks, fun, huh? I love our book discussions.

    It's kind of rare to have a company where you find anybody who even wants to talk about concepts such as the nature of Tragedy as Mark Twain saw it, it's lovely, something to cherish.


    Joan Pearson
    February 25, 2004 - 06:17 pm
    Doesn't Mark have a way with words? So, he performed a "literary caesarian" on The Twins story to create Pudd'nhead? I'm so glad we're looking at Twins before we begin Puddn'head - it will be fun to compare it to the one he submitted for publication.

    The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson was first published in a magazine, in seven installments - in 1893, I believe. Christopher Barnett, the Director of Education at the Mark Twain House in Hartford Conn. writes that he has a copy of Century Magazine on his desk...with three serialized chapters. Don't you think it would be fun to read/discuss as much as Twain's readers had available to them in installments? Next Monday, first three chapters? (Those folks never heard of Those Extraordinary Twins when they read Pudd'nhead in 1893.)

    Mr. Barnett will try to be with us tomorrow. Since he devotes his life to the works of Mark Twain, he'll be a good resource for us regarding the tragic aspects of his writing.

    I think MT would be amused at our discussion - if I remember correctly, he wasn't "schooled" - went to work at a very young age when his father died. From reading reviews (there's a link in the heading) were confounded with his writing - he was a self-made author, self-taught, wasn't he? He didn't fit into any mold, his style was unique for his time. It would be interesting to learn more of his education, where he learned to write. From short biographical information, he worked as an apprentice in a print shop and from there a reporter... I wonder how widely read he was. Did he read Shakespeare? Did he read the Greeks? I think he'd be surprised to read how seriously we consider his "tragedy". I'm really looking forward to hear what Chris Barnett has to say on this.

    MT started out writing this "farce" - a light-hearted piece based on the "conglomerate" twins he saw in Italy. Somewhere along the line, the story turned serious. Does it arouse "pity and fear" - does it provide a catharsis? Ginny, I think I DO see a "tragic flaw" developing in Twins...and won't say a word about Pudd'nhead.

    Maryal, I'm having a hard time defining tragedy that coincides with MT's at this stage. If death does not come to the central character, it's not a tragedy? Hmmm...I think that Twain's "tragedy" is something other - much like Joan K defines it - "He sees the human condition as a tragedy." I'm interested in the flaws in the human condition of which he was writing in the "farce" of the Twins, as a clue to the "tragic" flaw in Pudd'nhead.

    Anne, you seem to appreciate "farce" - which you define as "satire" - can you help with the twins? I'm not sure what MT was saying about Angelo. He was the blessed one, the fair haired golden boy...and yet he's described as having "lofty pride of abnormal proportions"...overly sensitive, weak, despairing, depressed." Is he the "good twin", JoanK? What is Twain telling us about him?

    Have any of you figured out Luigi's secret - they aren't really twins...he is six months older than Angelo. The undeniable proof - the "sutures in my head closed six months ahead of his." Huh? The ladies bought the story....but then there was Luigi's aside to the us after he told them the "secret" -
    "The swindle has gone through without change of cars."
    I've read it several times and am still not sure what I read. - can you explain the secret?

    February 26, 2004 - 01:21 am
    Well Ginny You Rebel, you, who had to do what Momma did Not want you to, such as go to the freak shows as they were called then, Smile. I did what Momma did Not want me to also as she did Not want me to go to a goat farm as to her they smelled bad, well I could Not resist as I loved the goats.

    Growing up on the road as I did the first part of my life and Living in trailer camps I met Gypsies, Carnnies, Freak show people as they were called. I must put my two cents in here as some are real but they add some that are Not. Midgets, fat ladies were real as were the bearded woman because they shaved to get there beards to grow and then cut the beards to keep them growing. I would have a beard if I did Not shave every day due to the Hot wax Mom put on my face first to remove a few hairs that run in our family due to the French part of the family, she then put some on her face, smile. I have female cousins that have to shave also. Hahaha, would you like me to prove in DC this year as I would have to start now, LOL. Any how I did like the twins story and must read Pudd'nhead Wilson now. Maryal, Thanks for calling me a speed reader.

    Please tell who you are calling Anne as I cannot find anyone in this discussion called Anne, so Anne, Anne in free, (BG). Time to go to bed me thinks as comcast is coming Again tomorrow mornin. Gingee, Ginger

    Joan Pearson
    February 26, 2004 - 06:44 am
    Good morning, Ginger...it's great to hear from you so bright and early. Mark Twain draws you into his world, doesn't he? There's so much that each one can relate to - he's "one of us"...

    I'm on my way to the coffee pot and plan to come back later- but wanted to let answer your question...Anne is our "Scrawler"...

    February 26, 2004 - 10:03 am
    Joan--Let me add to the tragedy definition-if a main character has a disastrous fall at the end (doesn't have to be death but is, most likely, irreversible) then it's a tragedy.

    I really think that all Twain meant by tragedy was a serious story with an unhappy ending. There is humor mixed in, of course. Twain can't stay away from humor.

    Just a note on Twain. Numerous modern and contemporary writers have written that Twain is their father, and that all the work from Twain on springs from one novel, the greatest, Huckleberry Finn. Faulkner praised him; Hemingway praised him. In his own lifetime Twain was as well known as Dickens and enormously popular. He was a complicated man and generally saw more than one side to all questions.


    February 26, 2004 - 10:45 am
    According to Merriam Webster "farce" is a light composition marked by broadly satirical comedy and improbable plot. It can be a mockery such as "the enforcement of this law became a farce."

    I see this story as a farce. In fact Twain makes a mockery of almost everything under the sun: young women, old women, old men, young men, lawyers, doctors, religion, drinkers and non-drinkers, free-thinkers, and the list goes on and on.

    "Those Extradorinary Twins" comes from Twain having seeing "a picture of a youthful Italian "freak" - or "freaks" which was or which were - on exhibition in our cities - a combination consisting of two heads and four arms joined to a single body and a single pair of legs...".

    I don't see any real tragedy in this story. Twain is simply letting us laugh at ourselves. The "twins" I think is a metaphor for our dual nature. The way Twain pulls it all together you can't help accept that the twins were not really freaks but rather the rest of the township were the real "freaks".

    Example: "But, ma, you're breaking up the story - do let him go on."

    "You keep still, Rowena Cooper, and he can go on all the better, I reckon. One interruption don't hurt, it's two that makes the trouble."

    "But you've added one, now, and that is three."

    "Rowena! I will not allow you to talk back at me when you have got nothing rational to say."

    Yes, there is a couple of times that racial prejudice makes an appearance:


    "Land, I ain't paricular. 'We are Italians by birth--"

    "Yes, it's well enough. I'd like both of them better if I knew the way to pronounce them -- the Eyetalian way, I mean. The Missouri way and the Eyetalian way is different I judge."

    In short I enjoyed this story. I usually don't like satire, but this was done in such a way that you really found yourself laughing at yourself rather than at the "twins".

    February 26, 2004 - 11:46 am
    After reading Those Extraordinary Twins, I surprised myself. I ended up liking Luigi and Angelo. Their oddity took a backseat to their personalities. I could see the twins as individuals and find something funny in both of them to remember. I guess it's not what we look like but who we are that is really important. I wonder if it's possible to find an important lesson in a comedy.

    February 26, 2004 - 12:43 pm
    Thanks Joan P as Scrawler has been around for some time so won't have to email a welcome letter. Mystery solved. Smile.

    Nancy Birkla
    February 26, 2004 - 05:19 pm
    It pains me to admit that I haven't yet read through all the posts in this discussion, but I'm wondering if anyone has addressed Mark Twain's general fascination with twins, both conjoined and the more standard versions of twins too.

    Here are links to a few articles:




    Joan Pearson
    February 26, 2004 - 05:37 pm
    EDIT: Nancy - Just missed you - you were posting as I was typing. Wonderful links. I know everyone will be interested in reading of Twain's life-long fascination with twins, right Joan? I plan to read them very carefully as soon as hungry man is satisfied. What a treat, Nancy! Thank you!.<

    It's been a hectic day - how nice to come in and read your posts. Hats...did you like the Twins, or were you amused by them? "It's not what we look like, but who we are that is really important." I'm going to remember that for our Pudd'nhead discussion. I think there can be lessons in comedies, especially if they are farces...or "broad satirical comedies" as Miriam Webster defined them. Thank you, Anne
    "Twain makes a mockery of almost everything under the sun: young women, old women, old men, young men, lawyers, doctors, religion, drinkers and non-drinkers, free-thinkers, and the list goes on and on."
    I particularly enjoyed the Judge, complaining that the jury had made a travesty of the law - when that's exactly what he himself had done! Wasn't that a hoot?

    You make a such a good point - by laughing at the real freaks, everyone but the Twins...he is letting us laugh at ourselves. Isn't that the real power of comedy? This is satire - lite, I think. Which is why it doesn't bother us.

    What of the Freethinkers? It might help if we understood who they were - and if Twain was one. The kicking incident happened at one of their meetings - an anti-temperance meeting. We know that much.

    Maryal, you bring up the authors who were influenced by MT (an impressive group.) It would be interesting to know the authors who influenced HIM, wouldn't it?

    February 26, 2004 - 07:59 pm
    NANCY: I was hoping we could get you hooked on SeniorNet!!!

    As I said in an earlier post, I am a twin, and have often noticed that some people are fascinated by twins. Many people have told me they had fantisized about having a twin and it's clear from what they say that they think this would be the perfect friend, one just like them. On the other hand, you have the stereotype of the good twin/bad twin which is sort of the opposite: as if one could devide onesself into two halfs. I must admit that I didn't read Wally Lamb's second book even though I enjoyed his others so much. because I thought it was based on that stereotype. Now that I know him better, I'll read it. At first, I thought that was what Twain was doing in Twins, and I think that is what he started out to do, but his characters became more subtle. I feel there is some projection of fantasy there, perhaps as your article says because of his relationship with his brothers.It might be easier for someone who had not-twin siblings to figure it out.

    When I tell people that my relationship with my sister has the same problems as any sibling relationship, they say we don't count, since we're only fraternal twins.

    Nancy Birkla
    February 27, 2004 - 04:57 am
    Until recently, I only knew about 3 types of twins, fraternal, identical, or conjoined.

    Last year, when I started working with a set of 10-year-old twin girls, I was told they are "mirror twins," which I'd never heard of. One of the girls is left handed, one right, with polar-identical fingerprints. One's hair parts on the left, the other's on the right. Even in their schoolwork they differ, with one struggling greatly in math and the other a little math whiz. The one who hates math likes reading more, is a better speller, etc. The girls are still 100% DNA identical; everything is just dispersed in an opposite order. These kids have disabilities, such as motor weaknesses, that have fallen pretty close to exactly opposite placement in their bodies too.

    The girls' mom was the first person to tell me that various forms of identical twins depend on when the egg separates after fertilization. With mirror twins, there is a longer delay than with monochromatic or identical twins, but the separation occurs before day 12. After day 12 the twins would be conjoined.

    Here's a link to an article that tells of other types of twins too, like Half-Identical (also called Polar Body Twinning) and Twins of Two Eggs too.


    Nancy Birkla
    February 27, 2004 - 05:21 am
    Concerning Wally's book about the twins, well, it's kind of a tough read for anyone (twin or not). I can promise you, though, it is not about a bad twin and a good twin. One of the twins, Thomas, is mentally ill and the other, Dominick, is the caretaker of his brother who has schizophrenia. Thomas is pretty sick, but he's certainly not "bad," and in the unraveling of the story Thomas is the one who ends up inspiring Dominick. The story includes much tragedy, but I think the ending would please you (Joan), especially after knowing why you've resisted reading it (although I won't tell you how it ends, prior to you reading it).

    Because I work with individuals w/disabilities (at both jobs), I know how accurately Wally depicted Thomas -- amazingly really, especially since he had no first-hand knowledge concerning schizophrenia prior to writing the novel, and I hear he nailed some complex dynamics concerning twins extemely well too!

    chris barnett
    February 27, 2004 - 09:31 am
    Hello Puddn'heads--Please don't take offense at that greeting. We actually have a book group that meets here in Hartford that are known as the Puddn'head Club, and they are fairly proud of the name. In any case, I am Chris Barnett and am the director of education at The Mark Twain House, and if you all don't mind, I'd like to join in with your discussion. I don't claim to be an expert, but simply someone who has somehow managed to land a job where I get paid to read Twain.

    Joan has asked me to toss in some background information on Sam concerning his education, reading habits, writing habits and such. So let me give you a quick run down on some of this.

    Sam lost his father, John Marshall Clemens, when Sam was 12. That ended Sam's formal education--he had been attending school in Hannibal,Missouri (and we might as well get the pronounciation in the Clemens style--that's Missoura) but due to money problems following his father's death, he was forced to leave school and was apprenticed as a printer in Hannibal. He was trained as a compositor, or type setter--with the job of setting into type newspaper articles, editorials, advertisements, etc. Following his apprenticeship, he worked for his older brother Orion, who was also a printer and owned a newspaper in Hannibal. When Orion was away, Sam ran the paper, and began writing articles and editorials--some of which caused a ruckus with fellow papers, but increased subscriptions. Sam soon began to get restless, and for the better part of year traveled and worked as a "tramp printer" moving around the country working at various papers in St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia before returning to work for his brother again, who had now moved to Keokuk, IA.

    In 1857, at the age of 21, Sam apprenticed himself as a riverboat pilot, and two years later was licensed as a pilot piloting boats between St. Louis and New Orleans a trade he followed until the Civil War closed the river in 1861. After a short uneventful time in the Confederate militia, Sam deserted to follow his brother Orion to Virginia City, Nevada Territory. There failing as a miner, Sam began work as an newspaper reporter and editor both in Nevada and California.

    It was there that his writing career began--and adopted the pen name "Mark Twain." Sam was largely self taught as a writer--his work as a type setter and reporter sharpend his eye and ear--also his time on the river, where he had to literally memorize the river from St. Louis to New Orleans also sharpened his power of observation--it was also on the river he developed the habit of keeping notebooks--a habit he kept the rest of his life. His notebooks are filled with descriptions of scenery, people and phrases or stories he found interesting. The river definitely provided him with characters--he once said "whenever I find a particularly well developed character in a work of fiction I take an especial interest in him, because I have known him, I have met him on the river."

    Twain was also a great reader. During the time he worked as a tramp printer he spent evenings in public libraries as well as printer's association libraries and read widely. In 1853, at the age of 17, he wrote his mother from New York, "the printers have two libraries in town, entirely free to the craft; and in these I can spend my evenings most pleasantly. If books are not good company, where will I find it?" He continued to collect and read books for the rest of his life. In 1908, Sam donated 2315 volumes from his personal library to found the Redding Free Library in Redding, CT. His great friend William Dean Howells described Sam's reading habits as being highly eclectic. Howells claimed Sam did not read systematically, but simply whatever happened to catch his fancy. His favorite reading was biography, history, science and mathematics. He was well versed with Shakespeare and owned the complete works, and often refers to them in his writing. Later in life, he questioned whether Shakespeare actually wrote all that was attributed to him, or if he even actually existed and seems to have joined the Bacon school of argument on the issue. In 1909, he wrote a piece entitled "Is Shakespeare Dead?" where he made his argument.

    His official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, remarked that Sam was particularly fond of Plutarch. Sam was able to read in German, French, and Italian, but was really only fluent in speech with German. From the standpoint of his writing style--he was a disciplined writer often begining his writing after breakfast and worked straight through the day, skipping lunch and stopping for supper, taking the night off to socialize or relax. His daily output was often 4000 words. Sam also worked on several books at a time. If writing one piece became troublesome, he would "pigeon hole" it and start on something else. He described this as the "well running dry" and it made no difference how he tried to continue, nothing could be accomplished until the piece had laid aside long enough for the well to refill. Many of his pieces took long periods to write, sometimes because his original story took on a life of it's own and he was not sure what to do with it. Huck Finn is the best example. It started out simply as a sequel to Tom Sawyer, and the writing went quickly until about chapter 16 where Huck and Jim miss the Ohio River, there he got stuck. What was he to do now with a white boy and a runaway slave floating into the deep south? He didn't continue work on the manuscript for three more years, but still couldn't finish it.

    It was not until he returned to the river to research "Life on the Mississippi" in 1882 that he found the inspiration to complete Huck Finn. You might see the same problem with Puddn'Head and the Twins--he started it to be one kind of work, but it would not cooperate and took off on another line entirely. Sorry for going on--I will bridle myself and look toward March 1 and the first three chapters of PHW.

    Jo Meander
    February 27, 2004 - 09:57 am
    THANKS, CHRIS! A marvelous summary of the first 46 (?) years! Not a wasted word! I was aware of Twain's talent, and your account of his energy, curiosity, and persistence adds to my understanding of his marvelous work. (I didn't know he was in the Confederate Army!)

    Joan Pearson
    February 27, 2004 - 10:29 am
    Offended? Oh No! We will adopt it wholeheartedly - with pride - We ARE the online-Pudd'nheads from this moment on.

    Chris...what a marvelous introduction! You are way too modest. You ARE our in-house expert on Twain, as Nancy and JoanK are our Twin experts. We are so fortunate to have you as resources. We'll get this information up in the heading for reference in the upcoming discussion.

    We had been attempting to piece together what we knew about Clemens' background and connect it to his writing. As Jo points out he was certainly a man of "energy, curiosity, and persistence" to achieve what he did given his lack of formal education. I was particularly interested in his voracious reading habits. That explains a lot. Jo, in The Tragedy of Puddn'head Wilson, Twain describes a number of the "elders" of Dawson's Landing (they are 40 years old!) as "FFV" - from the First Families of Virginia. I sense some tie in here with the Confederacy, do you? This was written only 30 years, more or less, after the War...

    Nancy, did you note Angelo's mounting despair and depression resulting from the fact that he was the weaker twin? The other night I saw a show on the Discovery Channel...the story of conjoined sisters - joined at the head. They were an amazing affectionate pair - but by the time they were thirty, it became imperative that they be separated - in spite of the many risks involved. Finally they found a doctor in China willing to perform the surgery, with quite a few misgivings. Those twins preferred to die than to continue on as one unit. Did any of you see the program? I have to admit that I fell asleep, but I sensed that the surgery was not going to be successful. Maybe one survived? I can understand the desire for separation in conjoined twins.

    In Puddn'head we'll meet the Angelo and Luigi again - only this time Twain has separated them. Will Angelo continue to be resentful that he is the younger twin, not taken as seriously as his brother? That remains to be seen, but while we are on the subject of "twinship" - is it common for twins to wish they were not twins - to be depressed about it? If so, is it usually the younger twin who feels this way? I think it's interesting that many twins talk in terms of being "younger" or "older" when they are only minutes apart. By the way, I still need someone to explain what Luigi meant when he told Aunt Patsy that he was 6 months older than Angelo? If he was trying to spread the word to the town through the two old ladies, what was the point?

    Have a good Friday, everyone...and again, thank you, Chris for taking the time to provide us the informative background information. We will be counting on you for much more in the coming weeks!

    chris barnett
    February 27, 2004 - 12:41 pm
    Jo and Joan:

    I think I'm getting the hang of this chat stuff--I've never done this before.

    However,you are right about the FFV connection. Sam's father was from Virginia--he was born in Campbell County in 1798--his middle name (John Marshall Clemens)was given to him in honor of John Marshall. In 1805 John Marshall Clemens, having read for the law, moved to Kentucky where he met his future wife Jane Lampton. They then moved to Tennessee where John tried to set up practice and failed, he tried to set up a store and failed, he speculated in land and failed. In 1835, he moved the family to Florida, Missouri (where Sam was born) and again failed as a store keeper. In 1839, they made the move to Hannibal, where John made efforts to practice law and run another store, and served as Justice of the Peace, however his fortune continued to fail, and the family always struggled to survive. John Clemens's nearly made a success in 1846 when he campaigned for election for clerk of the circuit court--he was considered by all a sure win candidate, and the income would have gained the family financial security. Unfortunately, he contracted pneumonia during the campaign and died. The point of all this is that throughout all his failures, John Clemens always maintained his pride and bearing as a Virginian gentleman--a man from the Old Domninian, a legacy to the family--that along with the deeds to worthless land in Tennessee would somehow see the family through. By all accounts he was honest, proud, and reserved. Sam's relationship with his father was always strained--the family was one that was very reserved. Sam recalled he never saw anyone in his family embrace until his father, on his death bed embraced Sam's older sister Pamela.

    Sam will, in his later writing make it a point to make fun of titles, heritage, and lineage--particularly in regards to southern society. He will blame the Civil War on Walter Scott's romantic fiction that, Sam will claim, endowed the South with a false sense of chivalry, honor, titles such as Colonel and Captain, and a willingness to fight at a moment's notice--dueling often is a target of Sam's satire. Sam's service in the Confederacy was in a militia unit called the Marion Rangers, a local unit made up of friends from Hannibal (Hannibal is in Marion County.) Nearly all members of the Rangers were officers--including Sam who was elected lieutenant. His total service lasted about two weeks. He never saw any action, and later commented that he would have been a good soldier except he knew more about retreating than the man who invented the word. He later wrote of his war experience in a fictionalized satire "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed." Which probably pretty well covers the story of his bungled service with the exception of the killing of the innocent civilian, which is certainly fictious.

    February 27, 2004 - 12:54 pm
    It is good to have you among us. Sign me up as a Pudd'nhead too, and if I ever move to Connecticut, I'll be sure to search out the club.

    It is a treat to have you with us, and none of us are experts. You don't have to worry about being asked obscure questions.

    Your background information on Twain was interesting to read, and thanks, Joan, for making this request.

    It seems to me that Twain would have benefited greatly from all that typesetting he did because apparently he read what he set up and learned from it. He must have been given the talent to write--and maybe from seeing things in print, he got a little interested in seeing his own work (and name) in print. I'm just speculating here.

    It's interesting how many of the more famous American writers have had either no education beyond high school or just a little. I think of Hemingway and Faulkner, for example.

    Congratulations on a very successful first attempt at posting on our boards. If you see something in your post that you want to change after you have posted it, there is an edit button next to your post, and you have up to thirty minutes to change anything.


    February 27, 2004 - 01:12 pm
    Oh my gosh! Isn't this exciting! Put me down, too, as a Pudd'nhead, I am so elated to add my welcome to you, Chris, as I must admit that Twain seems a grand enigma to me: so many seeming contradictions, and I look forward to having him sorted out, or my understanding of him sorted out: this is such a wonderful opportunity for all of us, thank you!! I'm enjoying every word.

    Nancy, what fabulous links, I never heard of mirror twins! And since you and Joan K bring up Wally Lamb, I'll just chime right in with I think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread, no joke. I am not a bit surprised at his insights into schizophrenia, he's amazing. I would read anything he ever wrote any time, and, as you all see in the heading, we have him to thank for this incredible opportunity, too.

    What an exciting shining thing this is!


    Jo Meander
    February 27, 2004 - 01:55 pm
    "...he knew more about retreating than the man who invented the word."

    LOLOL! Chris, your last post sheds light on the farcical duel in Extraordinary Twins Everybody gets hurt except the duelists! And Angelo, of course, wants to (and does, eventually) run off the field. I think Twain's fun with this tale came from the way it enabled him to suggest the duality in human nature: the two are totally different in their attitudes toward violence, politics, religion, alcohol, etc.
    Do you think MT’s attitude about the way chivalry preoccupied the Southern gentlemen, so determined to give their all to the cause in the manner of "knights of old," contributed to his desertion, or was it just his admitted cowardice? Was he a pacifist, do you think? Obviously he didn't see himself as a warrior!

    Éloďse De Pelteau
    February 28, 2004 - 03:19 am
    Chris Barnett, What an interesting post here. We are so happy that you have joined us. I certainly plan to come in and participate in this most interesting discussion.

    I have mirror twins and twins 'run' in my family. My sister who is a twin also had twins. My twins are in their forties now. They were so identical that nobody could tell them apart until they were 4 years old. I did but my husband had the hardest time with it. They weighed 7 and half pounds each at birth. They had the same learning pattern, but one is much more intellectual than the other. They have the same 'walk', the same voice, the same taste in clothing. Today they don't see each other that much living in different cities and they don't look so identical any more. They both have two children, one has two boys, the other has a boy and a girl and none have twins. Their DNA was tested when they were 7 years old because one of them became diabetic and I was told that the other had 100% chances of becoming diabetic too. She did at the age of 21.

    A lot of studies have been made on identical twins but I found that being identical in most ways did not happen with my twins but it was a very interesting experience.


    February 28, 2004 - 03:50 am
    An in-house scholar-wow! We are so fortunate to have Chris here with us- welcome and thank you for your engaging posts. My dad was always a big Twain fan and reading the history that you've provided, I now see why . I am going to look you up this year when we travel to CT and we'll share some puddn'head chatter.

    Thanks Joan for the link to Extraordinary Twins, my CD doesn't include that story.

    Joan Pearson
    February 28, 2004 - 09:54 am
    Eloďse , you have twins...mirror twins at that! Isn't this incredible - the resources we have available to us in this discussion? We are so glad you can join us, Eloďse...knowing that you will be busy with the Count of Monte Cristo discussion this month. That will be an interesting discussion! You are very WELCOME here - as often as you can get in to visit.

    Andy, it's great to hear that you will make it too - was worried there hearing of your upcoming move and the fact that you were packing - and sold a million dollars worth of books! But you're in! Super!

    Ginny, the word is out that Wally Lamb is something of a "Twainiac" too - maybe we can get him in here too before we are through!

    Jo, that's an interesting question. The duel is a focus in both stories. Judge Driscoll was certainly a "knight", willing to give his life for honor, to the death. It was farcical though. MT must have viewed his father's failures as not worthy of emulation...that included his chivalrous ways.

    hahaha, no one died in the duel - the principals weren't even injured, just the observers.

    To have survived the trial, the duel and then to meet the hangman, that was the greatest farce of all. Why exactly was Luigi hanged?

    We've trying to define the term, "tragedy" as Twain might have seen it. (He entitled the revised book The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson.) One element of tragedy - the death of the hero - Who would you consider to be the hero in this story? Did the hero die? Do you consider this story a tragedy? Can a farce be considered a tragedy?

    Jo Meander
    February 28, 2004 - 11:24 am
    Joan, I assume we are talking about Pudd'nhead and not Extraordinary Twins now? Those are important questions which I don't think we should try to answer yet, at least not completely. I read a big chunk yesterday and today, and, as the title indicates, Puddd'nhead himself is shaping up to be our hero. Based upon other reading experiences, I think Twain includes farce with all other kinds of experience in his work. I don't think it's "empty mockery," as a rule, because I think his motives are usually complex, but certainly the incidents themselves are farcical, and I see that already in Pudd'nhead.
    As for Luigi's hanging, it seems to be a way to end that extraordinary farce -- getting off the hook, so to speak, with an appropriately ridiculous and improbable ending. I would be interested to read any other interpretation someone may have, because otherwise I'm stuck with my own!

    Joan Pearson
    February 28, 2004 - 12:01 pm
    Jo, when you try to put in words the reason for Luigi's hanging, it is certainly ridiculous...and farcical. Not tragic in the least. But there was something within that tweaked Twain into writing what he called The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson... something more serious than the political and legal situations he'd been spooking throughout Twins. No, no, all my questions were focusing on Twins...not Pudd'nhead...unless I did it subconsciously...

    Jo Meander
    February 28, 2004 - 12:26 pm
    I went back and reread yor questions, and I see that you had the Pudd'nhead comment in parentheses! Now I understand! I don't think a complete farce can be a tragedy. I think the developemment (?) of Twins is too farcical for tragedy, even though he is making satirical obeservations in the mix. The hanging is just absurd. I don't even see a true hero, because the stakes weren't high enough in terms of the effect events had on those involved. Was there a serious issue that I missed? Maybe the population are the tragic figures in their blindness about racial prejucdice, their inablility to recognize the foolishness of dueling, etc? To tell you the truth, toward the end I wasn't even sure why someone had to be hanged! Maybe I was sleepy...? You already know about my erratic sleeping habits! Perhaps he was satirizing tragedy, maybe subconsciously?

    February 28, 2004 - 03:13 pm
    Wow. I finally know what you all have been talking about! Unable to read it on the screen, and having printed out an entire ream of paper and using up all my ink just to get to page 386, I gave up and drove 30 miles thru the snow (so fun) and purchased and read Those Extraordinary Twins.

    Wow. I see all kinds of things, so glad to finally BE in the conversation.

    Love his writing style, like me, he doesn't seem to know what a period is, and when he DOES use periods it's very effective.

    His style gives an immediacy, a stream of consciousness feel, a fresh you are there feeling, love it.

    The dialogue is true, you feel you know the people (didn't Twain introduce colloquial dialogue into American literature?) Fabulous, "Why I never heard the beat of it," and true to life.

    What's "extraordinary" about the Extraordinary Twins?

    The angelic one ( hahaha cunningly named Angelo) and Luigi Cappello (isn't capello something to do with head in Italian?)

    It's hilarious, it's also in my opinion, a slap at the court system, the judge who does what he'd like regardless of precedent and is proud of it, the doctor with his hilarious "ossification and extradition of the maxillaries superioris," and his use of Galen's 16,000 hahaha year old medicine hahahaa. The aldermen, who can't decide to allow Angelo to Luigi's sitting and so destroy themselves thru their own indecision and stupidity so hang HIM, they hang HIM because they can't do…this is an amazing accomplishment, if I'm reading it correctly.

    Twain's absolutely hilarious bit about drowning all of them, in the introduction, I laughed out loud.

    You don't just walk outside and drown in a WELL! hahahaaaaaaaaa And to say he thought nobody would notice because he changed the subject immediately? Hahaahah And he was going to drown all of them in the well but then he thought the reader would notice? Hahahaah Am I the only one who's been near a well? Hahahaha

    SO these men of learning, all of them, the judge, the doctor, the lawyers, fame, the townspeople who are no better than dogs, are skewered! The dog segments remind me of the nursery rhyme, "Hark, hark the dogs do bark, the beggars are coming to town."

    The people run in the woods, too, in a parallel construction, just like the dogs. Note who does run in the woods? Like a dog? Is this where racial prejudice has been claimed? Is that the reason for the question in the heading?

    Boy for a humorist (and it is hilarious) he manages to really lay it on, in my opinion, and skewer them with a fine rod, at least to me.

    Hilarious 6 months older twin, hilarious they book one table for Count Angelo and one for Count Luigi, hilarious duel! How many duelists can't shoot any better than that? You don't have duels with a million shots, have you EVER heard of a duel with so many shots? Did the guns of the day have more than one round? I need to reread that. Hilarious.

    Is that another slap at the practice of dueling, as Jo just asked? Is there one at religion? What's a Freethinker? And what's the biggest slap of all?

    This doesn't fit anywhere, but I would like to also say I don't know how to express this but I also noticed a shift in writing when the Pudd'nhead trial bit was introduced, completely different from what went before it, in fact I had to reread the first trial pages several times to get back into the story.

    I am so glad we read this before Pudd'nhead, Joan, I think that's a great way to go and I'm going to stick right to the original schedule and read Pudd'nhead, along like it was written, what fun. I see just about everybody BUT the extraordinary twins skewered, (and the reason I say that is even tho they've been presented in a fantastic, a freak like appearance, the feeling about them seems to be they are extraordinary: Angelo says they are blessed, and people seem to agree. He originally says man is the monster. Note the townspeople kill the one they like the best? And I'm wondering if that's what's extraordinary about them instead of their appearance, that they are the only ones not skewered, and who seem to have any sort of nobility?

    February 28, 2004 - 07:29 pm
    Twain successfully imitated dialect and was the first writer who became well known using it. He did have predecessors, among them Artemus Ward.

    Just for fun, here is Twain in a note that precedes Huckleberry Finn:

    IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary "Pike County" dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.

    I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.

    And the Notice to Huckleberry Finn:


    PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

    Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

    I just love that NOTICE. We must keep it in mind as we read Pudd'nhead.

    I love Twain's tongue-in-cheek humor!


    Jo Meander
    February 28, 2004 - 08:53 pm
    HI, GINNY!!! Did the townspeople like Luigi best? Or did he just manage to get himself elected by manipulating the population? I figure that hanging him was their way of resolving their own nonsensical rulings: They couldn't decide whether to admit Angelo to official proceedings or to bar both of them, so they hanged Luigi because they thought Angelo was the innocent one. Cutting off a nose to spite a face! They have no one in office and no innocence was really spared, because what would become of poor Angelo? I don't want to "go there" any more that Twain did!

    Maryal, I have alway loved that "prosecuted... banished...shot" line in Twain's intro remarks to Huck Finn. Even though that book is probably the most moral piece of fiction I've ever read, I agree we should keep his warning in mind -- even post it in the heading! It may keep us from running in circles if we are aware that often he was just having fun, or making asides to his readers! On the other hand,it's a free country and a free read, so anyone who wants to can go moral hunting or whatever! Twain, however, may roll over in his grave!

    February 28, 2004 - 09:00 pm
    "Twain, however, may roll over in his grave!"

    If so, he must be a whirling dervish by now!!!

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    February 29, 2004 - 12:06 am
    From Greenland's Icy Mountain

    who was Old Bob Ridley

    Text to the 1855 Old Bob Ridley

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    February 29, 2004 - 12:56 am
    Thomas Paine Age of Reason

    Whole Duty of Man

    Book of Ecclesiastes of Solomon

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    February 29, 2004 - 02:24 am
    What fun reading all the posts - the background on Twain was wonderful - He really struck Mark Two with this little story didn't he - I was facinated - my first thought was the Janus but it didn't exactly fit - although the banter between the two sounded so much like the rascal Sam blowing and going with the characture of a church going, hymn singing, Bible reading wife.

    Having seen that great series of his life on PBS I remember he had a cigar-smoke filled room of his own but he came down everyday to read what he wrote to his wife and family who he adored. Although, the series did point out, at times he did not keep his temper in check.

    Took someone's suggestion in an earlier post and looked up Comedy and Tragedy - than the duality became apparent.

    The duality of Drama - Comedy and tragedy.

    A comic play does not deal with Order vs. Chaos - Comedy is concerned with society, or a small group, and the conflict is people versus people.

    The characters are divided into two groups, who may be identified as the Dionysian lovers/laughers and the Apollonian non-laughers. (Dualities)

    The Dionysians want to have fun and to fall in love. These characters approach life in a positive way. The Apollonians stand in opposition to that fun, and often block characters to keep them apart. In Comedy, love always triumphs.

    The purpose of comedy is that of a social corrective. Comedy provides an example of how we should live our life, and shows what society should be like.

    I loved the story for the symbolism I saw - the guest and the intruder are total opposites sharing legs - someplace early in the story a remark really hit me about two wills in deadlock - as two legs sharing the same body create a standstill -

    The stories first bit sounded for all the world like a thesis on the economy of compassion - Twain sounded like he was describing a whirly gig when he described the arms, but there was real seriousness in what he was saying -

    I saw the story as a statement about man - we are all connected and opposites can only, like the Janus, be a gate to war or create two heads on one set of legs allowing us as a society to stand still - that no one is innocent - for every act that one group carries out they drag the rest of us along and for every group we judge we are really judging our other half.

    I loved it when he says the one twin 'seeks the truth' and therefore he had to change his religions often - lightbulbs went off - seeking the truth means change -

    Then those middle chapters where he goes first into the power play where one twin tries to show he is secretly more powerful because everything he accomplished six months earlier than the other - hmmm interesting how we still play that game - assuring there is not equality possible by judging the ones supposed to be on the lower rung with less intelligence or less capacity for social and economic well being -

    And then the fight - the fight that is supposed to show one is better than the other - and then the fight speads to those around us as we act within society - but in truth we all kick when we fight, the blond and the dark and we cannot seperate ourselves from how we treat each other. For everyone we hurt we hurt ourselves - I see that especially in families who are as much the victims of societies rage to punish the one who commit a crime.

    This story may have been considered a comedy but I'm not sure - it is not, to use Sir Philip Sidney's words, "an imitation of the common errors of life, represented in the most ridiculous and scornful sort that may be; so that it is impossible that any beholder can be content to be such an one." Nor is it starting in sadness and ending in happiness.

    There are aspects of the story that appear to be comic, a farce, but there is a biting truth and the ending is far from comedic or happy.

    "Tragic plots follow a logical course of action because they strive to build to an inescapable conclusion. Things that happen by mere coincidence can destroy the impact of the tragedy: we must be able to see that the protagonist is responsible for all that happens to him, and if there are coincidences that contribute to the tragic resolution, they are brought about by some action of the protagonist, so they are not really coincidences."

    Comedy says that things just happen - willy nilly - but when you look at these two, they are not just happening - their circumstance is so different that it is easy to look at their deformity and not see how much they are controlling their own destiny - the comedy seems to be the way the story is being told and the description of how the other characters are coming to terms with "it."

    In comedy, as in life, people are mercifully saved from being as wicked as they meant to be. "It" was not saved...

    Where this story does match comedy is, the characters, who in comedy usually discover the truth about themselves and others through lies and disguise. The twins connected, their disformity is like a disguise so that even we as readers get caught up in how unfair it feels to be subject to anothers will even if they do take turns. hmmm again is that the story of man - we feel it is unfair that we are attached to the will of others and continually try to be the lone independent successful master of our own world...

    wow yes, that movie - two prisoners escape and are chained or handcuffed together - what was that movie - I can see in my minds eye their faces - one a big burly blond guy and the other smaller and dark curly hair - something Curtis maybe - I have no recall for their names or the name of the movie - wait there was two movies like this - one was with a Black and white man chained or something - I think they were also running after a prison break - wasn't it Sidney Portier - I cannot remember clearly - help...

    February 29, 2004 - 06:01 am
    Hi, Jo, so nice to be joining your group!

    Hi Barb, love the masks. Are you thinking of The Defiant Ones with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier?

    I did actually think they liked Luigi more. Here's one place at the end that made me think so? In Chapter 10, when, speaking of Angelo, Twain says...."because Angelo had the legs, and was in too subdued a condition to want to go out and mingle with an irritated community that had come to distrust and detest him because there was such a lack of harmony between his morals, which were confessedly excellent, and the methods of illustrating them, which were distinctly damnable." I am not seeing anything about Luigi there at the last except that he was fairly elected, and needed in the liquor vote, he's the one they need. I think of the two, there at the very last, they liked Luigi best, despite what he did, because they need him and that's another issue. They need to get rid of one, and I guess drowning wouldn't apply here (still laughing over the drowning) so as you say they can't hang Angleo, he's innocent, so they hang Luigi, I thought their hanging him then, was...hahahaa...extraordinary, and fits the entire theme I was talking about earlier.

    BUT hark!! Even Angelo himself is showing two sides, like Barbara's masks, I will say I never saw HIS duality before you asked that question, Jo!!! One of the many benefits of group book discussions: you see more than you would have alone, thank you.

    I'm kind of new to Twain and have come up with a theory about him, based on what I see in Those Extraordinary Twins, and something Chris said about his history. It fits with Maryal's famous saying, and with one of his irascible letters in the introduction to the first Pudd'nhead Wilson book I have, and some of his other famous quotes, but like all half baked theories, it's not good enough to bring it out into the light yet, at the end of the discussion, I'll bring it out at the last, right or wrong.

    I think I understand Hats and JoanK's saying Twins made them uncomfortable, and I think I know maybe another reason why, but my own theory will bake a while longer. It may not ever rise, it may be like that famous epitaph: Here lies John Yeast. Pardon me for not rising.



    Jo Meander
    February 29, 2004 - 09:33 am
    Thanks Barbara, for the clarification about comedy. The Dyonisian/Appolonian distiction is especially interesting. And the image of the Twins as representing social conflict in their combined person is neat: we suffer from eternal gridlock, or at best very slow progress, because two opposing viewpoints are always engaged in conflict. But isn't that a system of "checks and balances"? Isn't it good that every new idea has a devil's advocate that forces consideration ofthe opposite view? Excuse me, I think I'mtalking to myself instead of reacting to anyone else's statement!
    Ginny, I keep seeing Angelo as the duel-breaker (he'd be a conscientious objector, a peace lover, like me!)and thinking he had the right idea! I also remember that his angelic nature charmed Rowena and the ladies, and therefore, I probably lept too quickly to the idea that he was the preferred twin. Of course there were many citizens who preferred Luigi, which I had completely overlooked! Mea Culpa! Mea dummy!

    ...."because Angelo had the legs, and was in too subdued a condition to want to go out and mingle with an irritated community that had come to distrust and detest him because there was such a lack of harmony between his morals, which were confessedly excellent, and the methods of illustrating them, which were distinctly damnable."
    I thought this was ironic totally, because I couldn't think how his actions were out of line with his morals! I thought his actions were out of line with their morals!

    February 29, 2004 - 09:58 am
    You know what Jo? I think you might be right about those actions not in line with his morals. I need to reread it. AND you mention irony, I got up wondering about irony. I wanted to almost ask if this is a satire, but am not sure of the definitions, or IS this ironic, and how irony might fit in with Farce? Or what part irony plays IN Farce?

    I must go reread and see how/where/if his actions ARE out of line with his morals, what a good point you raise! I can hear the protesting brain cells creaking now, what a GOOD point!


    Joan Pearson
    February 29, 2004 - 10:17 am
    Omygosh! Will you look at all these Pudd'nhead Wannabes! Love it, and we haven't even begun the main course! I have to say this, the The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson discussion can't start too soon for me. I've got these two versions of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens in my mind, the author and the person. From your observations on Those Extraordinary Twins, the author seems to be blasting/spoofing/mocking/criticizing just about EVERYONE - doctors, lawyers, politicians, churchgoers, gullible/shallow/fickle townspeople...is there anyone who escapes his critical eye? Is Samuel Clemens basically a CYNIC? Is "Man a monster" in his eyes, Ginny? His attitude toward the downtrodden, the outcasts of society, that doesn't come out in Twins - we'll have to wait for Pudd'nhead Perhaps he sympathizes or at least empathizes with their condition.

    Maryal...two great quotes! I think the one regarding his use of the Missouri negro dialect needs to go in the heading, but the "notice" you loved in Huck Finn, Jo - the prohibition against finding a moral, a motive as it applies to Pudd'nhead Wilson we'll have to put on hold...

    Joan Pearson
    February 29, 2004 - 10:32 am
    Barbara, for one so busy, you posted a wonderful post late last night. Thank you for taking the time to research (great links to the songs, the book titles!) and then present so clearly the comedy/tragedy duality. You are very WELCOME here! Certain points you made helped to sort out my feelings about Samuel Clemens, the man.
  • The purpose of comedy is that of a social corrective. Comedy provides an example of how we should live our life, and shows what society should be like.
  • In comedy, as in life, people are mercifully saved from being as wicked as they meant to be
  • Perhaps "cynical" is too strong a word then, if Samuel Clemens is using his influence as an author to point out human foibles - through humor, which is the best way to do this, isn't it? Not only to point out weaknesses, but to get us to recognize them in ourselves. Recognition of shortcomings is the first step towards doing something about them

    As Ginny points out, none of these characters are ALL BAD, as a Cynic would conclude. Nor are they ALL good - Angelo, the golden, fair-haired, blessed one has his shortcomings. Nor is Luigi all bad...or all good. The duality of human nature, the good and bad, that's the key point of this story, isn't it?

    Here's a question for you, while on the subject of Luigi. It was Ella who commented about Twain's vocabulary..."laudations" - "roaching" ones' hair. Here's one I'm still wondering about...not in my dictionary. Is it Twain's creation, or does the word exist. He used it TWICE in Twins, both times describing Luigi...or perhaps the "conglomerate" appearance -
    "Ugh, it was awful - just the mere look of that human phillipene."
    "We should have asked the human phillipene to resign."
    Ginny...maybe that's the duality of human nature...our actions aren't always lined up neatly with what we know is right. Good questions on satire and irony. Let us know what you conclude. I look at satire as a necessary element of farce, but irony, well, that may or may not be present...I think it is present here.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    February 29, 2004 - 12:02 pm
    Yes that word phillipene - I looked up and looked up and strange but easy 95% of the sites suggested by Google were would you believe Sex shop sites - of Course Google kept asking me if I really meant Philippian and later Philippine - This is a reasonable site offering the information about the philippian Jailer - and I wonder if that is the allusion suggested by Mark twain - http://www.gracepoints.com/articles/gpconversion.php

    I also wondered if maybe it is a mid-ninteenth century spelling for philippine since Luigi is the darker of the two.

    Oh yes and I think roaching one's hair is what my mother used to do - back in the thirties there was this airy wirey sausage shaped thing that went in her hair and she rolled her hair over it giving it this shape and fullness.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    February 29, 2004 - 12:32 pm
    Yes Ginny the The Defiant Ones - In light of our author I thought this was an interesting review of the movie...

    Product Description This 1958 variation on Huck Finn's adventures with Jim finds a white convict (Tony Curtis) chained to a black convict (Sidney Poitier) as they both escape their captors. With each man literally stuck with the other, racial conflicts take a back seat to survival. Directed by Stanley Kramer

    The other one I was thinking of and seeing the actor on the train was George Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke

    Nancy Birkla
    February 29, 2004 - 01:56 pm
    Although I have no idea what Mark Twain had in mind when he used the word "Phillipine" in the context of a half-human entity, I do know a little about Philippine anthropology, which includes much "half-human" Mythology.

    Big in Philippine and Palaun (small cluster of Islands not far from the Philippines) culture is the belief in ancient mythology, which includes half-god half-humans that once populated the Islands, in addition to fully human natives.

    These dieties were rascals who only came out at night to party and to promote all kinds of mischief. When the sun rose, they snuck off to select terraces so they could sleep all day, awaking at dusk again the next night to start carousing all over again. These half-god half-humans took the blame for all kinds of criminal and foolish activity.

    Today in these cultures, there is believed to be a divine place high up in the sky, where the true "gods" and supernaturals live, but there is also a place between the earth and the divine sky, that is the designated place for these half-god half-human creatures to continue carousing, and every once in a while one of them makes it back down to earth to cause trouble for the natives.

    FYI: Here is an article (dated by a few years) concerning the discovery of what was thought to be a mummified body of one of these half-god half-humans. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/350179.stm

    Additionally, many other half-human half-animal legendary creatures originated in the Philippines, such as mermaids, Moluccas, and scores of other half-human entities. Here's another link I found and am posting without even looking through before I post it (because I'm out of time for now). I hope the "key words" I included in a search did the job.


    Although I still don't have a clue concerning in what context Twain used his phrase, l thought I'd share a little of my fascination w/Philippine history! And for the record, just about all half-human creatures of a Philippine connotation are preditors of some sort. I'm pretty sure at the least that part held true in Twain's half-human "Phillipene."

    March 1, 2004 - 03:51 am
    It never ceases to amaze me what depth of knowledge you have. I love that story and must be kin to those half-god half human rascals that love to party and create mischief. Twain was quite the mischief maker himself.

    Joan Pearson
    March 1, 2004 - 04:59 am
    Nancy, thanks for the "phillipene" explanation...it fits the context. As soon as Aunt Patsy comes out with the remark, Rowena scolds her for "getting up a prejudice against him." Since the term was directed at Luigi, the darker one, I think that calling him "half human" was akin to calling him a "half breed". Do you suppose Aunt Patsy was referring to his physical conjoined appearance - or to the color of his skin. I'm guessing the latter. Thanks Nancy and Barbara for your input on this.

    We won't see the conjoined twins in Pudd'nhead, but we will be faced with the skin color issue. I'm glad we discussed Those Extraordinary Twins before Pudd'nhead too, Ginny...I feel better prepared to enter Mark Twain's 19th century world.

    Andy! You're here either very early, or you are still up very late - just in from one of the glittery parties? You bring up an interesting subject...was Samuel Clemens a party boy, the hale-fellow-well-met? I would be interested to learn more about his complex personality, wouldn't you?

    Joan Pearson
    March 1, 2004 - 05:31 am
    Good morning, Pudd'nheads! Welcome ~ to the first day of our discussion of The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson. If you are just joining us, we've been looking at the original story from which this one evolved, Those Extraordinary Twins. It isn't necessary to read all of the previous posts, but there is interesting, relevant information there. Christopher Barnett, the Director of Education at the Mark Twain House in Hartford Conn. helped us out immensely in providing background information ...for quick reference, we've linked Chris Barnett's Remarks to the heading -

    You may be interested to know that Pudd'nhead was first published in serialized form in seven installments beginning in late 1893 through June, 1894. We'll divide our discussion into these seven segments, as they appeared in Century Magazine at that time.

    The rules of the game, simple really - you don't have the next issue in hand, so your comments will have to be limited to what you have read. You'll see that schedule in the heading. This means that you may refer to anything in earlier issues, but no more. This is a detective story - though not a "whodunit" - some of us are waiting for the next edition to hit the stands and you don't want to spoil it for us if you were able to acquire an advance copy, we know you don't!

    Have you tried to apply the exerpts from the Pudd'nhead Wilson Calendar to the text that follows? Do you think the calendar was created specifically for each chapter, or do you get the feeling it existed before he wrote this story?

    First days are exciting - we are looking forward to hearing your first impressions. I'll bet you each picked up on something different, there's so much here!

    March 1, 2004 - 05:53 am
    And Good Morning from me as well. Joan and I are up early anticipating a fine discussion to begin today. I love Mark Twain, and it is always interesting to hear the responses of others.

    What DO you make of the epigraphs that Twain chooses from "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"? A really good question. Often an author has something specific in mind when he/she chooses an epigraph to stand at the beginning of a book or a chapter.

    We must investigate and see which quotes from the Calendar seem to have connections with the chapter.


    March 1, 2004 - 06:16 am
    My electronic text doesn't have the calendar excerpts. I've looked at the link above and wonder if January is on the first page?

    "Nothing so needs reforming as other peoples habits."

    I wonder WHY that is that we tend to rectify others' dispositions?

    I'm off to Boca Grande for a trolley trip and a boat ride in the gulf. I need to get away from this house and the zillions of dust mites floating about.

    March 1, 2004 - 10:55 am
    " Tell the truth or trump - but get the trick" - Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar.

    Just from the first exerpt from the calendar you know they serve a purpose. In fact I believe this opening one sets the tone for the whole novel.

    Twain gives us a wide-angle shot of the whole of Dawson's Landing, so we can see everything from a far before we focus on the few citizens of the story. The precise location will be of importance to the characters involved in the story. Oh, I think Twain knows this part of the country very well.

    It takes place in 1830 prior to the Civil War. Yes, this is important because it is a time of relatively peace. The drums of war have not sounded although even now their is a whistling in the wind which Twain tickles the characters with.

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 11:19 am
    We were talking about the definitions of farce, satire and irony the other day. Even though we’ve moved on to Pudd’nhead, I think the definitions are still relevant to our discussion. Be patient with me …I have a reason for belaboring this!
    My student and teacher experiences taught me that farce is the broadest kind of comedy, characterized by exaggeration and slapstick humor. It’s available in literature (Moliere) and, shall we say, less impressive work, like the Three Stooges. Shakespeare has farcical characters in his comedies, mostly, but they show up in the serious plays, too, like Hamlet (the gravedigger) and Romeo and Juliet (the Nurse, the musicians).

    Satire is supposed to have the more serious intention of correcting weak, foolish or destructive human behavior by presenting examples and mocking that behavior. A favorite example is Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” an essay in which he suggests to the English that they solve the problem of starvation in Ireland by cooking the children and serving then up in various recipes. Satire abounds in Twain. I’m thinking of some glaring examples we will soon be dealing with in Pudd’nhead, but I won’t be specific now because I know you’ll see what I mean very soon.

    Irony often characterizes satire, because the writer or speaker is saying the opposite of what he truly believes, and that is evident to the reader or audience, we hope! Irony often goes hand in hand with humor, but it exists in more serious work, like Swift’s essay, where he is really condemning the English for their exploitation of Ireland and there neglect of the population during times of famine, still taking the produce of the country for their own use but giving nothing back.
    On stage, dramatic irony occurs when the audience is aware of something significant that a character absolutely doesn’t know. It occurs in a serious situation when Romeo takes poison and Juliet is still alive: we know, but he thinks she is dead. In The Miser, Harpagon thinks his romantic advances are charming, but we know the object of his affections, a young, attractive woman less than half his age, finds them repulsive. This time it’s funny, because Harpagon is so deluded and unsympathetic a character. I used to tell the kids that if one of them put a sign on a friend’s back that the victim didn’t know was there (“Kick Me,” “Nerd”), that would result in dramatic irony!
    When we discussed some of the scenes in Twins, we were trying to decide which literary device was evident. They are frequently mixed: a silly scene can be Twain’s way of making a serious comment, and satire is usually laden with irony. Shakespeare uses funny scenes to remind us of our universal vulnerability and ultimate fate. I know that you really know all of this, but because it’s impossible to use one label totally independent of the other in true literature, I took the time and the space to address the distinctions.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 1, 2004 - 12:23 pm
    teriffic Jo - great to have those explanations - helps to see what is really the message or theme -

    Nancy thanks for the myth connection - would never have had a clue since I know so little of the myths from the Oceanic people

    Is anyone aware of an annotated version of Pudd'nhead - there are many references so out of date now that they really do need some reference. This story is coming up on being 200 years old...

    Oh yes, why I came in here in the first place - I was trying to figure out as Sam is picturing for us in words this perfectly middle class dream of a town - reminds me of the artist so many are falling all over now - what is his name - something like Kincaid - does a lot of night scenes with lots of cottages covered in roses and other vines - at any rate I see this long description as if he is describing a character - the general moral convictions of the town all examplified by the picture perfect town drowsy in its security as the cat lazing on the window sill - which by the way - why a cat - not a faithful dog but a cat - not the smoke whisping from the chimney or a man's pipe to further the cloying domesticity of nature - but a cat!

    March 1, 2004 - 01:22 pm
    I think the time in which Pudd'nhead takes place is very important. It is 1830. Since it is before the Civil War, Roxana is not left with many options for the safety of her baby. Freedom is not one of Roxana's options. She and her baby, Chambers, might very well be sold down the river. "Sold down the river" is likened to sheer hell, a life of cruel treatment. At this time, Roxana's outlook is hopeless. She is enslaved. Her life belongs to Percy Driscoll.

    So, her ideas for saving her baby and herself are desperate. She thinks of murder and then, the idea hits her to switch the babies. I think the time in which Roxana lives shapes the way she thinks and her actions.

    I do have the feeling that each quote from Pudd'nhead's calendar is related to what is going on in the chapter. I couldn't understand the first one because I see Bridge terms, trump, trick. I have never played Bridge.

    chris barnett
    March 1, 2004 - 02:09 pm
    You'll notice that I am getting better at this posting stuff. This time I did not enter my name as the title, which I look back on as being rather self-assured--forgive me--I didn't know what I was doing.

    I'm going to have to work hard to keep up with this group. You're fast and insightful--I've fallen in with a fast crowd.

    Maybe I can toss in some information to generate discussion, arguement and perhaps a bit of dueling.

    As to the use of comedy and tragedy. Many Twain scholars--they are always barging in to ruin the fun--don't put much stock in those terms. If you look at the typeface of the 1894 editions--they don't seem really to be part of the title of either tale. But simply a description. Today PHW seldom includes tragedy or comedy in the titles of the books. Hershal Parker, a Twain scholar, who went back to Sam's original manuscript and examined how it was constructed, refutes Sam's agrument that he cut out the Extrodianry Twins because he saw it was not going to work, but rather his publisher feared that the insertion of these bizarre "freaks" (Sam's words) would rob readers of all reason.

    Also remember that this tale is written while Sam is in the throws of bankruptcy. He is cranking out stories to make money and it is not a period when he does his best work. This is the era of such forgetable stories as Tom Sawyer Abroad, Tom Sawyer Detective and the unfinished Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn Among the Indians. Even the best author produces clunkers. However, I would argue that PHW is far from a story cranked out to make money--it is good stuff and gets back to some of Sam's best work.

    Sam does became more cynical as he gets older. Particularly following the death of his oldest daughter Suzy in 1896, and his wife Livy's death in 1904. I won't mention the death of the youngest daughter Jean who dies in 1909 as Sam writes little following that until his own death in 1910. Some of his later writing are not even published during his lifetime, and in fact some are not published until long after his death, as his sole surviving daughter Clara, surpressed some of is darker writings as she does not feel that they reflected well on "PaPa." An intersting tale in itself.

    PHW's calendar is produced specifically for this work. Sam writes them, and in his notebook remarks that writing them became more of a labor than the main work. Orginally he tried to use them as more or less an introduction to each chapter, but later simply gave up the idea and put them in as they came to him. He expanded PHW's calendar in a later work Following the Equator (1897.)

    In regards to the great issue of twins. Sam was fascinated by the placing of different characters in the same setting and how they interacted with one another. If it is the easterner in the west, the American in Europe, etc. Twins gave him an ideal way of comparing how two individuals, within the same body could have completly different personalities or points of view. Sam was very interested in the power of the individual to change society, or by the same measure how the lack of personal and moral strength could prevent a moral person from acting in a moral way by pressure from society.

    Also Sam loved using the ubsurd as a means of humor. In a sketch entitled "An Encounter with an Inteviewer" he enters the world of confusion of birth order and death among twins, which is entirely fictious. The interviewer asks about his brother "Bill" in the following with Twain responding:

    Q:Why look here! Who is this a picture of on the wall? Isn't that a brother of yours? A:Oh, yes, yes, yes! Now you remind me of it; that was a brother of mine. That's William--Bill we called him. Poor old Bill! Q:Why? Is he dead, then? A:Ah! Well, I suppose so. We never could tell. There was a great mystery about it. Q:That is sad, very sad. He disappeared then? A:Well, yes in a general way. We buried him. Q:Buried him! Buried him, without knowing whether he was dead or not? A:Oh, no! Not that. He was dead enough. Q:Well, I confess that I can't understand this. If you buried him, and you knew he was dead--- A:No! No! We only thought he was. Q:Oh, I see! He came to life again? A:I bet he didn't. Q:Well, I never heard anything like this. Somebody was dead. Somebody was buried. Now, where is the mystery? A:Ah! That's just it! That's it exactly. You see, we were twins--defunct and I--and we got mixed in the bathtub when we were only two weeks old, and one of us was drowned. But we didn't know which. Some think it was Bill. Some think it was me. Q:Well that is remarkable. What do you think? A:Goodness knows! I would give whole worlds to know. This solemn, this awful mystery has cast a gloom over my whole life. But I will tell you a secret now, which I never have revealed to any creature before. One of us had a peculiar mark--a large mole on the back of his left hand; that was me. That was the child that was drowned! Q: Very well,then, I don't see that there is any mystery about it, after all. A:You don't? Well I do. Anyway, I don't see how there could ever have been such a blundering lot as to go and bury the wrong child. But, sh!--don't mention it where family can hear of it. Heaven knows they have heartbreaking troubles enough without adding this.

    Further, many have argued that Sam Clemens and Mark Twain were two men in one. Mark Twain was the writer, the lecturer, the humorist--and Sam was the man of opinion, great feelings of guilt, the well read and often quite refined man (William Dean Howells once said Sam Clemens was the most unsouthernized southerner he had ever met.) Sam was extremely well read, while Mark Twain took advantage of being a bit of a bumpkin. Once in Europe at a hotel, on the registery he signed Samuel Clemens as his name, and for occupation signed Mark Twain.

    Also Sam often drew on his own family for backgroung and information. His older brother Orion, changed religion regularly, he changed his politics nearly as often, one day he backed the temperance movement, the next he thought free choice the way to go. Orion attempted the printing business, he tried practicing law, tried being and editor, a writer, a chicken farmer--he confounded Sam who early on found his career and stayed with it.

    I noticed quite a lot of discussion on the use of the term of Phillipene. I don't have a firm answer. Sam often makes up words, but whenever I have read that phrase I think of PT Barnum's "Feegee Mermaid" which was known throughout the US. It was probably a monkey's torso sewed to a fish's tail, Sam saw it in New York. The fact that "Feegee" was always mispelled--perhaps so in this case the people of Dawson's Landing got it wrong--the ultimate remarkable freak. That's is entirely my take--no scholarship here.

    A couple things on the questions for you consideration. David Wilson is obviously a smart man. He is, I believe one member of a club of free thinkers made up of two men. He has lived in Dawson's Landing for twenty years, and though is considered a "Puddn'Head" remains seemingly trying to gain the respect of the townspeople. Seems odd, why not move to another town where his talents will be accepted? What's Twain saying here?

    And I think Joan's question of the FFV is still important. What's going on here? Incidently I am an FFV myself--I've only been north of the Mason-Dixon for three years now and still point out the fact that my people were in America long before the Puritans of New England--my collegues seem unimpressed.

    Well now that I have muddied the waters--I look forward to your comments.

    chris barnett
    March 1, 2004 - 02:33 pm

    Even though I have written more today than is reasonable--I saw your question about why a cat snoozing in the sun. It is a personal prejudice of Sam's. Cats were his favorite animal--he always had cats. In the twenty years he lived in Hartford (the longest he ever lived in on place in his life) he had at least 15 cats. He named them himself. Such names as Satan, Sin, Pestilence, Sourmash, etc. He said he loved to name the cats with such names because he liked to have his daughters call the cats in at night. Imagine living in a posh Hartford neighborhood, with Harriet Beecher Stowe living across the lawn and the Clemens girls calling, "Here Satan, here Sin...." They also had other pets. A huge mongrel named "Hash" because he was made up of left overs. Three collies named "I Know," "You Know" and "Don't Know." A terrior (perhaps a Scottie) named "Burns" and a pet cow named "Jumbo," which the carriageman assured the girls that if they cared for her and brushed her she would turn into a ponny--it didn't happen. But the cat was king in the Clemens house.

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 02:50 pm
    Again, thank you, Chris, for the wonderful information. Every time you post, I feel I know him better!

    And thanksBarbara, for the pet information! You made me laugh, which I like to do!

    March 1, 2004 - 02:55 pm
    belly up, making the house complete. Thanks, Chris. I was pretty sure that Twain was a cat man, just from that comment (and one photograph of him with a kitten that I remember). As a dog person--nothing against cats, just wildly allergic, I am glad to hear of his DOGS. And he even had a terrier. Good for him.

    Thank you for presenting the idea that the word "tragedy" in the original title didn't mean much. To me, given Twain, it simply indicates that this isn't a funny story, or not entirely.

    Missouri (MissourA) was a slave state. Across the Mississippi River was (and is) Illinois, a free state. So you might think that a slave could just find a way across the river (thinking of Roxy here) and be free, but the Fugitive Slave Act demanded that runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners, so a free state didn't necessarily mean freedom for a slave.

    Interestingly the territories to the north and west of Missouri were also free.

    I like the question about why Pudd'nhead, when he failed to gain the townspeople's respect immediately didn't just move on. I think he may have been smart enough to know that not many people were going to understand him--or get his witty remarks--either in Dawson's Landing or in any other small midwestern town. Perhaps he should have moved to Hartford as Twain himself did.


    March 1, 2004 - 03:21 pm
    Thank you Chris Barnett for being here. It is exciting to read your posts.

    Barbara, like Jo, I laughed about the pet information. I especially enjoyed reading about Mark Twain and cats.

    March 1, 2004 - 04:12 pm
    Not to worry Chris as we All had to learn this internet posting stuff and have all made many mistakes when starting and still do. I am trully enjoying your posts and apprieciate them, Thanks and keep on keeping on as you are a light unto my eyes and mind petaining to Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson).

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 05:03 pm
    Apologies to Chris and to Barbara: it was Chris who listed all the provocative cat names!

    March 1, 2004 - 05:31 pm
    Here it is "Pudd'nhead's Calendar"

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 05:50 pm
    Thanks, Ginger! I love September and November! Now about December...!

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 06:03 pm
    Dawson’s landing seems idyllic. The little white houses covered with rose vines and surrounded by old-fashioned flowers are not far from the river. It’s postcard perfect, with steamboats drifting up and down the river on one side and tree-covered hills embracing the little hamlet on the other. Twain paints the picture with the skill of acquaintance, and I do believe he loved that scene himself, even though he intends us to see beyond this first impression to the unholy practices of some of its leading citizens, whom he characterizes with phrases like First Family of Virginia, Virginian grandee, and fine, brave and majestic gentleman. It must have been easier to live like a Virginia gentleman in a slave state than in a free one, because the services necessary to keep up a dignified and lavish lifestyle could be kept close at hand. That and the access to commerce provided by the river must have been significant reasons for the choice of Dawson’s Landing for family life, professions and free enterprise. When the First Families were looking to expand their influence and make their presence felt in the rest of the country, they probably looked toward the western horizon for the best place to settle, acquire more land, and make their mark yet maintain the lifestyle they loved and depended upon.
    The first character that made a negative impression the judge’s younger brother, Percy Driscoll, who, after his wife dies, turns his week-old baby over to his young slave, and buries himself in his financial speculations. In the next chapter we find out how he feels about the people in whom he seems to have placed his trust.

    March 1, 2004 - 06:12 pm
    JO~~Yes, exactly. Good description--here we have this almost idyllic little town with its picturesque boats floating by on the Mississippi, and the cute little houses with their flowers and white picket fences. BUT and it's a big BUT, what about the People in Dawson's Landing. As you suggest, we find out that they have lots of flaws. Among them is a lack of wit enough to understand what Pudd'nhead's remark about the dog means.

    I think Twain was of two minds about his home--he looks back to it nostalgically, but he can no longer live there. He needs minds that could understand Pudd'nhead.

    And, as we shall see, there are real problems in what was once called the "Peculiar Institution" that is, Slavery.

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 06:29 pm
    Maryal, that's well put -- "minds that could understand Pudd'nhead." In this opening chapter, MT has placed two levels of Dawson Landing society under his microscope.

    March 1, 2004 - 06:59 pm
    Judge Driscoll reminds me of a southern woman that I met when we moved to SC. She was very polite and proper in her "hatred" of the Yankees (me) and spent a great deal of time insisting how proper she was. This was due to her ancestry and her respected southern family there in SC and the fact that everyone knew them and knew of their fine "character." She made no bones trying to convince me and I used to love to aggravate her by reminding her that the Yankees whipped their southern butts. Ole Judge Driscoll and family- yep, I've met them !!!
    She was a racist and had a lovely black woman housekeeper whom she called "Nigra." Now I come from NY state and you don't even think that word aloud. I almost swallowed my chewing gum when she said, "leave the plates, my nigra will get them." She was the most bigoted, phony, perfidious soul I've ever worked for.

    I daresay Sam knew her too.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 1, 2004 - 08:57 pm
    Jo adding to your great finds explaining Satire - I found this that I thought fit Twain to a T -

    The satirist is a kind of self-appointed guardian of standards, ideals and truth; of moral as well as aesthetic values. He is a man (female satirists are very rare) who takes it upon himself to correct, censure and ridicule the follies and vices of society and thus to bring contempt and derision upon aberrations from a desirable and civilized norm. Thus satire is a kind of protest, a sublimation and refinement of anger and indignation.

    During the 20th century satire has been rare. Two of the main reasons for this lack are that it has been a period of much instability and violent change, and the humor industry has grown to such an extent that the satirist can hardly make himself felt except in the caricature and the cartoon.

    March 1, 2004 - 09:01 pm
    Just temporarily lurking, but getting ready to print out the first three chapters. Loved the cat story and forwarded it to some cat-loving friends.

    Am currently going crazy trying to place Dawson's Landing -- yes, I know it's fiction, but just where might it be? In other words, how many miles south from St. Louis would a steamboat travel in 1830?

    Joan Pearson
    March 1, 2004 - 09:13 pm
    Hi there, Pedln - good to see you, busy lady! You can stop puzzling over the location of Dawson's Landing and look at your map and find Samuel Clemens' home town of Hannibal, Missouri to get your geographical bearings. Then trace the Mississippi River down - "down the river"...

    A "fast crowd"! You're right up in front of the pack, Mr. Barnett! ...Wow! You all have covered a lot of ground in here today! Are you loving it? Are you enjoying Twain's brand of humor?

    Jo - please don't assume that we "know it all" - we're learning from one another. Your breaking down farce, satire and irony (with examples) was so clear and to the point...you must have been a great teacher - you still are. To sum up, (correct me, please)
  • Farce - broad slapstick comedy, (often "absurd", as Chris describes it) - only purpose to amuse, to make the audience laugh
  • Satire - attempt to correct destructive behavior
  • Irony - satire in which the writer is saying the opposite of what he truly believes
  • Well, yes, we do see all three in Twain's work...sometimes standing alone, often together. It will be fun to point out examples as we go along.

    Chris, thanks for telling us that The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson is not viewed as a "tragedy" by Twain scholars..."tragedy" as we were attempting to define it, anyway. (I still think human condition at this time was "tragic") This is comedy, on a serious topic (satire) Chris tells us that the word "TRAGEDY" is not even included in the title anymore - The Title is simply, "Pudd'nhead Wilson". What is the title of the copy that you are reading...no "tragedy" on mine...

    Chris tells us of one Twain scholar who refutes the reason why Extradordinary Twins was rewritten...not because it started as a farce, but Twain saw tragedy within, but rather a worried publisher worried about a story of a "freak", so the second version turned out differently, with emphasis on secondary characters in the revision . Don't you find this fascinating?

    Barbara...your expansion on our understanding of the purpose of "satire" is much appreciated...
    "to correct, censure and ridicule the follies and vices of society and thus to bring contempt and derision upon aberrations from a desirable and civilized norm. Thus satire is a kind of protest, a sublimation and refinement of anger and indignation.">
    Chris's description of a more cynical Sam Clemens as he grew older underscores his growing frustration ... Do you think the youngest daughter burned his later, darker works...or will they be unearthed someday...wouldn't that be something?

    March 1, 2004 - 09:21 pm
    pedln--Welcome. I have a footnote that suggests that Dawson's Landing is somewhere between St. Louis and Cairo. Cairo is the point in Huckleberry Finn where "real slavery" begins. From Cairo south, the states on both sides of the Mississippi are slave states.

    Twain's Hannibal, MO is about one hundred miles North of St. Louis.

    The setting of Pudd'nhead is maybe 100 miles south of St. Louis--I'm guessing here.

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 09:42 pm
    I'll have to see a map!
    Thanks, Barbara, for the satire info. It does indeed seem to fit Mr. Clemens! I would LOVE to read some of those later, darker works! But then I'd have to go back and read a funny one to get my bearings. I read A Tramp Abroad years ago, and enjoyed his travelogue almost as much as his novels.

    Joan Pearson
    March 1, 2004 - 10:17 pm
    It's a good thing that we are reading different editions - we seem to pick up more information with each set of introductions/illustrations and footnotes. It's becoming clear that Twain wrote of his boyhood days in Hannibal, Mo. There were some wonderful illustrations in the 1894 print edition. The passage describing the lazing cat came with this line drawing that fits Twain's description to a tee...

    Sam Clemens' love for cats sounds so much like Hemingway, doesn't it? All those cats with 6 claws - I think there were at least 15, does anyone count them down in his house in Key West. Names too...not as imaginative as Twain's...as I remember, Hemingway's all had movie stars' names.

    I've been wondering...since so much of Twain's writing is biographical - he may have known such characters as we are meeting in Puddn'head...he may even have known a mulatto slave woman like Roxy. Maryal...that is an interesting footnote...which edition are you reading? Everything I have read indicates that he was writing from memories of Hannibal. I agree with Scrawler and Hats... the exact location of Dawson's Landing is going to be important to the story. I am puzzled at your footnote and wonder if he didn't use Hannibal as a model, but move it in downriver for fictional purposes? A quick google:
    "During this crucial time in his life, Clemens developed a strong tie to the Mississippi River, along which Hannibal is located. Steamboats landed at the town three times a day, and these river chariots captured Clemens' imagination as he dreamed of one day becoming a steamboat captain."Hannibal, Mo.

    "The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) is a detective novel set in the village of Dawson's Landing, another name for Hannibal" ~Dawson's Landing/Hannibal
    Oh, I had wanted to get to the Pudd'nhead Calendar comments - and to talk the game of bridge to Hats. But it is so late, I'm turning into bat girl staying up with Jo! You'll be here in the morning, won't you?

    Jo Meander
    March 1, 2004 - 10:27 pm
    Not if I don't get to bed soon!!! Winging my way as we speak!

    March 2, 2004 - 04:58 am

    Chris, what priceless insights and information you are providing, it adds so much to our understanding, thank you! 15 cats?!?

    I must admit I had to look up FFV, I thought at first it was the Future Farmers of America, which I am more familiar with, hahahaha I think I understand who the FFV are and what they stood for, but am not sure what a transplanted one in Missoura, unless a man of means like the Judge, would be able to impress on the townspeople who seem more inclined to ridicule than emulate?

    I got in quite a conversation with my husband last night on Missouri and the Civil War. He has quite an interest in the Civil War and he said when he was growing up (on a farm not far from Savannah, Ga) he says people would quote this "old saying," on Missouri in the Civil War, "Missouri couldn't decide which side to fight on, so they fought themselves." Sounds like a Twainism, actually.

    Joan, on the placement of Dawson's Landing, one of the few footnotes in the Penguin edition says:
    [Twain places] Dawson's Landing in a different geographical location on the river from St. Petersburg, in Huckleberry Finn, and also from Hannibal, Missouri, the town to which the Clemens family moved with Samuel was four. Critics usually take Dawson's Landing as a recreation of Hannibal, as St. Petersburg certainly is. There is some imaginative truth in this but…by moving the town father south Clemens clearly has a deliberate purpose in mind and seeks—as in the reference to "the dim great world to the North, " (St Louis in chapter 5) to stress the southern-provincial atmosphere of the town. The slaveholding economy and the dominance of the families which have moved from Virginia can be much more stressed; and hence the town has a much more feudal and much less northern air. Hannibal and St. Petersburg are a hundred miles or so north of St. Louis ; but Dawson's Landing, set "half a day's journey, per steamboat" below it, must be between St. Louis and Cairo—which in Huckleberry Finnis the point where real slavery starts. From Cairo south, the states on both sides of the Mississippi (Missouri) and Kentucky) are slave. (Malcolm Bradbury)

    That's the LONGEST and about the only footnote in THIS particular book. I agree, Barb, I could use an annotated Pudd'nhead too. Haahah

    Seems strange to me to think of Missouri as "southern."

    Thank you, Jo, for those definitions of irony and satire and farce, I did not know all the ramifications of irony and I have a feeling that we're going to see it again.

    The first thing that struck me about Pudd'nhead is the freshness of the writing and descriptions, you'd never know those first paragraphs were written over 100 years ago, and it's quite different from some of the other writings of the the Civil War that I have read, like Mary Chestnut's, for instance, tho she did not write fiction. It's not dated, at all, to me, which I find amazing, except for a few words and I loved the sense you get from the opening lines, sort of as if you had been transported there, a person of 2004, but with not too many startling differences in description, a sort of a "you are there," feeling, I loved reading about the locust trees with "trunks protected by wooden boxing, " I've never seen that, so I feel transported to another place and time.

    But note the doctor is already skewered by page 2 ( believe Twain really dislikes doctors!) with his "effective antediluvian methods"...is that irony? Because the cradles are empty.

    "Because I would kill my half," would be seen in other parts of the country as pure wit, almost zen- like intelligence, but the "pundits" of Dawson's Landing choose/need? to ridicule what they don't understand. Yet as Chris says, he stays!! WHY?? What a good question! And changes to surveying from law, and seems content. IS he then content to be only "well liked," even tho considered a fool? The nickname stays but it loses it's "harsh and unfriendly feeling," and becomes almost....what? But "it held its place, and was to continue to hold its place for twenty long years." (why 20 I wonder, I bet we'll find out). So the nickname stays...hmmmm..... I'm not sure what is being said here, he's content to be well liked, but not respected, while the FFV want respect, and outward show, (would that be how we interpret the concept of "gentleman?") Did I read that for these FFVs in Missoura, outward show of respect was almost a religion? Twain puts it, "To be a gentleman—a gentleman without stain or blemish—was his only religion, and to it he was always faithful. "

    I am not sure what Twain is saying here.

    Joan what a beautiful illustration!

    I have loved the explanations of phillipene, I thought hahaha Twain was humorously deliberately having them misspell Philistine! hahahaa

    What's a "brad-awl" in Chapter 1?


    Joan Pearson
    March 2, 2004 - 05:52 am
    Good morning, Ginny ~ I went to sleep with questions about Dawson's Landing under my pillow, and here you are, bright and early with the answer! So Twain did write of Hannibal, but moved it further south on the river for this story - closer to the slave-holding states. Thank you for bringing tht information here.

    Yes, that's a good question, why did David Wilson stay in Dawson's Landing - taking down his lawyering sign because he had lost the respect and confidence of perspective clients there.

    And another question - why are the leading citizens of the town all from the Virginia's first families here in Mo. Why did they leave VA? My husband's father's family came to VA in the early 1700's - I asked him that question. He brought up the fact that they had big families in those days - that the oldest son usually inherited the estate and that the younger ones might live off the oldest, or strike out on their own in different parts - where they might command respect. Their gentlemanly ways would stand out and impress the folk in Dawson's Landing....as Ginny describes ~
    "the FFV want respect, and outward show, Did I read that for these FFVs in Missoura, outward show of respect was almost a religion? Twain puts it, "To be a gentleman—a gentleman without stain or blemish—was his only religion, and to it he was always faithful. "

    Joan Pearson
    March 2, 2004 - 06:14 am
    Thanks for making it clear, Chris - that Twain created this calendar specifically for this work - that he intended the entries to be an introduction to the text that follows, but later gave up on that idea. I've been attempting to consider them in this light - and it isn't always easy.

    Andy, no, the link to the Calendar takes you to some quotes, one for each month, but NOT the ones that appear in these early chapters. The quote that ďntoduces the first chapter is not found in January, nor in any other of the months shown. Anne provided the excerpt introducing Chapter One -
    "Tell the truth or trump - but get the trick"

    ...I agree with you when you say ~ "In fact I believe this opening one sets the tone for the whole novel", but will you helpconnect it to this chapter in particular?

    Hats - you asked about bridge. Your goal is to make the trick - to win the hand. You can win it outright by having been dealt the right cards in your hand, or you can "trump" - a more roundabout way of winning, using a card other than the leading card - a bit of deception is involved. If you don't hold a winning hand, you win any way you can, whatever it takes. I'm thinking of Barbara's description of this "ideal" little town where appearances are everything - it looks as if everyone is holding the right cards here. Or does the quote relate to the three leading FFV citizens?

    Andy - this is the Calendar Entry that introduces Chapter II (Andy is reading the electronic text which doesn't include these entries)...what do you think of this one as an introduction to Chapter II?
    "Adam was but human - this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent."

    March 2, 2004 - 08:32 am
    Thanks, Ginny, for quoting the whole footnote. That's what I was trying to explain in somewhat condensed form.

    Joan--Twain's memories of childhood in Hannibal are everywhere, yes, and therefore memories of Hannibal inform the creation of the town . But, as you suggest, for fictional purposes, Twain moves Dawson's Landing further south, closer to the deep south.

    We're going to be talking about slavery and the moral and institutional aspects of slavery in this book. For that purpose, the town is further south. Even further south are the large cotton plantations and unending field labor.

    The African American slaves in Dawson's Landing joke about being "sold down the River," (chap 2) but it's no longer a joke when Judge Driscoll threatens his four slaves with selling them down the river unless they tell him who pilfered some money he has found missing. If we can talk about anything "good" about being a slave, it was better to be a slave in Dawson's Landing than it was to be sold down the River. The work was more tolerable as was the climate.

    When three of Judge Driscoll's slaves declare their guilt, he promises to sell them locally instead of down the river even though, as he tells them, he thinks they deserve the latter (chap 2--end).


    Ella Gibbons
    March 2, 2004 - 09:00 am
    I've been necessarily detained and have yet to catch up on all the posts, but I did manage to quickly skim a few, particularly Chris Barnett's first post. WE ARE SO DELIGHTED TO HAVE YOU WITH US, CHRIS!

    I could not help but notice that Benjamin Franklin's early career was the same as MT's in this regard:

    "was apprenticed as a printer in Hannibal. He was trained as a compositor, or type setter--with the job of setting into type newspaper articles, editorials, advertisements, etc. Following his apprenticeship, he worked for his older brother Orion, who was also a printer and owned a newspaper in Hannibal. When Orion was away, Sam ran the paper, and began writing articles and editorials--some of which caused a ruckus with fellow papers, but increased subscriptions."

    That is extraordinary, even to the fact that Franklin first worked for his older brother who owned a newspaper. And Franklin also "began writing editorials and articles which caused a ruckus but increased subscriptions."

    I'll be back later to finish catching up with the posts and reading the first three chapers of the book. I did want to say that after a second reading of the TWINS I came no further to a conclusion as to why MT ended the story with the hanging. It was a gut feeling that MT got tired of the twins, couldn't think of another way to end it all and then just killed them off.

    chris barnett
    March 2, 2004 - 11:49 am
    Good afternoon everyone. I really enjoy reading your comments--what a great group!

    I thought I'd share a quote from Sam that might give everyone something to think about:

    "Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever. By forever, I mean thirty years....I have always preached. That is the reason that I have lasted thirty years." Samuel Clemens, 1902

    Also Sam once wrote to his brother, "I never had but two ambitions in life. One was to be a pilot, & the other was to be a preacher of the gospel. I accomplished one & failed at the other, because I could not supply myself with the necessary stock and trade--i.e.,religion....But I have a had a "call" to literature, of a low order--i.e., humorous. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is my strongest suit."

    I think Sam was a preacher throughout his life, and it might be safe to say his writings are his sermons.

    I agree with everyone that Dawson's Landing is based on Hannibal. PHW is considered Sam's last "American" novel which he sets on the river--the place where he grew up and knew very well. And yes, he always romanticizes things,often settings, but to a purpose. To examime duplicity, to question surfaces to what is found under the facade. Just like the Mississippi River, seemingly smooth, but below the surface were hundreds of snags waiting to tear the bottom out of a steamboat.

    The location of Dawson's Landing is probably near, or below Cairo. A riverboat of the time traveled about 15-20 miles per hour, and a half day from St. Louis with a good current, would probably make it that far. But by putting it beyond the Ohio River, the town is surrounded by slave states. Notice that the date Sam mentions is 1830. That's interesting in a couple ways. First it is before Sam was born, he was born in 1836. Second it is just before the movement of a national abolitionist movement--if we go along with historians with dating the national movement with the founding of Garrison's Liberator in 1831.

    The reading from PHW's calendar for chapter one I think is interesting, "truth or trump, but take the trick." Play by whatever means, but win. That is certainly the motto of Pembroke Howard. A man who was "a fine, majestic creature, a gentleman according to the nicest requirements of the Virginia rule, a devoted Presbyterian, an authority on the "code," (code of honor, which included dueling) and a man always courteously ready to stand up before you in the field if any act or word of his had seemed doubtful or suspicious to you, and explain it with any weapon you might prefer....." Perhaps this might shine some light on Dawson's Landing--an almost perfect sleepy town, where people are ready to shoot one another over opinions.

    I think we need to watch out--not everything is as it may appear.

    March 2, 2004 - 03:27 pm
    Thanks Chris for your information on cats. I knew he liked cats but I didn't realize what names he called them. I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair, while my own cat just glared at me and than went back to being a lazy cat.

    One reason that the FFV were in this town was that: "The town was sleepy and comfortable and contented. It was fifty years old, and was growing slowly - very slowly, in fact, but still it was growing."

    Good question: How did Judge Driscoll be FFV, a Presbyterian and a freethinker all at the same time. Being a FFV and a Presbyterian I can see, but a freethinker? A freethinker is one who doubts or denies religious dogma. I think Twain was tickling our funny bone here.I think the characters had to be FFV because they had to represent "an old ancestry" and the ancestors of Virginia were one of the oldest in this country.

    "But he made his fatal remark the first day he spent in the village, and it "gaged" him. He had just made the acquaintance of a group of citizens when an invisible dog began to yelp and snarl and how and make himself very comprehensively disagreeable, whereupon young Wilson said, much as one who is thinking aloud: "I wish I owned half of that dog." "Why?" sombody asked. "Because I would kill my half." The group searched his face with curiosity, with anxiey even, but found no light there, no expression that they could read. They fell away from him as from something uncanny, and went into privacy to discuss him. One said: "Pears to be a fool." "Pears?" said another. "Is, I reckon you better say." "Said he wished he owned half of the dog, the idiot," said a third. "What did he rekcon would become of the other half if he killed his half? Do you reckon he thought it would live?" etc.

    Keep in mind we are talking about an invisible dog here! I just love Twain's humor. I would say it tells us a whole lot about the townspeople but don't you think it tells us a lot about ourselves too?

    Jo Meander
    March 2, 2004 - 05:08 pm
    I want to clarify or be clarified on two points: Isn't Percy Dirscoll, the younger brother of Judge Driscoll, the one who threatens to sell his slaves down the river -- not the judge himself? Percy's the one who had a child (one left, after the others suffered the "antedeluvian" ministrations of the local doctor), and the one whose wife died a week after giving birth to Thomas? Judge Driscoll and his wife had no children, nor did his (I think his) widowed sister.

    Isn't the judge a Freethinker and not a Presbyterian? His wife and sister are the Presbyterians.

    I thought Freethinker meant agnostic or atheist or one who just doesn't give a rap what anyone chooses to believe. The judge isn't a Presbyterian, at least not by choice.
    Webster says,Freethinker: "one that forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority; esp.: one who doubts or denies religious dogma & etc."

    March 2, 2004 - 05:10 pm
    The Liberator

    Issue #1 of the Liberator

    Garrison's most famous contribution to the abolitionist movement was his newspaper, TheLiberator. The Liberator was Garrison's vehicle for informing the nation of the evils of slavery and the need for abolition. Garrison was able to make himself heard throughout the nation via the Liberator. Garrison published his paper in Boston because he felt that New England needed the most help and change in public opinion.

    Garrison knew, however, that his paper alone would not be enough to reach the whole nation. Even several years after founding the paper, the total number of subscriptions did not total over 500. Achieving a national reputation and spreading his message would take some creativity, and this creativity marked Garrison's success. His course of action was unique but very effective. During this period, many newspapers had exchange programs with other papers where they would send a copy of their paper to another newspaper for a copy of that paper. In this way, a primitive news network was created where editorials and articles from a paper in Boston could be read in a local paper in South Carolina.... Read more about this here: Garrison's Liberator

    Volume 1 shown below:

    The Liberator, Vol. I., No. 1.

    William Lloyd Garrison, January 1, 1831

    Herein is probably the first call or use of “all religions” in the defense of a great cause. The use of and a call to value the stated ideals of “all religions” to forward the anti-slavery movement should not be overlooked. Though there are certain and irreconcilable differences among the great religions, they share many noble tenants with respect to rights and with respect to certain values, including the value of religion itself.

    About 1828 Garrison met Benjamin Lundy, and the following year joined with him in editing the Genius for Universal Emancipation. Garrison was jailed for libel, bailed out by the philanthropist Arthur Tappan and went to Boston where. With Isaac Knapp, Garrison published the Liberator. Garrison came eventually to be regarded as the leading abolitionist in the country.[1]

    To the Public.

    In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “The Liberator” in Washington City; but the enterprise, though hailed indifferent sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

    During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free states—and particularly in New England—than at the south. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place o f liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe—yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble—let their secret abettors tremble—let their Northern apologists tremble—let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

    I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties [emphasis mine].

    Assenting to the "self evident truth" maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My conscience is now satisfied.

    I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen;--but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

    It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence—humble as it is, is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years-not perniciously, but beneficially—not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. . . .

    William Lloyd Garrison.

    [1] L. Swift & Garrison Children. William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879: the Story of his Life Told by his Children, Vol. I, p. 224 ff. Bibliography in A. B. Hart, Slavery and Abolition.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 2, 2004 - 06:17 pm
    No one has mentioned the "WHISPER TO THE READER" - do you all have it in your editions? I simply loved the "Calendar" note here about ridicule and the ass, whose character is about perfect. Hahahahaa

    What sentences in the "WHISPER!" Four sentences make up two pages in my edition and MT's explanation for how right legally the chapters in the book are because William Hicks, who was a little rusty on the law but "rubbed" up for this book, told me so himself.

    Rubbed up! In those days, women got the dirt out by "rubbing" on a washboard, and here we have Hicks rubbing out the illegality. Love it!

    Mr. David Wilson, 25 years old, college bred (even finishing a post-college course in an Eastern law school) comes to a little southern town - a slave town - to seek his fortune

    He is not a FFV, he's northern, well educated. Why would such a young man come to Dawson's Landing? And wouldn't he be amazed at the culture here? In the first 3 chapters I see no evidence of it.

    That doesn't sit right with me - I need to "rub" up an answer here.

    Someone mentioned there are bits of his writing that are autobiographical and I wonder if in this sentence there isn't a bit of his own self:

    "He had a rich abundance of idle time, but it never hung heavy on his hands, for he interested himself in every new thing that was born into the universe of ideas..."

    MT would have been reading, studying or traveling in idle periods but certainly there must have been some time when his pursuits of ideas, particularly where people, ideas, and scenes, occupied his time.

    March 3, 2004 - 12:53 am
    Thank you for the Garrison newsletter: very interesting. Especially his statement that the North showed more resistance than the slave owners (probably an exaggeration, but with some truth). So much for our Northern smugness: northerners benefitted from slavery also!!

    Miscellaneous remarks: Why didn't Wilson leave? I had assumed that this was of the same order as hanging Luigi, or (jokingly) throwing characters he didn't like down a well and hoping the reader won't notice. He didn't leave because the plot needed him to stay, and hope the readers don't notice.

    What are the twins doing there? Why don't they leave if they find the townspeople so boring?

    Is Puddnheads remark about half a dog meant as a warning as to what will happen to the twins in the "Twins" story.

    Selling down the river meant more than harder work. For most it was the difference between being a house slave with the hope of being treated relatively well, and working in the cotton field whereslaves were literally worked to death. It was a death sentance.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 3, 2004 - 01:03 am
    I thought a freethinker is the name used to describe Unitarians which I think Sam was a Unitarian or maybe it is a Universalist - The two are close -

    In the story, the gentleman as described from Virigina - as I understand it, would mean more than traditional conservative in politics and lifestyle - Virginia was always considered by most Southerners as not just the most prestigious power center but for a Southerner Virginia is more like the center of the universe - it just doesn't get any better than to say you live in or are from Virginia. And so the weight of all that nobility and rightousness is added to the traditioanl conservative views of those characters.

    I am thinking more and more the animals are something to watch - once I heard that Sam had both a dog and cats bottom line he is an author - and nothing goes into a story without a purpose - we all know the whole of a story is told within the first chapter and while reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez we learned he thought the whole story needed to be told within the first paragraph and that was why short stories were as much work as a novel, all those efforts to synthasis a story into one paragraph - and so with that I am back to the cat stretched out on the windowsill -

    I see the cat as a lovelable bundle of fur but there is the other side of a cat - they are independent, untameable, night creatures, secretive, lazy, yes playful but they do bring in their dead birds and mice and a black cat carries all sorts of satanic associations. Where as a dog is tameable, watchful, can be trained to be obedient, often considered noble and man's best friend, a guard dog and the saying is the 'Dogs of War' -

    I see the cat, within the description of this tidy town over run with the golden mean, as an image to mislead the observer; conceal the cunning use of power impossed like pickets in a fence surround the evidence of the power used to take the wild and impose genteel ornamentation.

    Where as the dog barking is the unfettered dog of war, marking in the soil the line not to be crossed defining the true nature of potential power that will be used if anyone threatens what the dog guards - the dog guards the true repressive and controlling nature within the town.

    March 3, 2004 - 01:31 am
    I have been almost magnetically drawn to this discussion simply because I have been reading PW without being aware of its inclusion here. I have a very simple question to ask, and in the asking almost feel like a member of Dawson's Landing simple minded citizenry. So far the main story line concerns Roxy, the babies, the Driscoll family, the twins, with just a passing reference to David Wilson and his relations with the townspeople. Why was the book titled Puddn'head Wilson leaving the impression that he was the main character around who the story revolves. Am I "jumping the gun" with this question?


    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 3, 2004 - 02:38 am
    Gail the million dollar question - my thought is that Pudd'nhead in his simple way is the one who shakes things up - without him the town would go on its merry way and we would never know the plight of Roxy - plus it is a fun and innocuous name - makes a clever title to keep hdden the serious issues in the story - but then Gail I have not read through to the end - and I bet others in the descusssion will have other thoughts that we can all learn from each other why the title.

    Malryn (Mal)
    March 3, 2004 - 03:01 am
    My computer dictionary defines "freethinker" as:
    "One who has rejected authority and dogma, especially in religious thinking, in favor of rational inquiry and speculation."

    (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition. copyright 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation. All rights reserved.)
    The Universalist and Unitarian religions merged in 1961. Samuel Clemens-Mark Twain belonged to neither. As far as I know he was a member of no religion.

    About religion, Mark Twain said:
    "Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion –- several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat, if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven."
    To read about Twain's views of religion, click the links below.

    Letters from the Earth
    What is Man
    War Prayer
    Thou Shalt Not Kill
    The Fly

    Joan Pearson
    March 3, 2004 - 05:16 am
    Oh good! Another Pudd'nhead! Welcome, Gail G! - from your question it is clear that you are anything but "a member of Dawson's Landing's simple minded citizenry"! We hope you will stay , now that you have found us. It's too early to answer your query regarding the Pudd'nhead title - we are reading/discussing the story in the same installments as first published back in 1893 in Century Magazine. You'll find the schedule in the heading. We only have the first edition in our hands right now...which includes only the first three chapters of the book. We have just begun. You found us at a good time.

    And Malryn, thank you for the links, Sam Clemens on Religion - I found the last one on the Fly quite compelling evidence that the author was not affiliated with any religion. We will save that question for our in-house expert on Twain, Chris Barnett. Again, welcome both of you, to our "fast crowd" -

    Ella, welcome back! Join the club! We're all still baffled about why Pudd'nhead stayed in town once it became evident that he wasn't going to get any work lawyering. Joan K suggests "he didn't leave because the plot needed him to stay, and hope the readers don't notice." Do you think that's the answer?

    You draw our attention to an interesting explanation as to why Pudd'nhead became interested in fingerprinting and palmistry during those twenty rather idle years (this is what didn't quite fit for me - I was thinking that maybe the plot needed those fingerprints) - You helped "rub up" one answer from the preface, from Whispers -
    "He had a rich abundance of idle time, but it never hung heavy on his hands, for he interested himself in every new thing that was born into the universe of ideas..."
    And Ella, your comment on the fatal ending of twins - makes me think of Pudd'nheads comment on shooting his half of the dog. When the one twin was hung, the other died as well, didn't he? Anne's comment on Twain's humor ~ "I would say it tells us a whole lot about the townspeople but don't you think it tells us a lot about ourselves too?" Ben Franklin also had this rather unorthodox sense of humor - that told us so much about ourselves too, didn't he, Ella?

    Joan Pearson
    March 3, 2004 - 05:32 am
    Lot's of talk in here about on preaching/teaching - thank you for the quote which got us thinking about Samuel Clemens - and Judge Driscoll's religious affiliation and beliefs, Chris. Thanks too for the information on the time period - "just before the national abolitionist movement--if we go along with historians with dating the national movement with the founding of Garrison's Liberator in 1831. Perhaps this might shine some light on Dawson's Landing--an almost perfect sleepy town, where people are ready to shoot one another over opinions." (Thought-provoking comments too, on that sleepy cat and barking dog, Barbara)

    It occurs to me, Chris that this volatile situation centers around two issues, slavery/abolition and one's personal honor code. Where does religion fit into this portrayal of Dawson's Landing?

    Thank you, Ginny - good information on Garrison's Liberator!
    " Herein is probably the first call or use of “all religions” in the defense of a great cause. The use of and a call to value the stated ideals of “all religions” to forward the anti-slavery movement should not be overlooked."
    Jo asks..."Isn't the judge a Freethinker and not a Presbyterian? His wife and sister are the Presbyterians." Here's what Twain said - Pudd'nhead Wilson - First Edition Facsimile - (this link replaces the first electronic version- just for Andy - as it includes the Pudd'nhead Calendar excerpts as well as the illustrations from the first printed edition of the novel) -
    "They were Presbyterians, the judge was a freethinker."

    I notice that sometimes the "f"is captitalized...Twain used lower case here. Somehow, I can't see the leading citizen of Dawson's Landing staying home on a Sunday morning with the rest of the town...including his family, in church. This is a town in which appearances are everything. This is an FFV man...was in the pew or not?

    To summarize our understanding of what a Freethinker is - (was it the same in Sam Clemens's time?):
  • "A freethinker is one who doubts or denies religious dogma" (Anne)
  • "I thought Freethinker meant agnostic or atheist or one who just doesn't give a rap what anyone chooses to believe" Jo
  • "Freethinker - one that forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority; esp.: one who doubts or denies religious dogma & etc." Webster
  • " thought a freethinker is the name used to describe Unitarians which I think Sam was a Unitarian or maybe it is a Universalist" Barbara
  • "One who has rejected authority and dogma, especially in religious thinking, in favor of rational inquiry and speculation." American Heritage
  • Deems
    March 3, 2004 - 05:36 am
    Welcome from me as well, Gail G. It's good to have you among us, and you pose an excellent question. Why, when the plot seems to have more to do with the other characters than with Pudd'nhead, is he the title character?

    Let's keep this question open for a bit because I think it gives us a foothold on an interesting way to look at the book. But we need to have read more of it to see the implications. Twain also made some remarks on the character of Pudd'nhead, but there again, I'll wait until we've read more.

    Joan, you quote exactly the sentence that I was planning to put in here:

    "He had a rich abundance of idle time, but it never hung heavy on his hands, for he interested himself in every new thing that was born into the universe of ideas..."

    That sentence helps me to answer the question Chris gave us about why, when he is certainly underappreciated in Dawson's Landing, David Wilson doesn't just move on to another town. He doesn't even get any law clients.

    But in the sentence above, we see one reason that he stays. He has the kind of mind that is always curious and he involves himself with discovery. He has many interests and the time to indulge them. So he might as well stay in Dawson's Landing. It's a nice enough town and if he went somewhere else and actually created a thriving law practice, where would he find the time to pursue his scientific interests?


    Joan Pearson
    March 3, 2004 - 06:01 am
    Good morning, Maryal! This isn't the first time we've bumped into one another on the way to the coffee pot! Talking about Pudd'nhead puts in mind my son's experience with his law degree. After his first year in law school, he realized he wasn't much interested in the law - as he was in people and the daily drama of life. But he finished, because...why did he finish? To make the story short, he graduated with the law degree, didn't much want to practice, but at this point he needed to pay off his law school debt. He's practicing today, but in his heart he wants to act, perform, play and write music. He would have been a happy Pudd'nhead in Dawson's Landing - finding plenty of other things to do with his time, with the lawyer sign in the back of his closet somewhere.

    ARE WE READY to focus on poor, unfortunate Roxana today? Joan K describes her as a house slave, who was treated relatively well, living under the threat that things could get a lot worse for her and her baby...
    "Selling down the river meant more than harder work. For most it was the difference between being a house slave with the hope of being treated relatively well, and working in the cotton field whereslaves were literally worked to death. It was a death sentance."
    As we listen to Roxy's voice in Chapter II, I'm wondering what you thought of her speech? Twain seems to have studied speech patterns as Pudd'nhead studied fingerprints. We'll have to ask Chris about this. In the meantime, you might find it helpful to read Twain's comments on the dialog he used in Huck Finn...

    March 3, 2004 - 11:37 am
    If it weren't for the shipping industry in the north, especially in New England, slavery would not have been profitable and would have died out. You might say that "money" was the root of all evil for both the north and the south. Abraham Lincoln in an open letter to Horace Greeley said: "My paramount object in the struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery," wrote Lincoln. "If I could save the Union without freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." The president agreed that "slavery is the root of the rebellion, that emancipation would "weaken the rebels by drawing off their laborers" and "would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition." "Battle Cry of Freedom"

    "He had a rich abundance of idle time, but it never hung heavy on his hands, for he interested himself in every new thing that was born into the universe of ideas, and studied it and experimented upon it at his house. One of his pet fads was palmistry. To another he gve no name, neither would he explain to anybody what its purpose was, but merely said it was an amusement. In fact, he had found that the fads added to his reputation as a "pudd'nhead"..."

    The use of fingerprints for identification purposes was proposed late in the 19th century by the British scientist Sir Francis Galton, who wrote a detailed study of fingerprints in which he presented a new classification system using prints of all ten fingers, which in the basis of identification systems still in use. In the 1890s the police in Bengal, India, under the British police official Sir Edward Richard Henry began using fingerprints to identify criminals.

    I found it fascinating how Twain had taken a new idea and wove into a story. It must have been exciting for the readers of the time to read about such things. It must have have been interesting living in the 1800's when all these new ideas and inventions were popping up all over the place.

    March 3, 2004 - 11:48 am
    Since I'm still rather new here I may be treading on ground already discussed but I'll chance it if you'll stay with me. I went back to the Introduction "Whisper to the Reader" and was immediately caught up in MT's literary style, i.e. the description of his fastidious adherence to "legal matters" and his dependence on William Hicks. This has got to be the longest sentence in American literature (up to that point) which he is writing on January 2, 1893 in Florence, Italy, a description of which may be the second longest sentence - and now mine which may very likely be the third!

    Getting back just for a moment to Puddn'head's decision to stay in Dawson's Landing we have made some assumptions as to his reasons. But we have not asked why - coming from the sophisticated environs into which he was born and educated - did he choose this sleepy little own to "seek his fortune".

    chris barnett
    March 3, 2004 - 02:12 pm
    Hey Puddin'Heads:

    I am really enjoying your postings--again I'm traveling with fast company.

    Several people have asked about Sam's religion. Sam was raised Presbyterian--a "blue light" Calvinist. He went to Sunday school, read the bible, memorized scripture--but once he left home he also left religion behind. While courting his future wife Olivia (Livy)Langdon, who was an evangelical christian raised in an abolitionist family in Elmira, New York, Sam did his best to become a christian. Their courtship is a great story. He fell in love with Livy before they ever met. While traveling in the Middle East, a trip that became his book "The Innocents Abroad," Sam met Livy's brother, Charlie Langdon. Charlie happened to have an ivory painted locket of his sister, Livy along with him and showed it to Sam. Sam fell instantly in love with the girl and vowed to marry her. In 1867, Sam managed to make a trip to New York to "see his old friend Charlie." Sam and Livy's first date (along with the rest of the family) was to New York City to hear Charles Dickens read. Following the date, Sam stayed at the Langdon home for a few days and proposed several times, Livy turned him down each time. But Sam would not give up. He wrote to her for the next two years, asking that she help him become a redeemed man. She sent him religious tracts, which he read, he quit smoking, drinking and swearing. Finally in 1870 they were married. Their marriage was an absolute love match for 34 years until Livy's death in 1904. However, Sam's conversion to religion did not last, as a matter of fact, he quickly backslid, smoked upward to twenty cigars a day, smoked a pipe when he was smoking cigars, drank scotch, Bass and Guiness Ale and raised swearing to an art form, and actually shook Livy's faith as well. Sam never belonged to, or embraced any organized religion. Interestingly one of his closest friends was the Rev. Joseph Twitchell, a minister of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford--with whom he had long talks on religion, and traveled frequently with--even to Europe, Sam actually bought a pew at the church, more as a courtesy to Joe than any devotion. Sam was definitely a Freethinker, creating his own moral doctrine.

    And what about Roxy? She is only one sixteenth black--and as white as anyone in Dawson's Landing, but her dialect is 19th century "negro dialect." And yes Sam is noted as the originator of a purely American literatrue that used American vernacular in its purest sense, and was an artist in his usage of dialect--Sam said that Joel Chandler Harris, a close friend, was the real master of "negro dialect," but critics might argue the fact. In any case Roxy could pass for white, but she is a slave to death--unless freed by her master. Slave codes in the South defined a slave as anyone whose mother was a slave--regardless of the father, or how much black or white blood existed in the child--if your mother was a slave--you were a slave. Again what is Sam saying about all this? Something to think about.

    Look forward to tomorrow.

    March 3, 2004 - 02:49 pm
    Thank you, Chris, for that wonderful story of Sam's courtship of Livy. Imagine falling in love with a portrait and then doggedly pursuing the woman. I knew that Twain didn't have much truck with religion, but I had forgotten his friendship with Twitchell, his Congregational minister friend in Hartford.

    As the daughter of a Congregational minister, I can testify to the openness with which my father talked with other people about their beliefs and nonbeliefs. He belonged to an interfaith group of men (several ministers, a priest and a rabbi) that met once a month or so for lunch.

    I'm glad that you called Roxy's "whiteness" to our attention. She was only one-sixteenth black, but was considered black nonetheless. The language she learned as a black slave would continue to mark her for the rest of her life even if her skin did not give her away.

    It's an interesting period (as well as terrible) in American history. If a slave had one white parent and one African American slave parent, that person was a mulatto. If a mulatto and a white person had a child, that child was a quadroon. If that quadroon and a white person had a child, that child was an octoroon. I don't think that there was a name for children beyond that.

    At any rate, once enough generations were born and mixed, there were many African Americans who could "pass" for white. Roxy is one of these but she couldn't "pass" in 1830 because slavery was still in force and because her dialect was black.


    March 3, 2004 - 04:13 pm
    This is a very informative discussion group with so many postings already it is almost as long as the book hehehehe.

    The point Maryal brings up regarding language is one I noticed right away in PHW. Roxanne's speech is "slave" but she could pass for white. So her language will always mark her. As it would anyone raised in her circumstances. I have always thought that speech and "accent" defines "class", or where and how a person was raised much more than what a person looks like or wears.

    Took a long time to read but I am glad I persisted and read all the posts. As to Freethinkers -I have known some persons who described themselves with that word and when I ask if it was a religion they said definitely it was not a religion. However in our little town there were groups who met and discussed "stuff" in the local pool hall and my grandmother always told granddad not to hang around with those freethinkers. faith

    March 3, 2004 - 04:20 pm
    Welcome, Faith. I've been wondering where you were. Your definition of freethinker makes me think that perhaps grandma didn't want granddad to pick up any dangerous ideas!

    I don't think we use the term any more, do we? It sounds sort of complimentary to me, defining someone who thinks for him/herself, but I guess in Twain's day, it had more of a negative spin. Believers most likely wanted to convert the freethinkers or at least make them go away.

    March 3, 2004 - 04:28 pm
    My belief is that the naming of an atheist or even an agnostic was a very socially damming thing in those days in the USA, and I think it was in small town and closed societies even up to my young days pre WWII. So, these people who were not involved with religion at all but were discussing morals and ethics etc with each other called themselves Freethinkers instead of a more descriptive name. My grandfather was interested in everything under the sun and ready to join his buddies in the park, on the porch at the mercantile or in the pool hall for a good debate. fr

    Ella Gibbons
    March 3, 2004 - 04:45 pm
    Dinner is cooking but I have a few thoughts to express - shouldn't we be asking who is the father of Roxanne's baby? Could it be Percy Driscoll, father of the baby she just switched? And whom, I believe, Pudd'nhead may (a guess as I haven't read ahead) one day uncover?

    I have trouble reading dialect and it is helpful to me reading it aloud; lest my soulmate fear for my sanity, I go downstairs and shut the door. However, he continues to ask me what's going on in the story; he's not a reader himself but loves the tales!

    My thanks to whomever it was who posted the reason that the slaves feared to be sold down the river. It would have been one of my questions.

    The "Calendar" in Chapter III was thoughtful - satirical and true.

    Haven't we all hoped that when we die we look our best? Roxanne is so feminine hoping "to make her death-toilet perfect."

    March 3, 2004 - 06:02 pm

    my gosh isn't this fascinating? Who knew there was so much to this story? Chris has thrown down sort of a gauntlet and I was delighted to see it:
    "Just like the Mississippi River, seemingly smooth, but below the surface were hundreds of snags waiting to tear the bottom out of a steamboat." ... and "I think we need to watch out--not everything is as it may appear." ...and "Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever. By forever, I mean thirty years....I have always preached. That is the reason that I have lasted thirty years." Samuel Clemens, 1902"> ...and "But I have a had a 'call' to literature, of a low order--i.e., humorous. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is my strongest suit."

    ...and "I think Sam was a preacher throughout his life, and it might be safe to say his writings are his sermons. "

    I find that combination almost irresistible, a new puzzle, something's not as it seems, there's more depth here, my only problem, now, as a person who always sees beneath the surface, is how FAR down to go! Hahahaa We all know what's on the bottom of a river!

    Oh this is marvelous and adds an entire new slant to it (and a lot more interest).

    I've spent some time reading the extensive introduction in my text to this little story, and so far 7 distinguished esteemed critics see it completely differently and argue cogently, each one, for his own point of view. I think, then, that as readers, we can go ahead with some confidence, we know now, something IS there and if esteemed critics don't agree, then it's likely we'll find one who agrees with our theories!

    But what a puzzle it is. Thinking of respect and honor and dueling and the First Families of Virginia, Sir, with their ingrained sense of entitlement and righteousness and position and honor, (and why, Joan P asks ARE they all congregated here, in Dawson's Landing?) Great question, hahaha maybe birds of a feather?

    But thinking of Chris's statement that they would be ready to answer cordially any assault on their...honor with a duel or any other sort of physical means, now WHO does that remind you of?

    What other family which we now see depicted on television is so concerned with outward show of respect to their "honor" that they would fight for it physically?

    hahahaha Sunday's New York Times came just as I was wrestling with the improbabilities and smoke screens that is the Twins. In an interview David Chase, the creator of the Sopranos, (members of another sort of "family" to whom honor and respect are paramount) had this to say about writing their lives,
    ...it's really very easy to write The Sopranos, because everything that everybody says is untrue. Complete falsehoods, self-justifications, rationalizations, outright lies, fantasies and miscommunications. For that reason, I think there's always sort of a joke going on, which is that these people aren't communicating at all. These people are kidding themselves, and lying to themselves and to each other all the time.

    I found that fascinating, since, to me, it pertains to the Twins. So I thought I'd wait till I read the first three chapters, and I have, and I think it pertains somewhat to Pudd'nhead, as well.

    There are certainly lies, aren't there? And rationalizations. And fantasies. And self justifications.

    Unlike chapter 1, chapters 2 and 3 are quite dated, in their labels for black people, (if you saw Curb Your Enthusiasm on Sunday you saw Larry David learn that nobody uses the word "mulatto" any more either, haahhaah and good riddance). Speech patterns have changed (nobody says "gwine" any more,) and of course, slavery dates it immediately. (But isn't the dialogue true? He must have spent an awful lot of time and energy trying to get that right, that's NOT easy and most of the time falls flat to try to reproduce dialogue like that.) Nice contrast to the first dispassionate chapter.

    Several of the phrases fascinated me, I had to read bimeby several times, and, like Ella, read it aloud, before I realized what it was hahaha. I have not seen the term linsey-woolsey in a long time.

    And I wonder if THIS is the origin of the famous term "sell you down the river?"

    But I am seeing, in our own Mississippi here, quite a few undercurrents.

    Social status conferred by...what? "Now who would b'lieve clo'es could do de lie o'dat?" Are we seeing here a challenge to the notion that some people, like the First Families of Virginia, are actually no more noble than their clothes and social station have accommodated them to be?

    Roxy is described as noble and majestic, and the babies can be switched without anybody noticing (and why did Pudd'nhead not see the differences in the fingerprints)?

    Did he just put them away and not study them?

    Super questions in the heading! In answer to #3, I think Roxy thought that the life she had condemned the Driscoll heir to was all right because in church she heard a tale that the white folks had done it, the Queen had done it (what is that a reference to? The Old Testament?) so it was not a sin, " 'Tain't no sin--white folks has done it!"

    I love the quotes before each chapter. The first one reflects (and is SO true, isn't it?) how Pudd'nhead was brought low by the base laughter of the...people of the town, not the aristocracy, not the slaves, but the regular townspeople, so we seem to have so far 3 levels of society here? Or are there 4? Pudd'nhead, a lawyer, found his occupation destroyed, by ridicule and instead of moving on, stays. I am not sure why.

    The two quotes about Adam are particularly funny to me, having just finished a class in Paradise Lost, The theology of the one in Chapter 2, (Adam and the snake) and again in Chapter 3 (Adam let death in) would make a super side discussion all its own. Do you suppose Twain read Paradise Lost?

    Don't you find the name of the Driscoll heir marvelous? Thomas a Becket? (Not to mention Valet de Chambre.) Obviously Twain knows more than we thought.

    I think those who dismiss Twain out of hand as some kind of simplistic Will Rogers are seriously wrong and I'm very grateful to Chris for his direction here.

    Sorry this is so long and I haven't said half what I planned to but must stop.

    Oh, what's a "pantograph?"


    Joan Pearson
    March 3, 2004 - 07:52 pm
    This IS a fast crowd, CHris! So many good ideas, so much good information coming at us from every direction! Need some time to sort through ...

    Ma foi, Faith has landed in our midst. I recognized that little hehehe right off. Faith! You read ALL those posts? You're right, they are longer than than the book! An interesting observation on Freethinkers - "it would have been a socially damming thing to be named an atheist or even an agnostic in a small town" and, as Maryal says, "in Twain's day - freethinking had more of a negative spin - believers most likely wanted to convert the freethinkers." Do you think it would have been odd for Judge Driscoll, Dawson Landing's leading citizen - from a family of Presbyterians, to proclaim himself an atheist/agnostic by declaring himself a Freethinker? I still have to believe the man continued church attendance...to FFV men, appearances are everything.

  • ****************************************

    And lookee here - Gail came back! Yaaay! So happy you didn't get intimidated by this fast crowd. (I know I am!) I went back and reread Whispers after you mentinoned it. I can't get over the fact that Mark Twain lived in that sumptuous villa outside Florence? What was that about? This man is so complex. I loved mention of the streets, the camponile, the view, everything... because I was fortunate to spend a little time there this past fall. We had just finished Dante's Inferno...and The Dante Club and I was looking for any trace of Dante I could find in Florence. Sorry I missed the rock where he waited for Beatrice. I wonder if it's still there. Mark Twain saw it! I didn't taste any chestnut cake either - I think I have to go back!

    You ask a very good question - why would Pudd'nhead, from a Northeastern law school choose this sleepy little slaveholding town to practice law? Gail, I agree, there is a good deal of mystery surrounding this Pudd'nhead - he's been here for 20+ years, has no wife, no family and only one friend. Is he hiding something? Is he hiding out in Dawson's Landing?

  • ******************************************

    Scrawler writes - "I find it fascinating how Twain had taken a new idea (fingerprinting) and woven it into a story." Anne - do you sense that Pudd'nhead is Twain's alter-ego? Similar interests - "ironical" entries in his Calendar, the freethinking...

  • ******************************************

    Chris - what an unbelievable love story...not so much the pursuit, because that sounds like something Twain would do, but the fact that it lasted! A love match! He didn't even keep all the promises he made while wooing...but she stayed with him for 34 years! A romantic story - does he ever write of romance in his novels? I don't recall - but it's been a while. Don't see any here...look at poor lonely Pudd'nhead. Hey, here's an idea -
    Is Pudd'nhead the person Sam Clemens would have been had Livy turned him down?
  • Joan Pearson
    March 3, 2004 - 09:16 pm
    Chris asks the question du jour - what is Sam saying about the fact that "Roxy would be a slave until death, unless freed by her master...because her mother had been a slave? It didn't matter how much black or white blood existed in the child." In Roxy's case, how would anyone know how much black blood or white? Maryal - "The language she learned as a black slave would continue to mark her for the rest of her life even if her skin didn't give her away." Hmmm...did Chambers (the real Tom Driscoll) having been raised as a slave, speak like his mother? Fai - "I have always thought that speech and accent defines class" - the real Chambers, a black slave who is passing as Tom Driscoll...his speech defines him as one of the white elite. Isn't this wonderful irony? Is Twain saying it is all nurture, not nature that makes the man? Was this the prevalant belief in his time?

    If you get a chance, reread the exhange between Jasper and Roxy. He is a suitor, of sorts...she won't have him because...?

    Ella! Another question to add to our list - who is the father of Roxy's baby? Percy Driscoll - the father of the baby that Roxy switched? What an imagination! Wouldn't that be some story? We'll have to wait for the next installment to see how this plays out.

    Ginny, on the clothes..."Are we seeing here a challenge to the notion that some people, like the FFV, are actually no more noble than their clothes and social station have accommodated them to be?"

    Ella, yes, it was "feminine" of Roxy, wasn't it...to want to make her "death-toilet" perfect. She puts on her "linsey-woolsey" - what is that, Ginny? You are familiar with the term - is it a southern thing? I'll tell you "pantograph" if you tell me "linsey-woolsy"... I think you've hit on something important here, Ginny...more mystery surrounding Pudd'nhead Wilson. "Why didn't he see the differences in the babies' fingerprints? Did he just put them away and not study them?" I went back to reread the description of what he usually did after he took the prints...
    "He often studied his records, examining them and poring over them with absorbing interest until far into the night; but what he found there - if he found anything - he revealed to no one."

    March 4, 2004 - 05:27 am
    Great and subtle point, Joan P!! Love that contrast! That is what he usually did with the prints, but he was busy this time, perhaps. For some reason, despite Roxy's fear that he would see thru the switch,

    Wilson took the fingerprints, labelled them with the names and with the date--October the first--put them carefully away and continued his chat with Roxy who seemed very anxious that he should admire the great advance in flesh and beauty which the babies had made since he took their finger-prints a month before. He complimented their improvement to her contentment...He discovered nothing.

    I guess he could hardly do a detailed study of them while entertaining her, so he, or so it seems, saw nothing at that time. But WE know, as you point out, that he takes them out and studies them, but Roxy does not...are we verging on irony again here: Roxy now sleeps secure that he didn't seem to see the difference...wow.

    Linsey- Woolsey is "a coarse sturdy fabric of wool and linen or cotton," I don't know if that's a southern thing or not the first time I ever heard it was at a production of Mame, (but it was the name of a Southern character, come to think of it!) hahahaa

    Oh I did look up brad awl and found "brad•awl: an awl with chisel edge used to make holes for brads or screws." I don't know particularly if that's an old tool or something that's used today, but I've got some old tools my father had, which are more than 100 years old and some of them are really ingenious, some of them are very clever. (Interestingly enough when we had a theft in the barn, the thieves took the new tools and left these, shows you what they knew!)


    March 4, 2004 - 05:37 am
    Talking about theft, I think, to answer one of the questions, the slaves thought of petty theft as a way of fighting back. Didn't they think of it almost as a "military" strategy? In other words, since their masters, had taken their freedom, they thought of stealing as a kind of revenge.

    "Was she bad? Was she worse than the general run of her race? No. They had an unfair show in the battle of life, and they held it no sin to take military advantage of the enemy--in a small way;"

    I didn't understand. Why did Driscoll name the one baby after Thomas a Beckett?

    March 4, 2004 - 05:52 am
    Oh, one more post. When Roxy decided to cover the boys' faces with jam, I thought that was really funny. Roxy said, if she had to, she would smear the jam on for one whole year. That really made me laugh.

    Jo Meander
    March 4, 2004 - 10:16 am
    Is it possible that Wilson already knows what Roxy has done? There's a reason for those fingerprints in the plot, I'm sure, just as there's a reason for him to stay in Dawson's Landing.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 4, 2004 - 11:05 am
    Your description of Sam's cats and their names were delightful and I copied it all out and sent it to my daughter who has two of the little critters whom we, at the moment and for a year, are taking care of while she is away.

    One white, one black and this is the time of their shedding - cat hair everywhere!!!! They are adorable until you clean out the litter boxes and the hair from everywhere and then you mutter and stammer a bit - I swear if she gets another and we are asked to catsit I will send her a bill!

    With all those pets, I hope Sam's Livy had servants or were smart enough to keep them outside???

    chris barnett
    March 4, 2004 - 01:19 pm

    Again I have really enjoyed your comments--this is all great fun. Thank you for such amazing participation.

    A couple things I thought might be intersting to offer:

    Someone mentioned Galton--whose early work in fingerprinting helped to establish fingerprints as a means of identification. Well, Sam had that book in his library. There is a wonderful reference book by Alan Gribben, entitled "Mark Twain's Library Reconstructed" where Gribben did an amazing amount of research in recontructing Sam's personal library. It's a two volume set of most of the title's that Sam owned. Gribben notes Francis Galton's book "Finger Prints" published in 1892 as being among Sam's library. He also notes a letter written by Sam from Florence on November 10, 1892 to Chatto and Windus (book publishers) "The Finger-Prints has just arrived, & I don't know you could have done me a greater favor. I shall devour it" Interesting don't you think? It might be safe to say that Wilson's interest in fingerprints is not just a chance bit of plot.

    Several have also wondered who is the father of Roxy's child--we don't know yet, but it very well might come out later. Most importantly we already know that Roxy, except for her speech could pass for white, and now she has switched the two children--who no one can tell apart but Roxy--or perhaps a town fool. It will be interesting to see how these children develop in society, not simply because of birth, but influence. Again not all is as it may seem on the surface. Who is free? Who is slave? Who is honest? Who is dishonest? What's right and what's wrong? I also see a wonderful bit of irony that the slave child, Chambers, will now be known as "Marse Tom." I wonder what Mrs. Stowe would have thought of that?

    Also someone mentioned linsey-woolsey, and someone remembered it as being a cheap fabric made of wool and linen or cotton. Linsey-woolsey, as it was called was the common cloth from which slave clothing was made. It is surprising but there was an entire industry much of it in the northern states devoted to making slave clothing. Cheap fabric and roughly made shoes, that southern slave owners bought in bulk and distributed a couple times a year to their slaves.

    Also don't you think Roxy's comment on Wilson is intersting? "Dey ain't but one man dat I's afeard of, en dat's dat Pudd'nhead Wilson. Dey calls him a puddn'head, en says he's a fool. My lan', dat man ain't no mo' fool den I is! He de smartes' man in dis town...."

    Last, but not least, about Sam's use of dialect--he learned it from the slaves around Hannibal. His father also had slaves for servants, and as a boy, Sam spent his summers at his Uncle John Quarles' farm in Florida, Missouri. He recalled spending the days playing with the slave children, and the nights in the kitchen with a slave named Uncle Dan'l--who told tales late into the night, and how Uncle Dan'l's stories captivated him, not just the stories, but the way they were told--that's where Sam learned to tell stories, and he included many of Uncle Dan'l's stories in his later work and lectures--as a matter of fact--according to Sam, Uncle Dan'l became the model for Jim in Huck Finn.

    Looking forward to tomorrow.

    March 4, 2004 - 01:26 pm
    It just goes to show that if you bring loaded fingerprints on stage toward the beginning, something is going to happen with them by the end. If it doesn't, then Twain is not playing fair. To my knowledge he always played fair.

    As for why Wilson didn't notice the difference in the baby's fingerprints, I chalk it up to his being far more interested in the fingerprints of the adults in town. He seems to be taking those of the boys in order to have a whole series of them at different ages, his own little experiment showing that fingerprints remain the same. He would have no reason to examine them, would he?

    HATS--Yes, I think that Twain is very much on Roxy's side in the baby exchange matter. He understands that pilfering is a way of getting back, he understands the wrongness of the threat to sell someone down the river (or for that matter, to sell someone at all!) and he even has Roxy remember the story she heard about the English story of the boy prince who was exchanged with another baby. She reasons that White People came up with this idea. And she is now using it against them.

    OK, everyone--Just who was Thomas a Becket?


    And what does Valet de Chambre mean? (clue--it's French).


    March 4, 2004 - 01:53 pm
    Maryal-Valet de Chamber could mean the "attendant in chambers," guaranteeing sort of a butler job for her son when he grew up. Thomas a Beckett- Bishop of Canterbury? I have no idea why Roxie would know about this Thomas or what she would know. Black Church Preacher taught her about switching twins so what may they have taught her regarding this name? Of course there are lots of other Thomas' she may have thought of. Indeed it is a good name for her to give him if she knew she would switch them later but she didn't.

    Chris every timne I reread one of Mr. Twain's books I have to go reread the others that I am reminded of by the one I am reading. The Prince and the Pauper,for instance. Your post relating the Clements story, of he and his wife's life make me want to read "Innocents Abroad" as this is supposedly the story he wrote after their visit to Europe. Joan..you probably have read it but it is a fun book.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 4, 2004 - 03:11 pm

    now talking about cloth is going into my years teaching needlework - Linsey Woolsey was first made in Lindsy Suffolk England - it is made with the Tow which is the left over yarn on those long spools you can still find in antique stores that we use today as candle holders. Linen is made of flax which is grown in summer and summer clothes were made from the beaten flax woven into linen - sheep were sheared in fall and cloth was woven for winter clothing out of wool.

    Flax into linen provides long soft strands of yarn with a luster and used for the best household table cloths and coverlets - the tow is the shorter strands that are still soft and provide some comfort as compared to the itch of the wool especially when it is wet with persperation. Since all linen is expensive the lindsey woolsey was an affordable alternative.

    The natural color of linen is an off white and the natural color of wool is a darker beigiey brown and so lindsey woolsey was automatically a check using these two materials in their natural state.

    Woman's fashions were mostly a home industry even up to after the Civil War - the looms used to weave were brought over with the pilgrims where as in the South there was an influx of immigrants who made looms that were easier to thread using linen therefore easier to make lindsey woolsey which the cloth fit better the southern Winter as compared to all wool which also was eaten by more insects in the South. Gradually slave owners saw the advantage in having some cloth producing industry and they also built looms and had a shed for producing cloth.

    Most all women's day to day work cloth and clothes - housedresses - were made of woolsey lindsey regardless of heritage - until cotton became king and looms in the south were converted to weave cotton - seldom if ever was cotton woven in a home and so anyone dependent on making their own clothes, coverlets, and other household textiles like kitchen curtains etc. would be using lindsey woolsey long after after cotton or calico could be purchased.

    And so all that Twain is saying when he describes Roxy wearing Lndsey Woolsey is that she makes her own cloths and has a friend who weaves the cloth therefore she does not have the money to wear store boughten clothes.

    Sorry so long winded here but studying history by following the history of cloth was so much fun - from skins to felt to oil based cloth - they all had a history that was as a result of the economics of the cloth or the cloth trade made history - from taxes, to wars to extending land settlements.

    March 4, 2004 - 04:19 pm
    Fingerprints: the PBS special on Sam made it clear that he was fascinated by inventions and innovations of all kinds. So it's not surprising that he would know all about fingerprints, and see their dramatic potential in a story.

    I understand this interest ruined him financially, (as it has many before and after him) as he invested heavily in an invention that didn't work.

    My father was a patent lawyer who raised me to believe that innovation was one of the main things that allow humans to progress. He loved Twain, and especially "A Connecticut yankee in King Arthurs Court" where a "modern" man goes back in time and introduces many innovations.

    March 4, 2004 - 05:07 pm
    The fact that Pudd'nhead Wilson wears glasses makes Roxy very uncomfortable. Roxy thinks Pudd'nhead W. might be a witch. I think Roxy relates Puddn'head's glasses to the fact that he might be highly intelligent. I think she is intimidated by Pudd'nhead's education.

    March 4, 2004 - 05:09 pm
    Faith~You are sharp as usual! Yes, Roxy named her son Valet de Chambre, and it does mean servant of the bedchamber or butler--some kind of servant. What is interesting though is that she picked the name because she thought it had such a pretty sound.

    OK, now--the other little boy. His father names him Thomas a Becket, and yes, that would be the martyr murdered in the Cathedral at Canterbury. Sounds very Englishy, of course, which is no doubt what his father intended, but it turns out to be extremely ironic since it is the legitimate heir who is replaced by Roxy's son, Chambers, and Roxy's son becomes Thomas a Becket, shortened, thank heaven, to Tom.

    Twain is a master of language and also of naming. You can bet that he did not choose these names randomly.


    March 4, 2004 - 05:13 pm
    Yes, Hats perhaps Roxy is intimidated by Pudd'nhead. I'm most impressed that she is the only one in the book so far who understands that despite what people say Pudd'nhead Wilson is a smart man, in fact the smartest man in the town.

    And I think Roxy realizes that Pudd'nhead is smart because she is smart herself.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 4, 2004 - 10:28 pm
    Interesting how we consider a man interested in the newest technology and who takes time to banter with Roxy as smart, where as the Driscoll's involved in Land Deals that involve Law were made part of the woodwork - I wonder if it was more about they having no interest in the babies and her - or maybe Wilson had a natural curiosity that Roxy could identify with where as dealing in matters of Law that required reading and having an ear for men talking among themselves was not part of her life.

    Somehow with her, as we would call it street smarts, she believed she could fool those who did not seem to use their powers of observation where as Wilson had proven he put his power of observation into use regularly.

    We see that difference today as many are so educated in their profession they have no ability to think outside the box.

    Joan Pearson
    March 5, 2004 - 06:50 am
    "There's a reason for those fingerprints in the plot, I'm sure, just as there's a reason for him to stay in Dawson's Landing." I agree with you, Jo - and I'll add, I think there was a reason for the FFV Percy Driscoll to name his baby son after a murdered Catholic archishop - As Maryal mentioned yesterday - "Twain is a master of language and also of naming. You can bet that he did not choose these names randomly."

    Fai found the irony in Roxy's naming her baby - an "attendant in chambers" - You note she was "guaranteeing sort of a butler job for her son when he grew up" by giving him this name. I don't think she even knew what the name meant, did she, Faith? She just liked the way it sounded. Twain applies the irony later - when this valet becomes the master. Maybe we'll see his irony later in choosing the Thomas ŕ Beckett name - there has to be more too it than the fact that Percy Driscoll thought it sounded English when naming his son. Something else to look for as we read the upcoming chapters...it might be a symbol of something else.

    Chris - once again, thank you for filling us in with invaluable background information - Is Alan Gribben's two volume "Mark Twain's Library Reconstructed" on the shelf at the Mark Twain House? Where is Twain's personal library now? So! Twain was into fingerprinting...it is clear to me that Pudd'nhead IS Twain...living the soletary life that Twain would have lived in Dawson's Landing, had Livy not accepted his proposal....Pudd'nhead's views will mirror Twain's beliefs, methinks!JoanK...your father sounds much like Twain...he appears to have passed on his love for the man and his ideas to you. That's the link between Twain and Pudd'nhead, isn't it? Their belief that "Innovation was one of the main things that allow humans to progress." Pudd'nhead is not mired in the old ways as are the leading citizens of Dawson's Landing. Judge Driscoll, I can't pigeonhole him yet...

    Barbara, that's an interesting point - Pudd'nhead recognizes everyone in town - passing time with Roxy - no she's not "part of the woodwork" to hm. There's something about the fingerprinting, recognizing that each person has his own set unlike everyone else's - that ties in with his recognition of each person as an individual.

    ps. Chris, I had thought of asking you to check the Gribben book for insight into the Thoma ŕ Beckett name, but had a second thought that we might find something ourselves in later chapters. Will you make a note somewhere to check it out and tell us if there is anything there IF we come up empty at the end?

    Joan Pearson
    March 5, 2004 - 07:13 am
    Hats!...I love that! I'd forgotten Pudd'nhead's glasses that make Roxy uncomfortable...maybe she feels that he's looking, (peering?) right at her...into her soul. She thinks he has special powers...that he just might be a witch. I'd forgotten that too! Whether it's because she's intimidated by his education, or by what she sees as supernatural powers, she is afraid of him, isn't she?

    Wasn't the theft hilarious? Man's conscience is what's laughable here, isn't it? Roxy was the only one who was "innocent"...she had noticed the two dollars, but because of that "dad blame revival" she couldn't take the money - put it under a book where she might find it next week when she was "rational" again. hahahaha.

    Hats - "the slaves thought of petty theft as a way of fighting back." So, petty theft is not really "wrong" when considered in the scheme of things- (where does her Methodist religion intervene?) Her conscience seems to allow her to switch these babies- for much the same reason?

    Percy Driscoll is a piece of work too...he sleeps with a clear conscience that he didn't sell the thieving slaves down the river...for two dollars. But he thought nothing of selling them, did he? In fact he's proud of himself...plans to write it down to tell "Tom" about when he grows up! Ah, irony!

    It's Roxy who can't sleep soundly, realizing how close she came to being separated from her son...it is mother-love then, that causes her to switch the babies? But her conscience allows the real Tom Driscoll to enter the world of slavery, because the white man is responsible for this ungodly situation in the first place. Whew!

    So, are we ready to see how this plays out - Marse Tom as the valet...the valet the master? (hahaha, Chris, how HBS have enjoyed this!

    ps. Faith, I'm going to check out "Innocents Abroad" this afternoon! I haven't read it...and the title certainly describes how Bruce and I always feel when we go. Thanks for mentioning it!

    March 5, 2004 - 07:50 am
    Joan, I remember a saying in the sixties. "It's your thing. Do what you want to do." I think this saying or song fits the people of Dawson's Landing. As long as the people in Dawson's Landing can find a justification for their actions, they can do what they want to do. Even the deacon can steal a ham from the smokehouse because he has justifiable reasons for doing so, he thinks. It's all a hoot. The thought processes of the town are so funny.

    It's odd that in this quiet, peaceful town where you would expect to find so many moral thinking people instead, you find just the opposite. When we were discussing the trump and the trick, I think someone said that nothing will be as it seems. How true.

    Mark Twain is a lot of fun. I want to read more written by him. I probably missed the whole point of Huck Finn.

    I am enjoying all of Chris's comments. I look forward to all of them.

    March 5, 2004 - 10:42 am
    Roxy was able to have a different kind of relationship with Wilson because she was not his slave, whereas she could never discuss anything with the Driscolls. Her decision to switch the babies was simply because she did not want her child to live his life as she had to live hers as a slave. It doesn't appear that she gave any thought to what would become of the real Tom, now Chambers. We hear nothing about him and apparently Roxy has not given him a second thought.

    We also don't know anything about the townspeople of Dawson's Landing except for Patsy. (Am I getting ahead?) They are generally referred to as part of the landscape, acting and reacting in unison. Twain gives a name only to those who will play a part in the story.

    Apart from his interest in fingerprinting and other innovations we really don't know much about Wilson either. We don't know how he spends his days, does he have a social life, any romantic interests, close friends. Does he ever get away to St. Louis for a few days to reacquaint himself with city life. He also seems to have melted into the general citizenry of DL notwithstanding that he is still looked upon by everyone as a "fool - pudd'nhead".

    I understand that Twain was a master of language and that his use of the "Negro" dialect was meticulous. But I find it a hindrance in getting close to Roxy. It sets me apart from her and as I picture her in her "whiteness" her speech seems unnatural and merely a literary device. I know this was not Twain's intention, but it is how I react. The only time I can relate to Roxy is when Twain talks about her rather than having her talk for herself. Am I alone in this?

    March 5, 2004 - 10:45 am
    One more thing. Roxy chose the name for her son because she liked the sound of it. Where would she have heard it?

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 5, 2004 - 03:13 pm
    Maybe she heard it from someone on one of the riverboats which would be coming up from French speaking Lousianna - it has been years and years since we have heard black folk speak in a dialect but to me it puts an identity together that is fitting a black maid from a different era - although her dialect sounds more like the yardman than the daily or weekly maid - the sort of comfort of someone in the house like today we have mexican maids singing and chatting in spanish. And for that reason I am having a more difficult time registering the slavery aspect but you could taste the fear from Roxy -

    Her thinking of justifying switching the children reminds me of the reason offered by the lead character who won the oscar for the Movie Monster - I have so far only seen clips, but one clip on the Charlie Rose show was just that - men, raping and killing women left and right and so she comes to the conclusion she is simply doing what they do.

    Desperate caged folks will do whatever it takes to have some control over their life and if that is all they have is their life it appears they will use it to secure control. Not only is this a peek into the mind of a suicide but a peek into the mind of a women who fears for her child as some women we now read about with postpartum fears and depression who have assumed they cannot care for their children. The difference today's women have no one to switch their babies undetected therefore assuring in their mind the children's safety.

    The edges we push people by not respecting each person -

    March 5, 2004 - 03:42 pm
    Good Afternoon, Pudd'nheads All:

    I think I'll start a conversation on Roxy's bringing up of her son, now her master, young Tom. She indulges his every whim while she speaks to Chambers in a curt manner, being careful to discipline him in the same way she would her own child (if she hadn't exchanged the babies).

    Seems to me that Twain is weighing in heavily here on the Nuture side of the argument. If a child is raised as a little princling, the heir apparent, he most likely will be strong-headed and demanding as Tom is. The issue of slavery and the fact that Roxy as part of that system, must treat the two boys differently, deferring to the one and raising the other to be subservient, complicates matters.

    I wonder if Roxy had raised the original young Tom if she would have been so hyper-indulgent. Of course, she would still be a slave, but I think she might show more common sense.


    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 5, 2004 - 04:03 pm
    I agree common sense but I also see that just by virtue the child is not to be considered the superior race makes the child her master - we have so many families today that are struggling with this same issue of the younger generation being exposed to technology etc. that parents feel inferior and do not know where to draw the boundry lines. Here I am sure if Roxy did not give the master's child his head she would have been called down on it.

    what confusion she must be feeling knowing her child is safer but not turning out as she would have liked. I wonder if she even sees why he is becoming such a handful.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 5, 2004 - 04:16 pm
    How quickly Roxy disappears from the book - at least from the chapters we are discussing now; Twain introduces characters and disposes of them very easily. Perhaps they will come back again in later chapters?

    Yes, I agree that Roxy has made her own son her own master - couldn't she foretell this? She had full control of these two children - I do believe she could have done a better job, she was smart, so we are told, - but then, we wouldn't have a story would we?

    I must quote some original phrasing that I loved:

    "saying words which would not go well with a halo if he had one"

    the cat was off on three legs to meet an engagement.

    she swam in sunset seas of glory"

    And the twins are back, but they are separate now aren't they?

    Joan Pearson
    March 6, 2004 - 05:22 am
    The National Book Critics Circle announded their 2004 selections two days ago - The fiction award given to Edward P. Jones' The Known World is set in the same period as Pudd'nhead Wilson ...only from the viewpoint of the slave owner. I love it when an author receives an award like this for his first novel.

    Gail, I wonder if Edward Jones uses the dialect that prevents you from relating to Roxy. I think we can all relate to her situation, but was interested in your comment about finding the dialect off-putting. Was Twain trying to show us that it was hard for ANYONE to relate to the incongruity of Roxy's speech of the slaves dialect from the mouth of the blond hair, blue-eyed white woman? Who could relate to Roxy? I guess Jasper was interested, but she so much as told him that he was too black for her! Her own son couldn't relate to her - so you are not alone. I guess you could call it a "literary device" - to make you feel uncomfortable about the division that slavery had brought about.

    You made another interesting observation - that ties in with the first. The townspeople act "in unison", don't they? AS if they are conjoined - at the mind. They act together disapproving - or accepting until their views becomes the "norm"...as the way they judged Pudd'nhead when he first came to town. Roxy AND Pudd'nhead fall outside of the norm in this town. Hats - you said it all - morality in Dawson's Landing is relative...and Twain is quick to point that out. Everything is based on appearance -

    Barbara speaks of the "edges" people are pushed to when not treated as individuals. Twain is speaking to the general issue of slavery here, isn't he? I wonder how many slaves committed suicide. There are probably no records of this, but it seems that Roxy's circumstances were not very different from other slaves. Perhaps she was more isolated in her white skin.

    But isn't this exactly why Roxy feared Pudd'nhead? She feared that he WOULD look at her as an individual. He must be a witch because he wasn't like the rest of the townspeople. I think Pudd'nhead treated Roxy as a person, as an individual as her fingerprints, not because she wasn't his slave, Gail, but because this is Mark Twain now, recognizing her as a human being. Again, Pudd'nhead IS Mark Twain - if you were to ask me...

    Joan Pearson
    March 6, 2004 - 05:56 am
    Gail - - Barbara's answer to your question about where Roxy may have heard of a "valet de chambre" - the riverboats between Dawson's Landing and New Orleans - is a good one, don't you think? Chambers' (the real Tom) dialect interests me too. Does't it seem strange to you that these two boys spend so much time together...with Roxy - and yet they speak so differently? They've been together since they've learned to talk. How old were they when the swiich was made? As I recall it was before teething, so maybe they weren't talking yet. But Percy Driscoll spent no time with his son - it seems that the only voice crooning lullabies and talking to him was Roxy's. She wasn't treating the "real" Tom in this obsequious manner becore the switch - Maryal, somehow I really don't think Roxy would have been this "hyperindulgent" had the switch never been made. She has deified this dreadful child of hers. He seems to have turned into a monster immediately after the switch...teething marked the beginning of his tantrums and difficult behavior.

    What I really don't understand is how she let him lord it over "her people"...let him treat the negro slaves with the same indignities that made her life so miserable. Is Twain saying that anyone cast for the part as lord and master over another human being will act this way?

    Ella - Twain does fast-forward in this three-chapter installment - first we need to give Roxy her freedom and send Tom off to Yale so he's old enough to meet the Twins. Let's do that today. How old were the boys when Percy Driscoll died and Roxy left Dawson's Landing? (Ella, I'm thinking that your idea that Percy was the father of Roxy's baby isn't the one Twain has is mind. In this installment, he's written him out of the script!)

    March 6, 2004 - 01:01 pm
    "Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was, that they escaped teething." I love this and I can certainly relate to it (the teething part that is.) On second thought did Adam and Eve really escape teething?

    Does anyone know what the second one refers too: "There is this trouble about special providences - namely, there is so often a doubt as to which party was intended to be the beineficiary. In the case of the children, the bears (?) and the prophet, the bears got more real satisfaction out of the episode than the prophet did, because they got the children."

    "Tom got all the petting, Chambers got none. Tom got all the delicacies, Chambers got mush and milk, and clabber without sugar. In consequence, Tom was a sickly child and Chambers wasn't. Tom was "fractious," as Roxy called it, and overbearing; Chambers was meek and docile."

    I grew up in a time when "children were seen but not heard" which was fine with me. It left me more time to read. The only thing that my mother and I would fight over was whether or not the books I read were right for a young girl to read. Even at an early age I liked to read horror novels. But like Chambers I became meek and docile. I think it depends on the personality of the child whether they become overbearing or meek and docile.

    "With all her splendid common sense and practical every-day ability, Roxy was a doting fool of a mother. She was this toward her child - and she was also more than this; by the fiction created by herself, he was become her master; the necessity of recognizing this relation outwardly and of perfecting herself in the forms required to expess the recognition, had moved her to such diligence and faithfulness in practising these forms that this exercise soon concreted itself into habit; it became automatic and unconscious; then a natural result followed; deceptions intended solely for others gradually grew practically into self-deceptions as well; the mock reverence became real reverence, the mock obsequiousness real obsequiousness, the mock homage; the little counterfeit rift of separation between imitation slave and imitation master widened, and became an abyss, and a very real one - and on one side of it stood Roxy, the dupe of her own deceptions, and on the other stood her child, no longer a usurper to her, but her accepted and recognized master. He was her darling, her master, and her deity all in one, and in her worship of him she forgot who she was and what he had been."

    I think this paragraph is the key to the whole story. In her "worship of him she forgot who SHE was and what HE had been." I think this is a danger we all have in putting anyone up on a pedestal. We are all human beings and as such we are both good and evil at times. It is the constant fight between good and evil that makes us who we are. But if we compare ourselves to gods than we become less than human just as some of the characters in this book. The concept of reality plays a large part in this book.

    An important part of the theme of this book is reflected in the following: "Tom had long ago taught Roxy "her place." "She saw herself sink from the sublime height of motherhood to the somber depths of unmodified slavery. The abyss of separation between her and her boy was complete. She was merely his chattel now, his convenience, his dog, his cringing and helpless slave, the humble and unresisting victim of his capricious temper and vicious nature."

    Roxy has now come full-circle. She is now seeing reality for it is and has always been.

    "Wilson said to himself, "The drop of black blood in her is superstitious; she thinks there's some devilry, some witch business about my glass mystery somewhere; she used to come here with an old horseshoe in her hand; it could have been an accident, but I doubt it."

    What would have happened if the "the drop of black blood" would have had "more common sense and practical every-day ability". Do you think Twain was being ironic not only about the Negroes but also about all of us in regards to "superstitions"? "She used to come here with an old horseshoe in her hand;it could have been an accident, but I doubt it." Can anyone doubt that carrying around a horseshoe in her hand wouldn't be because Roxy was superstitious.

    March 6, 2004 - 01:04 pm
    Joan--You just posted,

    "What I really don't understand is how she let him lord it over "her people"...let him treat the negro slaves with the same indignities that made her life so miserable. Is Twain saying that anyone cast for the part as lord and master over another human being will act this way?

    That's such a good question. Perhaps we have an instance of the Stockholm Syndrome here. That is, Roxy identifies with those in power over her while at the same time being their natural enemy. The part of her that identifies just loves the secret she has that those black people are being fooled into cowtowing to her very own son. She isn't bothered by his behavior toward his own people because she has brought him up as the young white Master and he is filling this position.

    The other point you made that I think interesting, just like the one Joan K. made about Roxy and where she might have heard the phrase "valet de chambre," is when you wondered how two children brought up together by the same woman would develop such different accents.

    Again, the solution is not in the text, but throughout the South young black kids and white kids played together (usually until they were twelve at which point they went to their own sides of the racial dividing line) and yet the white kids came out speaking like white people and the black kids came out speaking like black people.

    I don't have any answers for either this point or Joan K's, but I think they are interesting questions.


    Jo Meander
    March 6, 2004 - 01:51 pm
    Barbara says, “Desperate caged folks will do whatever it takes to have some control over their life and if …all they have is their life it appears they will use it to secure control,” and I agree. I think that explains Roxy’s frame of mind when she contemplates death and suicide as ways of protecting her son, and then the incredible switch that seems to fool everyone, including Percy.

    Subsequent developments exhibit the effects of nature and nurture, in both boys, I believe. I agree, Maryal that Roxy would not have been so impractical in her manner of raising the real Tom as she is with her own child: her commonsense failed her the minute she saw she had a chance to purchase with deception a life of privilege for Valet de Chambre, getting a form of vengeance for her people and assuring that Chambers’ life would be secure and happy. Thomas a Beckett’s nature in his reduced circumstances strongly suggests that he would not have used his advantage over Chambers as the false Tom has. The obvious irony that spoils Roxy’s scheme is Chambers’ inborn tendency to be a real brat and an imperious master while Tom conducts himself with patience, courage and a natural power that Chambers lacks. After swimming, Chambers/Tom ties knots in Tom/Chambers’ clothes and soaks them so that the shivering boy will have a hard time getting dressed while his master laughs at his struggles. Twain says that Tom /Chamber “did his humble comrade these ill turns partly out of native viciousness and partly because he hated him for his superiorities of physique and pluck, and partly because of his manifold cleverness.”
    Twain was aware of nature and nurture, the two forces that determine our individual destinies.

    This is mostly a guess, but I'll bet the owner's children had to spend cerain extended periods of time under family and teacher influences, and were probably disiplined not to drop into the black vernacular. We all want the best for our children,including their speech patterns,and wouldn't that desire be even deeper in a culture believing in its own inborn superiority to its slaves?

    March 6, 2004 - 04:02 pm
    Whether Roxy switched the babies or not, I think the "real" Chambers would have suffered. Being cast in the role of master he suffered because he was treated as a superior person. He was led to believe that other people were beneath him. Therefore, he became an uncouth human being.

    If he had remained the baby of a slave, Roxy, he would have suffered because he would have been taught that he was not worthy to be called a man. In one part, Driscoll lumps his slaves with his animals. "Driscoll's patience was exhausted. He was a fairly humane man toward slaves and other animals..."

    I think, in either case, the cards were stacked against the "real" Chambers.

    As far as dialect is concerned, I don't think dialect separates us. I think, first, color separates us. Roxy's "whiteness" would have separated her from the white race because it would have been known that her biological father must be white. This would make her a threat to any white woman or the mistress of the house.

    At the same time, her "whiteness" would have separated her from the other black people or slaves because her "whiteness" would have made them feel inferior because of their blackness. After all, the lighter skined blacks were the house slaves. The darker blacks were the field hands. I think this must have caused a division between the slaves.

    I feel very sorry for Roxy and her son. They were caught between a rock and a hard place.

    I think Mark Twain is saying that slavery was a cruel and unusual system that could never have been remedied.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 6, 2004 - 06:15 pm
    "Being cast in the role of master he suffered because he was treated as a superior person. He was led to believe that other people were beneath him. Therefore, he became an uncouth human being." YES, YES, YES!

    Interesting about her whiteness being a problem among other Black families - hmmmm and yes I have heard that the lighter Black you are the more it works to your benefit not only here in the States but all over the world - hmmmm! Makes Roxy a pretty isolated person - it also gives me a new slant when I remember the story of "Show Boat" - I think it was Lenna Horn who plays the part of a women with light black skin who ends up singing in the dives of some northern city. Her character did not have a dialect but she was known to be part black which now I can see meant she had no place among either black or white families.

    March 6, 2004 - 06:21 pm
    Barbara, that is how I see Roxy. I see her as an "isolated person." I could not think of the way to put it. "Isolated" is the word that I could not think of or recall.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 6, 2004 - 06:35 pm
    " She has deified this dreadful child of hers. He seems to have turned into a monster.." Joan said.

    We are all talking about nurture and nature. Could Tom's atrocious behavior be partly due to nature (genetics) rather than nurture? We don't know his father and he could have inherited personality traits, do you think?

    PHW's calendar - "Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."

    Tom is still just cabbage! Yale did nothing for his popularity among his peers or the townspeople - he wore gloves and fashionable clothes and paraded about the town, not the characteristics to make him friends.

    Judge Driscoll and Wilson, as the sole members of the Free-thinkers, are funny, aren't they? They had weekly lunches and I wonder if anyone ever joined them? Were the lunches at a local restaurant? Did they ever gossip about the town and its citizens?

    Wilson's Calendar and its "cute" quips certainly met with derision - "he simply didn't count for anything" - and he was left to his own company which seems to have suited him well.

    Rowena was of "no consequence" either, although young, pretty and romantic. Her brothers likewise.

    And when the ITALIANS, from EUROPE, come what a grand stir! It elevated Rowena's importance in her eyes that the twins were living in her own home.

    March 6, 2004 - 09:11 pm
    I have been musing about my difficulty with Roxy's speech pattern and that the reason might have been because it had the effect of setting me "above" her and that made me feel uncomfortable. Having given it much thought I believe that if Roxanna (MT uses the names interchangeably) and I were to have a personal "conversation", that is, speaking aloud to one another, I would have no difficulty relating to her because I would still be able to think and speak in my own "dialect". whereas in reading her speech patterns the words sound almost foreign as I articulate them in my head. You have to read her words as she would say them and that feels unnatural. It makes you (or I) concentrate on the sound of the words rather than the meaning. I don't mean to beat a dead horse here but I needed to clear that up, at least for myself. .

    March 6, 2004 - 09:26 pm
    It seems to me that throughout, Sam sets his slave characters apart from us at the same time that he makes their situation tragic. He does this in the scene where Roxy is considering killing herself and her baby -- a deeply tragic scene, yet he makes her look comic by emphasizing the poor taste of her clothes. In Huck Finn, when the slave Jim is about to finally get his freedom, he has that rediculous (and hard to read today) scene where Jim is made to look like a simpleton.

    I would like to hear Cris on this point. I had made up the following theory. I think the whites of that day were afraid of the slaves getting their freedom, and also afraid to see the slaves as human beings who were suffering. By portraying them as comic characters who were still inferior, Twain made the situation seem less threatening. I have read somewhere that even anti-slavery whites saw the slaves as children who would need white guidance after they were freed. Whether Twain felt that way, or was doing this for his audience, I don't know.

    I have some personal information on this point. My great great grandfather was an abolitionist who ran a station on the underground railway and was very proud of his distant relationship to John Brown of Harpers Ferry. But his letters, which I have, show this kind of condescention toward the actual freed slaves which he met.

    March 6, 2004 - 11:55 pm
    Don't you feel that in many cases slaves who finally were freed were in a worse situation. It wasn't that they were childlike or comical, they were completely innocent and inexperienced of the ways of the free world. They now foun themselves forced to earn a living.....doing what? All they knew was field work. They were thrust into the "white" world and indeed needed help to get an education, learn a trade, find a home, all of which they were unprepared for. That they achieved all this, given these circumstances, speaks volumes for their fortitude. Roxy had no home now but she decided to go chambermaiding on a steamboat, "the darling ambition of her race and sex."

    She refused to accept the fingerprints from Wilson wondering if he suspected anything about Tom and Chambers and their background.

    Roxanne was not alone in raising and pampering "Tom". He was given all that he desired by Judge Driscoll and his sister. And what did Roxy's love and care get her in return....she was taught her "place" by her own son. "She saw her darling gradually cease from being her son....all that was left was master....and it was not a gentle mastership... She saw herself sink from the sublime height of motherhood to the somber depths of unmodified slavery....she was his chattel, his convenience, his dog, his cringing and helpless slave...."

    Joan Pearson
    March 7, 2004 - 06:25 am
    A good sunny Sunday morning, everyone? Hope it is as glorious a day when you open your eyes...as it is here!

    Such thought-provoking comments posted here yesterday. They made me reread, reexamine and rethink what I thought I understood after first reading...
  • Nature/Nurture ~Ella - "Could Tom's atrocious behavior be partly due to nature (genetics) rather than nurture?"
    We'd been talking so much about the effects of his environment that made Tom the person he was...genetics hadn't really been part of the discussion.
    ~ Scrawler - "I think it depends on the personality of the child whether they become overbearing or meek and docile."

    ~ Jo - "Roxy’s scheme is Chambers’ inborn tendency to be a real brat and an imperious master while Tom conducts himself with patience, courage and a natural power that Chambers lacks." Jo, it appears we, I have been overlooking the fact that "Twain was aware of nature and nurture, the two forces that determine our individual destinies." Maybe this is the reason I sometimes confuse the dual messages I'm getting from him? Things are not always as they appear to be on the surface because the genetic heritage, the nature of the beast is not always observable?

    JoanK - about your theory on Twain's use of comedy ..."I think the whites of that day were afraid of the slaves getting their freedom, and also afraid to see the slaves as human beings who were suffering. By portraying them as comic characters who were still inferior, Twain made the situation seem less threatening." I'd like to hear from Chris on this point too - and to hear more about the impact of this story on his readership at this time.

  • Isolation
    Hats, Barbara, Roxy is "Isolated" and so is Chambers-who-is-Tom. The measure used by the collective brain of the townsfolks has isolated Pudd'nhead in much the same way. And Tom-who-is Chambers is isolated from his own "mammy" - the townsfolk - his peers - the Judge "loves" him only when he is not at home!!!

    Oh yes, Hats, "I think Mark Twain is saying that slavery was a cruel and unusual system that could never have been remedied." To me it's strange that so many people accepted it as the norm at this time?

    Maryal - "Roxy identifies with those in power over her while at the same time being their natural enemy. The part of her that identifies just loves the secret she has that those black people are being fooled into cowtowing to her very own son. She isn't bothered by his behavior toward his own people because she has brought him up as the young white Master and he is filling this position." This helps understand the position in which Roxy found herself.

    Gail - "She saw herself sink from the sublime height of motherhood to the somber depths of unmodified slavery....she was his chattel, his convenience, his dog, his cringing and helpless slave"...MT's description of Roxy's role here as a "cringing dog" doesn't jive with my stereotyped understanding of the relationship that I thought existed between the slave, the nanny, the 'mammy' who raised a young master, or mistress. I'd always thought there was...a life-long tenderness between them because of that important early relationship. (Lots of stereotyping and superstitions need to be reexamined.)

    Scrawler, I DO think " Twain was being ironic not only about the Negroes but also about all of us in regards to "superstitions" - there's a close link between superstition and stereotyping come to think of it!)

    Are you sure MT uses the names Roxy and Roxana interchangeabley, Gail? I had a notion - but never followed up on it...thanks for answering that one. I was wondering if different people called her by a different name - other slaves might have called her Roxy, would her masters have called her the familiar "Roxy" or more formal, "Roxana"? I thought Twain might have referred to her with some respect and called her "Roxana"...

    I'm still interested in your thoughts on his use of dialog... would it have helped had MT never let Roxy/Roxanna speak throughout the story - or if he did include dialogue - should he have written it without the dialect?

    Back in a minute with a bit more on that Calendar...
  • Joan Pearson
    March 7, 2004 - 06:38 am
    This will be fast...husband pointing to wristwatch...we're late. This is the question we are considering at this point - "How did the folks of Dawson's Landing react when the Judge showed them Pudd'nheads Calendar? Why did he show it to them? Didn't he know how they would respond to Pudd'nhead's irony?"

    Scrawler asked about the calendar entry that introduced Chapter V ..."Does anyone know what the second one refers too: "There is this trouble about special providences - namely, there is so often a doubt as to which party was intended to be the beineficiary. In the case of the children, the bears (?) and the prophet, the bears got more real satisfaction out of the episode than the prophet did, because they got the children." I found this...
    >Elijah was a Prophet, and he worked very hard and long for God. When it came time for him to go to Heaven, God told him to get Elisha to replace him.

    Now, Elisha was young and strong. When Elijah found him, he was in the field plowing with twelve horses. He was eager to go to work for God. He promised Elijah he would be faithful and stand by him.

    Elijah said "What wish shall I give you before I am taken away?" "Please give me twice as much prophet-power as you have," Elisha answered. Elijah said "That's a lot to give, but if God will let you see me leave for Heaven then the wish will be granted."

    Suddenly, as they were walking along talking, a chariot of fire-drawn by horses of fire-appeared, and Elijah was carried off by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it all, and knew he would be a great and powerful Prophet of God.

    He picked up Elijah's coat, and started off to work. As he walked along, a gang of young boys from the city began mocking him, and making fun of his bald head. Two she bears came out of the woods and killed forty-two of them: God protected Elisha.

    March 7, 2004 - 07:46 am

    Good heavens, thank you for that, Joan, I can't recall ever reading it and didn't know what was referred to, (shows you how much good it has done me to read the Bible straight thru all these years!)...I did recall the chariot but I usually get it confused with Ezekiel, I love that old spiritual Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, (and will sing it on the drop of a hat) hahaah We can see whose wheels need turning, hahahaha Another substitution!

    Love the picture in the heading and the questions! I love what everybody has said here, so many wonderful points!

    I'm struck, for my own part, by so many things in this section. (Great point, Hats on the "separateness" of Chambers, any way you look at it! I thought that was wonderful, actually gasped.)

    Something that really jumped out at me is the dispassionate rendering of these different levels of society by the incredibly all knowing narrator, most of which are not what they seem. No matter what myths or beliefs we may have held that Twain is shattering, note that he never seems to take sides? No matter how awful what he's relating or hinting at, the narrator, like Homer in The Iliad, never takes sides, but instead presents it to the reader as it was...which almost forces the reader to form his own conclusions. We have impersonation, we have identity switches, I think for a reason, we have false assumptions and misconceptions, and we have this little society about to be rocked, by more than one thing.

    Challenges to this type of society would destroy it (and did). A town like Dawson's Landing, being ON the Mississippi, would be dangerously situated, you'd always have people coming from other areas (like Pudd'nhead) who were different, who were thus exposed to other ways, and who were, thus, dangerous.

    Now we can see, or I think I can, why small towns even now reject vociferously and with ridicule, anything new. It challenges and destroys their own preferred way of life.

    How would the townspeople react to such strangers? Defensively and derisively? Again Twain explores this theme: Pudd'nhead is labeled a "fool," Tom returns "Easternized," and we see what happens to him, but the society that existed is already weakening, as it's built on half truths and lies, just like most of the characters.

    THEN the twins come and because Rowena and her mother are impressed, (we can see why Twain removed, perhaps the conjoined element of them?) and the Sister Coopers and Brother Higginses of the town are overcome, despite themselves, with the "indisputable" title of Count, and don't know whether to address them as "M'Lord," or what? Rowena is in her "glory," and the "outside" is seen, maybe for the first time, as something desirable. I am really seeing social commentary here, and the statement that ultimately it's built on falsehoods, no matter how fine it may have started, everybody seems to be playing a role, (do they in real life?) and almost everything known is built on misunderstandings, false conceptions of identity, (shown pitifully in Roxy's change in attitude once the clothes make the man/ master) and miscommunication.

    "The river" also seems to be a continuing theme, it's a threat (sold down the river) and it also brings change. There's a lot here, I think.

    OK on the question on the calendar, I may be the only person, but I am totally confused over the "calendar." I understand that Twain originally meant to relate the sayings to the text, and then left it off, OK I got that, but I have a copy of "the calendar" at the end of my book and none of these sayings are in it? None. Which "month" are we in, say in Chapter 4 and why the continual references to Adam and Eve? Is Dawson's Landing, in the conception of the FFV, a Garden of Eden? And if so who is the snake who has brought knowledge and change?

    Chris, is Paradise Lost among Twain's books in his library?

    In chapter 2 we have an hilarious take on Adam, the snake, and the apple, is Twain making an allegory here about the townspeople and their crumbling society?

    (I absolutely howled over this one, the "calendar" for Chapter 5: "...cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." Oh I love that. What is Twain SAYING there?)

    Joan, if you think Pudd'nhead is Twain himself, then do you think he is making a larger statement about the world he finds himself in?

    March 7, 2004 - 09:02 am
    My edition has these notes on the freeing of slaves which I found interesting and thought you would, too:
    "On his death bed Driscoll set Roxy free…"

    The setting free of slaves (manumission), particularly on the death of the owner, were common. There were 319,000 free Negroes in the United states by 1830. But legislation began to make manumission more difficult as free Negroes seemed to be an increasing social problem; and some states required Negroes to leave the state on being freed. More, freedom was relative. Many states prohibited the entry of free Negroes; rights of assembly were often curtailed and rights of suffrage almost never granted; other prohibitive laws could make it virtually impossible for freed slaves to make a living. (Malcolm Bradbury)

    Things were not only seldom what they seemed, they were not what we thought, as Gail said, either, apparently. Free was not always free.


    March 7, 2004 - 10:07 am
    This may be off the subject for the moment but please stay with me. This is a most delicious use of English and opens the imagination to all the wonders around us that we take for granted.I don't remember in which chapter this is located. I had been reading my own copy of PW before this discussion started so I may be anticipating this before we actually get to it. As you read this roll the words around on your tongue and see what flights of fancy are inspired!

    "The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world's luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented."

    Imagine taking something as plain as everyday watermelon and making it into a thing of beauty = a veritable Mona Lisa of the senses.

    OK - now back to the discussion.

    March 7, 2004 - 01:29 pm
    Joan thanks for answering my question about Wilson's calendar. It shows that Twain must have been at the very least a Bible reader.

    Slavery in the US: In 1800 the population of the US included 893,602 slaves, of which 36,505 were in the northern states. The 3,953,760 slaves at the census of 1860 were in the southern states. From the earliest period of the national exitence, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, regarded slavery as evil and inconsistent with the principles with the Declaration of Independence. The Society of Friends, Presbyterian church, and the Methodist Episcopal church had strong antislavery views between 1787 and 1836. But there were also individuals and groups of persons of almost all sects who defended slavery. On the whole, antislavery views grew steadily, but many who personally held strong antislavery opinons hesitated to join actively in abolitionist agitation, unwilling to dispute what many citizens held to be their rights. We are told that the story takes place in 1830, so this must have been the views of the citizens of Dawson's Landing as well.

    I just love Wilson's Calendar: "Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." I don't think I'll ever be able to eat cauliflower again without gigling.

    "Remark of Dr. Baldwin's concerning upstarts: We don't care to eat toadstools that think they are truffles." Hummm. I bet Freud would have had a field day with this one.

    "For some years Wilson had been privately at work on a whimsical almanac, for his amusements - a calendar, with a little dab of obstensible philosophy, usually in iroical form, appended to each date; and the Judge though that these quips and fancies of Wilson's were neatly turned and cute; so he carried a handful of them around one day, and read to some of the chief citizens. But irony was not for those people; their mental vision was not focused for it. They read those playful trifles in the solidest earnest, and decided without hesitancy that if there had ever been any doubt that Dave Wilson was pudd'nhead - which there hadn't - this revelation removed that doubt for good and all. That is just the way in this world; an enemy can partly ruin a man, but it takes a good-natured injudicious friend to complete the thing and make it perfect."

    Wasn't it shrewd of Twain to think of this - especially the last few lines. It really makes you stop and think.

    "He [Tom] brought back one or two new habits with him, one of which he rather openly practised - tippling - but concealed another, which was gambling. It would not do to gamble where his uncle could hear of it; he knew that quite well."

    I thought this was an interesting description of Tom. Drinking was approved, but not gambling.

    "The widow Cooper - affectionately called "Aunt Patsy" by everybody - lived in a snug and comely cottage with ther daughter Rowena, who was nineteen, romantic, amiable, and very pretty, but otherwise of no consequence. Rowena had a couple of brothers - also of no consequence."

    I love this describtion of Rowena and her brothers. They hardly worth mentioning at all, or so it would seem to Twain at least. It makes you wonder why he did, but I guess we'll find out soon enough.

    March 7, 2004 - 02:33 pm
    It seems that Twain disposes of characters who are not necessary to the story, like Rowena's brothers and Rowena herself, as we shall see. Likewise his treatment of the citizens of Dawson's Landing. As I noted in an earlier post he refers to them as a whole, never as individuals. Note his observation of how "they" responded to Wilson's Calendar notations when Judge Driscoll read them to "the townspeople". Even Chambers/Tom is only mentioned as he relates to Tom/Chambers. We are aware of how "Tom" thinks and what his values are, but we don't know anything about "Chambers". So does that mean that "Chambers" plays no part in this story?

    March 7, 2004 - 06:55 pm
    FREED SLAVES: we don't learn much in history books about freed slaves, but they were definitely part of the society. I live in Maryland, one of the four slave states that fought with the north in the Civil War. I was surprised to learn that in Maryland at the time of the Civil War, half of the Blacks were freed slaves. It was the custom for rich men to free their slaves in their will (as Thomas Jefferson did in Virginia. This is called having your cake and eating it too -- or maybe eating your cake and giving it away too.) But it was a precarious existance. A white man could sieze them, distroy their papers, and claim they were his slave, and the "slave" would have no recourse. So many people moved in and out of slavery several times. Typically, a freed slave would move to Baltimore (the biggest city in the state) and get some kind of craftsmans job there. Frederick Douglass's autobiography (he was born in Maryland) gives a good descripyion of this. I recommend reading it, if you haven't. It is short, and fascinating reading.

    I was also surprised reading about the fights in Kansas as to whether it would be a slave or free state that of the anti-slavery people wanted to ban slavery but also ban freed slaves from entering the state. They believed slavery was wrong, but didn't want to have anything to do with its victems.

    March 7, 2004 - 06:59 pm
    Douglass's autobiography is online. Here is the link:


    Jo Meander
    March 7, 2004 - 11:18 pm
    JoanK, you said,” By portraying them as comic characters who were still inferior, Twain made the situation seem less threatening. I have read somewhere that even anti-slavery whites saw the slaves as children who would need white guidance after they were freed. Whether Twain felt that way, or was doing this for his audience, I don't know."
    Thanks for bringing this matter to the fore. It's been niggling and nagging at me, and I didn't know how to state it. The scene where Roxy dresses herself in her funeral "finery" seems almost insulting: Twain describes her costume as a gaudy, cheap, and very colorful imitation of a fine lady's dress, finished off with a "cloud" of something worn like a frill of tulle around the shoulders or maybe like a very light shawl. The one Roxy wears is red! The description seems to be a study in “bad taste.” I wonder what Twain thought about the mentality of the blacks. Did he think they lacked "taste,' or that they simply had no opportunity to develop what the whites would consider tasteful? It sounds that way to me. I suspect white people in the nineteenth century (most of them, at least) looked upon slaves as creatures incapable of good judgment. The idea that they had a culture or came from a culture where values and preferences differed from those of Euro-Americans doesn't seem to have occurred to Twain, or at least he didn't think it necessary to dignify it in this scene. I think we may be witnessing an early stage in the development of the white man's understanding of his own prisoners.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 8, 2004 - 04:14 am
    I get the impression that Twain is saying that the only difference between the Twins and Roxy or Chambers is being educated, traveling in Europe and playing a classical instrument - hmmmm - something is missing with that line of thinking - seems to me the society that you live in has to respect and desire education, European Travel and making music on a classical instrument - in other words whatever society respects is allowing you a place in the pecking order - and here the twins are feted by Dawson's Landing but Tom comes back in his finery and is the butt of the towns joke - and so it is not just education or fine clothes - maybe it is the novelty of having visited or lived in a place only read about in books?!?

    Joan Pearson
    March 8, 2004 - 05:27 am
    Jo - you've expressed the same lurking discomfort that I've been feeling...the "funeral toilet" is a good example - every so often I get the uneasy feeling that Twain's satire might be backfiring - that he may be proving the very ideas that he intended to refute. Your observation helps me to understand that after all, Twain IS a man of his times...a "Freethinker", he is ahead of his times, but this is still his world - as you say, he is "in the early stage in the development of the white man's understanding of his own prisoners."

    Ginny, I do think that Pudd'nhead is the man himself - "making a larger statement about the world he finds himself in"- I think Pudd'nhead's gradual realization that each man is an individual (those fingerprints, palmistry), his calendar so admired by the Judge, pure Twain, and his easy relationship with the slave, Roxy. Did you notice his question to her about leaving her child? What kind of a question was that? Of course it would be hard for any mother to leave her child behind - Pudd'nhead is wondering if a slave has the same feelings. This is an example of the gradual realization the slaves are human beings - she doesn't answer his question, but he DOES understand the unspoken answer - and offers her the fingerprints as a keepsake, as if they are photographs...

    Joan K - thank you for the Douglas link...and your observations on the freed slave. Douglas talks about the dangers to the freed slave, often picked up again...kidnapped, papers destroyed and taken right back into the slavery system. Roxy's skin color, her "whiteness" might have protected her from this, but her speech, her negro dialect would have identified her anywhere. She understood this, it seems...and aspired to work on the riverboats (as did many freed slaves, we are told) - she wants to work as a a "chambermaid"...did you LOVE that irony, She left her slave position as Chamber's maid to work on the riverboat as a chambermaid. Hmmm...what were these river boats like - chambermaids? Think how hard it was for the freed slaves - no place to live, would have to leave town - often without their families? Do you think that there were freed slaves who turned down the offer rather than leave family behind? I'm thinking that they probaly didn't even have this option.

    Gail, I spent some time last night examining Twain s use of the names, "Roxy/Roxana"...
    Jasper calls her "Roxy".
    Percy Driscoll called her "Roxy".
    Pudd'nhead calls her "Roxy".
    Twain calls her "Roxy" when he is the narrator describing her.
    She is "Roxana" when she named her baby, Valet de Chambre.
    She is "Roxana" when she worries about the stolen money and being sold down the river.
    It appears that Twain makes use of the name, "Roxana" only when the voice of the narrator is Roxy. She is the only one who thinks of herself as "Roxana"...This is a subtle touch, isn't it? It appears to be deliberate. He is not using the two names interchangeably after all...

    Joan Pearson
    March 8, 2004 - 05:47 am
    Ginny, you asked about the calendar quotes...are you looking at the same calendar entries as found in this link in the heading? I think those quotes you see are only representtative - I understood from the passage Anne posted, , there was an entry for every day of the month. Whether MT ever created the complete calendar, I don't know. All we know is that he found it was more work coming up with the quotes than it was to write the chapter, so that he finally gave up on the task of using a quote to introduce the chapter. I wonder exactly when that happened - which chapter...

    Ginny, when you think about it, the introductory quote to Chapter V was quite interesting...
    Elijah's successor is Elisha, as Tom is Judge Driscoll's heir. The bad news was that Tom's own father died and his fortune was worthless, the good news, Tom will be Judge Driscoll's heir and now he will be even richer than before.

    I imagine those are the "special providences" of the Calendar entry. A gang came out of the woods and taunted Elisha...for one reason or another - because he was bald. Two she-wolves came out of the woods and protected Elisha. That would be Chambers. Twain has it that Chambers (the she-wolves) was better off than Eiisha/Tom because he got the boys' admiration and respect.
    You loved the quote on cabbage and cauliflower? Are you really asking what it means? My translation - cauliflower, a more highly developed vegetable - fancier, more complex, (more expensive too) than the lowly head of cabbage. The dandified Tom just back from the east with gloves and cane and airs (and education?) is the same cabbage-head that left town two years before. The townspeople pick up on that right away. Notice they are not impressed at his new- found manners, but look at how they respond to those TWINS! Barbara observes it is not just education or fine clothes that impresses the townspeople...and wonders - "maybe it is the novelty of having visited or lived in a place only read about in books?" What do YOU think?

    It's important we try to understand these townspeople to understand the thinking of the time - as Twain sees it. They are quite literal, irony escapes them...and Pudd'nhead's Calendar is further proof that he is indeed a "pudd'nhead." The kindly, admiring Judge did his reputation no favor by showing his writings to the townspeople...Anne, oh yes, isn't that a wonderful quote, so true...one I'll carry away from this discussion ..."an enemy can partly ruin a man, but it takes a good-natured injudicious friend to complete the thing and make it perfect"

    March 8, 2004 - 05:52 am
    It's funny but I get almost the exact opposite feeling here about Twain, and posted to it yesterday but then deleted it because I thought perhaps nobody would understand it.

    I think he's demonstrating on the surface of these characters like a mirror what WERE the assumptions of the day, and showing us they are all made of nothing, all of them: the little town and its society is almost a Twilight Zone of false identity, false positions, misconceptions, and false pretenses, or at least that's the way I see it, and I think what Twain is assailing goes beyond slavery, which is another outward and visible sign of something worse.

    Chris said earlier that Harriet Beecher Stowe lived across the street. She, of course, wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1848, which brought her immediate fame. He would not be unaware of that. Twain wrote Pudd'nhead in 1894, when he returned from Florence where there was no slavery, and it could have been to show his own culture shock: that even tho "slavery" had ended, the core attitudes and assumptions of society that fueled it continued. I think he may be writing a condemnation of these attitudes and assumptions that still continued in society in his day, by reflecting in his characters of his book, exactly how these attitudes were expressed and thought. By both sides. I wonder if this is Twain's sense of irony here. I think he intended to make the reader uncomfortable.


    Joan Pearson
    March 8, 2004 - 06:12 am
    Good morning, Ginny - a sharp, convincing observation for so early in the morning
    - Twain IS mirroring the shortcomings, the defects of his small-town neighbors...after having experienced a broader understanding of humanity through his travels. (There has to be some link here to the open-armed acceptance of the Italian twins by the townspeople!)

    But he is STILL a man of his times - there must still be stereotypes ingrained in his thinking. It is still possible that he will revert now and then - and his writing may reflect this, even subconsciously. He IS the all-seeing narrator, but he is a very human narrator, isn't he?

    It will be interesting to hear why others think the townspeople are so impressed with the Twins arrival. Is it because they are all flawed, every last one of them...playing roles, as Twain sees them? Or is it something else?

    What did you think of the Calendar entries introducing chapter VI? ( I'm having trouble connecting them. Maybe this is where Twain gave up? hahaha)
    "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker wil be sorry."

    "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs a step at a time."

    March 8, 2004 - 06:51 am
    I think Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson is about slavery but not just the enslavement of Afro-American people. I didn't think of this until reading the twins' story of their life of slavery. The twins were exhibited in order to pay for their family's debts. I find it very interesting to think of "slavery" in more than one way. Each type of slavery is damaging and freedom never comes easy. As a matter of fact, as some of us have said already, the whole town of Dawson's Landing is enslaved to their topsy turvy ideas.

    There is a quote at the beginning of chapter six. "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs a step at a time." I think some people felt that slaves should be emancipated gradually. Is this quote about a slow process of emancipation for the slaves? Is it about the time it takes for a small town to grip change?

    March 8, 2004 - 08:45 am
    Hats--You bring up one of the details that I found confusing--the twins were exhibited to provide money for the family. When I read this, I thought that Twain has slipped. He had forgotten that the conjoined twins are no longer conjoined. Under what circumstances would a family exhibit ordinary twins? Twins are not that unusual. They are not an oddity.

    Now conjoined twins (as they were back when Those Extraordinary Twins and the Pudd'nhead/Roxy story was all one) would be put on exhibit. Twain himself saw conjoined twins in I think it was Italy.

    As I read Pudd'nhead, it seemed to me that in some ways the twins were still conjoined. They are always in the same place. You don't see one unless the other is there.

    As for the exotic nature of the twins and the impact they make on sleepy little Dawson's Landing, that all rings true for me. At a time when very few people travelled and many were buried no more than ten miles from where they had been born, anything from across the seas would draw interest.

    America had quite an inferiority complex at this time. This country wasn't old like those on the continent of Europe. It didn't have old ruined castles, or stone steps that had been worn down by the passage of hundreds of years of being walked on. Americans were impressed by Europe and European ways and I think they were more impressed in the Middle West than anywhere else.


    March 8, 2004 - 12:44 pm
    Ginny if you look for it you can find a little book that Mark Twain/Clemens wrote about The Garden of Eden (he tells about Lilith in it)but I do not remember the exact title. However it was a beautifully illustrated story in my copy (now lost) and I felt it was truly satirical. faith

    March 8, 2004 - 02:07 pm
    Really , Faith? How interesting! Thank you for that! I'd like to look that up, in fact I'd like to look up a lot of his lesser known works. He is a lot more than I thought he was.

    I was just reading today in O.Henry, another contemporary of Twain's, about his cabbages. haha Every time I hear the word cabbage I think of Lewis Carroll, (another contemporary??!!) and apparently O.Henry did, too, because he titled one of his books Cabbages and Kings and did the dedication to The Walrus and The Carpenter

    The time has come, the Walrus said,
    To talk of many things;
    Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax
    And cabbages and kings.

    And the first story in the book is called
    "The Proem
    by the Carpenter"

    These stories, (in Cabbages and Kings), are about exiles abroad, primarily, but the first one contains this sort of interesting parallel, or so I thought, to Roxy:
    ...she had little education, but a knowledge of men and motives that seem to have come by instinct. Far beyond the common woman was she endowed with intrepid rashness, with a love for the pursuit of adventure to the brink of danger, and with desire for the pleasures of life. Her spirit was one to chafe under any curb; she was Eve after the fall, but before the bitterness of it was felt.

    I thought the Eve references again were interesting. (Surely they weren't all obsessed by Adam and Eve) hahahaa

    Oh I think, as I said earlier, it's the "title" of Count that impressed the townsfolk.

    Joan what a fascinating theory on the Roxy/ Roxane name, well done, I'll have to pay more attention to that!

    Yes, thank you for that link to the calendar, but that's the same calendar that I have reproduced in my book and Adam and Eve are missing as well as some of the more interesting sayings (including the cabbages hahaha). I was wondering if mine was defective or something. hahaaha


    March 8, 2004 - 03:04 pm
    Wednesday, September 30,1998 Love's meaning studied in "Adam & Eve" by KIRSTA H. BLEYLE of the Record Staff There wasn't a dry eye in the house at the close of the performance of "The Diaries of Adam & Eve," starring David Birney...

    Based on Mark Twain's book of the same name, The Diary's of Adam and Eve

    In two separate short stories made up of entries in their respective diaries, the great American humorist suggests they utterly misunderstood one another from the very beginning. But they fell in love anyway, a love "that cannot explain itself, and doesn't need to," as Eve puts it. Twain was anything but a sentimentalist, but he ultimately concluded that love, real love, which grows slowly over the decades, as a couple makes a life together, transcends even the most profound differences.

    Joan ask sometime back in a post if Mark Twain believed in love. Well, I say he did based on his books (I said to read Innocents Abroad)even though he was not a sentimentalist and did not write in any conventional way about love as romance. Actually my husband and I read the diarys together, laughed hilariously and decided that we wanted that kind of long lasting twining together of our lives that MT described in the diaries. I think they (the Diary's of Adam and Eve) make a good wedding present. fr

    Joan Pearson
    March 9, 2004 - 06:41 am
    Ah Faith - thank you for addressing the question on love and romance in Twain's writing. I'm adding the Diaries of Adam and Eve to my reading list which already includes Innocents Abroad - if only to read of "that kind of long lasting twining together of lives" you and your husband so enjoyed reading together. Thank you for sharing that! It does sound like a good wedding present. Adam and Eve do seem to have captured Twain's imagination, don't they? We've already read of them in three Calendar entries:
    "Adam was but human -- this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent: then he would have eaten the serpent."

    "Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is, knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the world."

    "Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was, that they escaped teething."

    Ginny - I looked up some information on the the Pudd'nhead Wilson Calendar we are both looking at...the one with ONE entry for each month of the year (with no mention of apples, Adam or Eve) - (it's in the heading here. I found that this little calendar was put together by Century Magazine as a "promotional gimmick for advertising the serialized installments of Pudd'nhead which was currently appearing in their magazine. I was not able to locate the full "Pudd'nhead Wilson Calendar" the Judge showed to the Dawson Landing folks...which contained the quotes we see introducing each chapter in this book. Whether there actually was such a completed calendar, I don't know. We do know that Mark Twain loved to write them and just may have had a calendar of favorites of his own to draw from for this novel.
    Here are some more calendar entries that were published in 1897 AFTER the novel...

    Joan Pearson
    March 9, 2004 - 07:17 am
    Hats, Twain DOES broaden his definition of slavery in the Twins story, doesn't he - even uses the word "slavery" just in case we missed the connection -
    "When we escaped from that slavery at 12 years of age..."

    Maryal questions why the twins would be on exhibit - in this version of the story, they are no longer "freaks" - , but rather musical prodigies. But Twain does seem to regard them as conjoined here - as ONE body...as he describes them -
    "One was a little fairer than the other, but otherwise they were exact duplicates."

    YES! That's it! They were alike, EQUAL in every way - EXCEPT for the color of their skin!

    What is it about the Twins that bowls over the folks in Dawson's Landing? It isn't their piano playing - that simply seals the deal at the end of the evening.

    It's funny - but what drove the twins into "slavery" was the fact that their nobility was no longer an asset in Europe. But Maryal points out that the midwesterners were impressed by the world from which they came, the images of antiquity - "ruined castles, steps that had been worn down by the passage of time."

    Hats, thanks for bringing in the Calendar entry for this chapter...about habits, being broken one step at a time...and the slow process of emancipation...it certainly fits here, doesn't it? It would appear that the process of emancipation from the past is in reverse in Dawson's Landing. Ginny has brought up that it is the title of "Count" that impressed the midwesterners. Look at them - awkwardly referring to "my lord", "your lordship"...all overwhelmed by "the dim and unaccustomed word and its dim and awful associations with gilded courts and stately ceremony and annointed kingship."

    They realized for once in their lives, they were hearing masters."

    Everyone is simply WOWED - even the "Freethinkers"? Let's look closer at the Judge and Pudd'nhead in Chapter VII to determine how they view these newcomers. I'll be real disappointed if these two are similarly awed. Especially since I'm out on a limb with my contention that Pudd'nhead is Mark Twain's alter-ego...

    chris barnett
    March 9, 2004 - 11:05 am
    Boy, I miss a day in reading the postings and everyone is already lightyears ahead. What a great group.

    I hardly know where to begin.

    Many asked again about Sam's reading specifically concerning Paradise Lost, and his background in English history. Yes, Sam was very familiar with Paradise Lost, and we intensely interested in English history. As a matter of fact it would be safe to say that Sam was an Anglophile. In 1874, he made a tour of England to write a travel book that would be similar to The Innocents Abroad--but he was so taken with the English that he never wrote the book because he didn't want to make fun of them or offend them. In 1884, Sam was on a lecture tour with George Washington Cable--the tour was entitled "The Twins of Genius Tour" (just thought I'd toss that in for the twin effect.) Cable gave Sam a copy of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur which Sam absolutely loved, and he came to regard Malory as one of the finest English writers, and used it extensively in writing A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Sam continued to read English history throughout his life both for pleasure and for research for other books such as The Prince and the Pauper. He actually created a game for his daughters to memorize dates in English history. He laid out a series of stakes along a path, and at each stake was a year, where the girls had to stop and recite what important events took place that year, and who was king of England at that time. Interstingly, he developed this game into a board game that he marketed as "Mark Twain's Memory Builder" that experienced some financial success. Of course Sam would be very familiar with Thomas Becket. Perhaps one could argue that Sam chooses the name for the white child because as history points out Becket was the favored advisor to Henry II, he had privledge, wealth and power, but all this was lost with his definance of the king, and ultimately was a marytr. Now I know that is a stretch, but there might be something there. Tom, when he is switched loses if you will his privleged position and is more or less marytred into slavery and servitude.

    I also noticed some comments concerning Sam and his views on love--specifically in regard to the Diaries of Adam and Eve. These pieces were written by Sam as two volumes. The first was Extracts from Adam's Diary in 1893, and the second Eve's Diary in 1906. They are both based on his marriage. Eve's Diary was written soon after the death of his wife, Livy--and he certainly had her in mind--particularly in when Adam says at the death of Eve, "Wheresoever she was, there was Eden." Sam's love for Livy was deep and undying. Shortly after Livy's death, Sam wrote, "An hour ago the best heart that ever beat for me and mine went silent out of this house, and I am as one who wanders and has lost his way. She who is gone was our head, she was our hands. We are now trying to make plans--we: we who have never made a plan before, nor ever needed to...She was all our riches and she is gone: she was our breath, she was our life and now we are nothing." Many of Sam's letters to Livy, and hers to him have been published in a volume Mark Twain's Love Letters. The letters range from their courtship through their marriage. They reveal a man that few would recognize as Mark Twain--he is highly romantic, passionate and loving. Take a look.

    As for Sam's personal views of slavery. It is clear that he as a boy he began to question slavery. In his Autobiography he recalls growing up in a slave society, and saw nothing wrong with the institution--it was preached from the pulpit, and suppported by public officials, and his own father owned slaves. He goes on however, to say that one day he saw a group of slaves, men, women and children chained together and laying on the sidewalk waiting to be "sold down the river," and he recalled they were the sorriest most mournful faces he had ever seen. He also tells the story of a slave boy named Sandy, who was hired by his family as a house servant. Sam claimed Sandy was the noisiest child he had ever seen--he was constantly singing or whistling--and drove Sam crazy. One day he went to his mother and begged her to do something about Sandy, because he could not stand his singing any longer. Sam's mother took him aside and explained that Sandy had been born on the eastern shore of Maryland and sold away from his family half way around the world to Missouri. Mrs. Clemens said she could not bear the thought of Sandy never seeing his mother again, and she comforted herself in thinking that if Sandy was singing, then maybe he wasn't remembering, and that was a blessing to her, and she told Sam if he were older he would understand. Sam said from that day on Sandy's singing never bothered him again. As early as 1865, Sam was already questioning the racism he saw around him--he wrote, "The 'damned naygurs'--this is another descriptive title which has been conferred upon them by a class of our fellow-citizens who persist, in the most short sighted manner, in being on bad terms with them in the face of the fact that they have got to sing with them in heaven or scorch with them in hell some day in the most familiar and sociable way, and on a footing of most perfect equality." In 1885, it came to Sam's notice that a young black law student was struggling to pay his way through Yale Law School, Sam felt the injustice of his inablility to make it in a white man's school. He wrote a letter to the dean of Yale promising to pay for the student's tuition and board--but it must be done anynomously. In that letter he wrote "We have ground the manhood out them, and the shame is ours not theirs, and we must pay for it." I think if Sam were alive today he would be on the side of reparations. I don't mean to cloak Sam as a saint--he certainly had his prejudices, and as someone had said he was a man of his time, but in many ways he was a very unusual man of his time.

    Lastly, and I think I hear a collective cyper space sigh from everyone, the calendar. I am not aware that it was ever published in its full form as a separate piece--there were some of the passages published as marketing devices, and again I mentioned earlier Sam continues them as chapter heading in Following the Equator. But I do think if Sam's voice is heard in PHW it is with the calendar. Many of them are rather cynical, and doubtful of human nature--that is Sam. As a matter of fact, some critics have argued that the calendar is a flaw in the book, as they don't match the character development in the book. Wilson doesn't seem to always have the views of the world that are expressed in the calendar, but they certainly do echo Sam.

    Anyway--sorry for going on, but it is fun.

    March 9, 2004 - 03:02 pm
    Thanks Chris for your insightful information.

    Chapter VI: "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs a step at a time." Spoken like a man who must have had some habits. Very sensible advice I must say.

    "We were seized for the debts occasioned by their illness and their funerals, and placed among the attractions of a cheap museum in Berlin to earn the liquidation money." This seems like a strange sentence. I can see it in "The Extraordinary Twins" but do you think this might have been an oversight on Twain or the publisher's part?

    "None of these visitors was at ease, but, being honest people, they didn't pretend to be. None of them had ever seen a person bearing a title of nobility before, and none had been expecting to see one now, consequently the title came upon them as a kind of pile-driving surprise and caught them unprepared."

    I think this is a great discription of what I would call "high expectations" in someone. Twain certainly had a way with words.

    "We were of the old Florentine nobility" - Rowena's heart gave a great bound, her nostrils expanded, and a fine light played in her eyes -" and when the war broke out my father was on the losing side and had to fly for his life."

    I guess I'd feel the same way if I was Rowena's age if I was introduced to a movie star like Antonio Baldereras or Johnny Depp or Sean Penn. Okay so maybe I wouldn't even have to be Rowena's age. I can feel my heart thumping now just thinking about them. Again Twain capture's the girl's description beautifully.

    "Well, madam, the rest is not of much consequence. When we escaped from that slavery at twelve years of age, we were in some respects men. Experience had taught us some valuable things; among other, how to take care of ourselves, how to avoid and defeat sharks and sharpers, and how to conduct our own business for our own profit and without other people's help."

    In some respects it did remind me of Chambers, but I don't think Chambers had the same opportunities as the twins. I also don't think Twain was saying that it was better to start out in life without entitlement. Rather it was better to learn how to use that entilement as you would a habit "coaxed down-stairs a step at a time".

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 10, 2004 - 01:34 am
    Facinating the game Twain made up for his daughters - is there an example of the board game still available to see I wonder - what a neat Dad he seemed to have been - but to learn English history this way gives me an idea for visiting grands...

    I know little of Mark Twain's childhood - he seemed to have started life to me when working the Mississippi and yet he must have come from a comfortable background to afford to go to Yale. Chris can you fill us in a bit on his childhood other than the story of the young slave boy who sang. I wonder why singing drove him batty - was silence that much better?

    You know Scrawler I am not sure I even understand what Habit coaxed down the stairs means - do you think he is saying change yourself by changing your habits by coaxing your habits down one step at a time or is he suggesting we use our habits to further ourselves one step at a time or honor habits and build them one step at a time - but he says down not up so it is not going up with or because of habits - it is going down - all very confusing to me - what does it mean -

    I did think though that as - "Judge Driscoll had the good fortune to secure them for an immediate drive, and to be the first to display them in public." he, Judge Driscoll, was any different than the folks in Europe who put the boys on display as punishment to earn enough to pay back the cost of their parent's funeral and other debts.

    Maybe that was the difference between the twins and Tom - the twins were trained as performers and probably knew how to display themselves as if theatre actors having experienced a little star power - where all Tom had was the back east sophisticated dress, speach and learning that made him different rather than a star - to be admired for your difference it appears you need to know how to sell yourself --

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 10, 2004 - 02:10 am
    Wow just finished chapter IX - looks like Tom's/Chambers behavior was not because of nature with a father of such renown - wow - Twain sure has a way of keeping the excitement high so that a reader cannot wait for the next page...

    Roxy sure knew Tom/Chambers better than we realized as she thought she was lying to him and expected to get away with it - immediatly I thought she realized that the proof was in the house of Puddenhead Wilson all the time...

    Why am I uncomfortable - Roxy is taking care of herself and teaching her son that he has an obligation to take care of his mother but it feels too much like extortion - that she has no real feelings for him only a need that will be satisfied by using him to secure her old age. Her relationship seems to become coherts in getting the money that will take care of Roxy and maybe his debts.

    Funny how it is so easy to be uncomfortable with all the talk of taking 'things' or stealing from others and yet it is 'too bad' - 'how sad' - 'how horrible' we say - but not a jarring intake of breath as we read that a bank takes all the money and trust of those who left their money with the bank and slavery is so causually taken for granted that takes the whole of a person's being and that someone's uncomfortable feelings can be taken out on another just because they are less powerful - and yet when we hear these victims, without apparent shame, take for themselves it seems wrong - our breath freezes for a moment as we struggle with what we are reading -- hmmmm...

    March 10, 2004 - 06:18 am
    What an incredible experience this is and these three chapters are about as full of excitement as you could wish!

    Faith, thank you so much for that, Twain is like a Pandora's Box, isn't he, it seems the reader keeps pulling out new stuff he never dreamed of, and Chris, your information is just incredible. You've added so much to the discussion and our understanding, thank you for your posts and input! The Paradise Lost, the Calendar and the Diaries of Adam and Eve, most especially: gosh you really know your stuff, this is a marvelous opportunity for all of us.

    Barbara, I, too, love the idea of the board game, and would like to see one, what depths the man had we never or I never dreamed of!

    Scrawler mentioned "attractions," and I was struck in Chapter 7 by the Judge supposedly "displaying" the twins in public while all the time what was on exhibition was the townspeople, even to the extent that the fire brigade put out an imaginary fire for their enjoyment, I like that twist of ideas.

    Joan, great question #3 for Chapter 7 up there, I laughed out loud with the Freethinkers in existence 4 years and "already had two members," and was "firmly established," but I missed they had a town hall hahaaha but not that they took a "vote" on suspending business for the Twins. Hahahaha

    Also this line that JoanP mentioned, "all the music that they had ever heard before seemed spiritless prentice-work, and barren of grace or charm when compared with these intoxicating floods of melodious sound. They realized that for once in their lives they were hearing masters." I like that play on words there between "masters," and slave masters,. And of course, as a cello student, I can well appreciate every nuance of what Twain is saying: there's playing and then there's playing on an instrument.

    Twain's writing in Chapter 7 reminds me a lot of EF Benson, whose irony and expression sometimes reminds me of Dickens, (whom we now know, thanks to Chris, that Twain not only knew but referred to him as "my friend, Charlie)." His inanimate objects are often personified, the fires "prosper" on the hearth, for instance, and he repeats in a different way his concepts, this is very like. For instance, I liked Twain's use of the word "levee," on the last page of Chapter 7, and then again and his use later in the more familiar sense, love it.

    In Chapter 8, we are seeing Roxy's rationale as a slave, and it's clear that she has put on an attitude like a pair of shoes because she thinks it will get her where she wants to be, not because she's in some way inferior: "She would go and fawn upon him, slave-like." She is going to deliberately act the part.

    But quite a few of them are acting "parts." What I don't see is why she thought HE would give HER money, at his point he does not know who he really is or who she is, really, so why would she thinkk that he would give her money. Because she raised him which was pretty common then?

    We can see the same theme later on , "with all the wheedling and supplicating servilities that fear and interest can impart to the words and attitudes of the born slave." Here again I think we can see Twain clearly saying it's not inferiority or a lack of worth but a planned attitude on the part of the slave to survive? I think this, if I'm correct, (is this the way you all read this?) is very important.

    Looks like you were dead on right, Joan P, with the Roxy thing, as she says in Chapter 9, "You can't call me Roxy, same as if you was my equal."

    Oh gosh there is so much here in these three chapters, I'm so glad we're reading it this way, but here are two more things I don't know?

    "Oh," groaned Tom, "I more than believe it; I know it."

    I don't understand what has made him come to "know" that he was originally black and switched?

    Oh and in Chapter 8, "her old place in the amen corner…" What is an "amen corner?" I've heard that all my life, what IS it? More more…there's so much more here!


    Joan Pearson
    March 10, 2004 - 09:31 am
    Wheeee...I agree you, Anne, - Chris is providing us with such insight into this complex man - and the influences on his childhood - we wouldn't have learned this all of this inside information anywhere else!

    Barbara - "and yet he must have come from a comfortable background to afford to go to Yale." I'm not sure that he went to Yale as a boy, Barb. I don't think he even finished high school - which is why his prodigious reading - and writing astonishes me. (Paradise Lost, Ginny!) It's fascinating how he incorporates what he has learned from his reading into his writing...especially interesting his love of British history and literature. I can see the connection between the name "Thomas ŕ Becket" Driscoll and Chambers, Chris..."when switched he loses his privileged position and is more or less martyred into slavery and servitude." It works for me. The irony is in the context - nothing to do with Presbyterian-born Percy Driscoll chosing the name of a Catholic bishop for his son.

    He did receive two honorary degrees from Yale...Master and Doctor of Arts - for his literary accomplishments.
    From The Courant, June 29, 1888. -
    At the age of 53 Twain was awarded an honorary degree of Master of Arts by Yale. He wrote this acceptance letter, in which he defends his work, the work of "funny men," as worthy of respect. Honorary Master of Arts

    "Both Howells and Clemens were made doctors of letters by Yale that year and went over in October to receive their degrees. It was Mark Twain’s second Yale degree, and it was the highest rank that an American institution of learning could confer." Twain/Yale
    You help us see another side of this man - the sensitive boy, the passionate, romantic husband, the engaged papa. I checked out the Memory Game...quite a production. His children would learn their British history in an enjoyable way. Apparently he created this game right after Huck Finn...
    "It also came with a small pamphlet of historical facts, mainly the reigns of European monarchs but American Presidents do make the last page, and a packet of straight pins, half of them cheaply painted black. One played the game by pushing the pins directly into the board" Mark Twain's Memory Game
    I did search a bit and couldn't find a sample of the questions, but did find something that may interest you... a game loosely based on MT's, but focusing on "Mark Twain and His Times - might be fun to test our memory when we are through here.
    Memory Game

    Joan Pearson
    March 10, 2004 - 10:37 am
    Thanks for that distinction, Chris..."In his Autobiography he recalls growing up in a slave society, and saw nothing wrong with the institution--it was preached from the pulpit, and suppported by public officials, and his own father owned slaves." How would one expect a boy to question that which was accepted as the norm in his community - in his own home? You tell us "he was not a saint that --he certainly had his prejudices" - but "the sight of the mournful faces of the group of slaves, men, women and children chained together and laying on the sidewalk waiting to be 'sold down the river'" touched his inner conscience of what was right and instinctively perhaps, he knew this was wrong. Folks "got to sing with them in heaven or scorch with them in hell some day in the most familiar and sociable way, and on a footing of most perfect equality."

    An interesting comment on the "Pudd'nhead Wilson Calendar" entries...pure Twain, aren't they? This is probably the reason I associate Pudd'nhead as Twain's alter-ego and watch him very closely for Twain's views on equality and abolition. What you said yesterday about the criticism of "the calendar entries in the book not matching the character development in the book" - made me sit up and reconsider Pudd'nhead's character development. We really don't know too much about him, do we? Lots of questions...not too many answers yet.
    Do you all feel the calendar is a a "flaw" in the book? I'm not sure. They might be Twain's way of associating himself with Pudd'nhead's character.

    Anne, I still like what Hat'ssaid a few days ago... on emancipation...
    "I think some people felt that slaves should be emancipated gradually. Is this quote about a slow process of emancipation for the slaves? Is it about the time it takes for a small town to grip change?
    Barbara - a good question on moving slowly "down' the steps. Don't know...but thinking about what Chris said yesterday about how the institution of slavery was preached from the pulpit - maybe that message needs to come "down" from the pulpit before folks start to accept that it is morally wrong.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 10, 2004 - 11:07 am
    Good thought - down from the pulpit - I wonder the expression Bully Pulpit - if it is as a result of the strong influence those in the pulpit have had on the American character which now in light of how difficult it is and was to illiminate racism how much was influenced by those in the pulpit...

    And I am still questioning in my mind why it is so easy to be uncomfortable with the idea of folks taking 'things' or stealing from others and we do not react in the same way when we read that a bank takes all the money and trust of those who left their money with the bank or that slavery is so casually taken for granted which takes the whole of a person's being and we do not feel an intake of breath when we read that someone was abused by another just because they are less powerful - and the big question for myself is why if these victims, without apparent shame, take for themselves it seems wrong - more wrong than what has happened to them...

    I am thinking we like our victims pure - how often we blame a victim for what happened and God help a victim if they are not pure because few others come to the victims defense - we all know the story of how the women calls abuse upon herself because of either the way she dressed, where she was or because of her past behavior - what is this within ourselves where we crusade for a man to be free but if the man behaved in a way that is less than perfect we question his leadership in leading a crusade or being mistreated. I still cannot put my finger on it - but we sure want our victims to be pure...

    A P.S. just dawned on me - wanting pure victims is saying the person deserves certain behavior not that we value certian behavior and comdemn other behavior - it is the person who we are saying either deserves or not to be valued or punished...

    Joan Pearson
    March 10, 2004 - 11:14 am
    Am enjoying your observations on the Twins...still can't figure out why the Judge is bowing to them. Expected more from him - and Pudd'nhead...Anne doesn't think the Judge was any different from the folks in Europe who put them on display. Do you - do you get the feeling he is "using them" in any way? I can't figure out why? Ginny - he DOES seem to be putting the townspeople on display...it's almost as if he's the head of the Chamber of Commerce in his attempts to impress and show off the town...hahaha, the slaughterhouse, the cemetery! There's irony here, but I'm afraid I'm missing the message behind it!
  • Anne - good question - why would a "cheap Berlin museum" be interested in these musical prodigies?

    * Rowena's eyes afire, nostrils flaring...she's got these marvelous twins under her own roof - the rest of the town is envious of her. She's revelling in the glory. What will her most ardent admirer think of this situation when he comes back to town. I laughed at your thumping heart for Johnny Depp, Anne. Still laughing!

  • Twins' childhood experience - and new found celebrity..."it's better to learn how to use that entitlement as you would a habit "coaxed down-stairs a step at a time".

  • Anne - on why the townspeople were impressed with the twins, but not Tom's new look when he returned from Yale..." the twins were trained as performers and probably knew how to display themselves as if theatre actors having experienced a little star power - where all Tom had was the back east sophisticated dress, speach and learning that made him different rather than a star - to be admired for your difference it appears you need to know how to sell yourself
  • My question is still about the Judge...what is he selling???

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 10, 2004 - 11:22 am
    hehehe - the Judge is selling the perfect town - the town made unto his likness with cemetary and slauterhouse included...

    It did remind me though of how years ago when company came one thing you always did was walk around and examine the garden - spent quite a bit of time examining and remarking on the success or failure of the beans or the new roses and the problems or how nice the cabbage grew and how strait the rows etc. etc. But it was your garden that you planted and maintained - and it was up to be judged by others...

    Joan Pearson
    March 10, 2004 - 11:45 am
    Roxy's back! Has life on the riverboat changed her? She's met a lot of people...were they all freed slaves? (She's met a number of valets de chambre as well.) She's made friends, saved money, lost money and now she's back to see if she can shake some money out of her glorified boy. (Why not approach the Judge?) Ginny askes "why she thought HE would give HER money, at this point he does not know who he really is or who she is, really, so why would she think that he would give her money? I dunno, Ginny - did she intend to tell Tom he was really Chambers all along, or did she think he would remember her fondly as his "mammy" - beloved protector of his childhood?

    Ginny - "we are seeing Roxy's rationale as a slave, and it's clear that she has put on an attitude like a pair of shoes because she thinks it will get her where she wants to be, not because she's in some way inferior: "She would go and fawn upon him, slave-like." She is going to deliberately act the part." Nah, this doesn't sound as if she has any real expectations that Tom will look on her as his long lost mammy. Do you agree with Ginny on this:
    "I think we can see Twain clearly saying it's not inferiority or a lack of worth but a planned attitude on the part of the slave to survive"
    Barbara... "Roxy is taking care of herself and teaching her son that he has an obligation to take care of his mother but it feels too much like extortion - that she has no real feelings for him only a need that will be satisfied by using him to secure her old age. Her relationship seems to become coherts in getting the money that will take care of Roxy and maybe his debts."

    Barbara, this is such a sharp, poignant example of what slavery did to family relationships - destroyed the very heart of love between mother and child. - remember the love Roxy had for her new born son...the reason she switched him with Tom Driscoll - not for herself, but for a better life for him. Now she is using him for a better life for herself.

    I understand what you are saying about wanting our victims "pure," Barb - I want to see mother-love between Roxy and the baby she sacrificed so much for. Instead we see "extortion"...Can we blame Roxy? Does she deserve to be punished? (I'm more inclined to want to see Tom Driscoll punished.)

    I had also wanted to see the real victim, Chambers-who-is really-Tom, Chambers who thinks Roxy is his mother...I wanted to see some emotion from him when he sees his mother for the first time. Nothing. So sad...because this is what slavery did to families. I want to see not the victim, but slavery punished..at the very least abolished. Chris thinks Sam would have wanted reparations. Me too! Boy, they could have used some help. What kind of help was available to the slaves following emancipation? Though the story is set in 1830, Twain wrote the book in 1893 and knew the conditions in the country at this time...

    March 10, 2004 - 12:29 pm

    Joan! That is SUCH a hoot, love both those sites on the game, love the first one he devised, love the review, "The game looked like a cross between an income tax form and a table of logarithms (Meltzer, p. 193)." Hahahah but the SECOND game, The Memory Game, let's play it? I think we should play it now, and then at the end of the discussion and see how much we each have learned? Obviously I have a way to go, so far I'm scoring 0, as you can see, on the decade of Twain's birth, hahahah Hope they don't get any harder. haahahahaaaaaaaaaaa

    I love all the photos on the site, too, he was a very handsome man when young, I did not recognize him and she was likewise a beauty, I think. Hahahaaha Love it!


    March 10, 2004 - 01:26 pm
    I felt very surprised by Tom's reaction to Roxy. I thought that, throughout their life, children who were raised by slave nurses or mammies felt a great deal of affection towards these women. I am thinking of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. Didn't she treat her black caretaker almost like a confident? If I remember correctly, in the movie, the family cared for their black mammy even until she died. I might have my movies mixed up.

    I wonder if adult white males and adult white women had a different reaction toward their black caretakers.

    Is Tom treating Roxy like any white male would treat his returning mammy? Is Tom, by nature, just plain heartless?

    My knowledge is coming totally from Hollywood portrayals of the old south. Were these portrayals full of truth or error? I know the south has been romanticized in books and films. Is Mark Twain giving a true picture of the south? I wonder.

    It did jolt my way of thinking to think of Roxy as "a heroine of romance." That is how Mark Twain describes her after her steamboat travels.

    Joan and Maryal, I can't wait to take my Mark Twain memory test. It should be lots of fun.

    March 10, 2004 - 02:02 pm
    It seems true to me that the slaves all put on a show for their masters in order to attain peace, security, safety, and what ever handy goods or money they could get. It is what is portrayed in Hollywood early pictures with Step-n-Fetch it and other movies too

    . These slave people didn't draw a line about lies or truth in regard to "White" people. I think Roxie felt that her son would "know" her in some unrealistic call of the blood and when he didnt she decided to get his submission to her power which she really did. He was not to call her by her first name as an equal and furthermore she did make him get on his knees and beg.

    Certainly he was intimidated by what he perceived as blackmail of his gambling debts but also he was intimidated by Roxie's sheer power. What a shock to him to see a slave turn on him like that when his father had "owned" her, and now to find out she was his real mother, oh yes he knew she would carry out the threats she made.

    I was very surprised the first time I read this at the way Roxie took right to teaching and helping Tom/Chambers rob the town. And dismayed too. I had to think of all she had suffered all her life at the hands of "the town" and I changed my attitude. Faith

    March 10, 2004 - 03:24 pm
    I would like to be able to write my thoughts more clearly. I do think Mark Twain is giving a true portrayal of the south because everything is not wrapped up in a nice, sweet package. It is hard to accept the fact that slaves had to deceive in order to save the life of themselves and their children. It is also hard to accept the fact that small towns were not necessarily openminded. There were Pudd'nHead Wilsons in small towns. Those people who were never accepted because they did not fit in. It is hard to accept that not all masters were compassionate. I think Mark Twain is trying to stick to the facts whether the facts are painful or not painful.

    March 10, 2004 - 03:31 pm
    I think what is meant by: "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed down-stairs a step at a time" that our habits like changes in our lives must be dewlt with slowly. Twain may have been referring to slavery here, but I think he was referring to everyone's life. We have all had some changes in our lives. Some come quite suddenly and others take time. But at least for me those changes that took their time and were "coaxed down-stairs" so to speak went more smoothly than those changes that were more sudden. Now having said that some changes are thrust upon you suddenly and you don't have any choice in the matter, but when I feel that it's important to take things slow and easy.

    "One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives." Oh! I love this one. Yes, and doesn't it seem sometimes that the more one tells the same lie the bigger and more elaborate it gets.

    "The Judge showed the strangers the new graveyard, and the jail, and where the richest man lived, and teh Fremasons' hall, and the Methodist church, and the Presbterian church, and where the Baptist church was going to be when they got some money to build it with, and showed them the town hall and the slaughter-house, and got out the independent fire company in uniform and had them put out an imaginary fire; then he let them inspect the muskets of the militia company, and poured out an exhautless stream of enthuiasm over all these splendors, and seemed very well satisfied with the responses he got, for the twins admired his admiration, and paid him back the best they could, though they could have done better if some fifteen or sixteen hundred thousand previous experiences of this sort in various countries had not already rubbed off a considerable part of the novelty of it."

    I just love the way Twain handles this scene. Can't you feel the frustration of the twins at seeing the same thing over and over again and again and at the same time seeing it through the Judge's eyes as if "his" town had what no other town could ever have.

    "According he called for them, and on the way he told them about Pudd'nhead Wilson, in order that they might get a favorable impession of him in advance and beprepred to like him. This scheme succeeded - the favorable impression was achieved.

    "Pudd'nhead was at home waiting for them and putting in his time puzzling over a thing which had come under his notice that morning. The matter was this: He happened to be up very early- at dawn, in fact, and he crossed the hall which divided his cottage through the center, and entered a room to get something there. The window of the room had no curtains, for that side of the house had long been unoccupied, and through his window he caught sight of something which surprised and interested him. It was a young woman - a young woman where properly no young woman belonged; for she was in Judge Driscoll's house, and in the bedroom over the Judge's private study or sitting-room. This was young Tom Driscoll's bedroom." (Ah! The plot thickens!) I think Wilson is certainly one of the main characters in the story. He almost represents the reader in that he is a lot like a sponge absorbing up information just as we are and just like us he is trying to understand what it all means.

    "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." I think Twain has thrown us a red-herring so to speak in that he wants us to think that Tom is entertaining a young girl in his bedroom which of course would be not very ethical in any era but especially not back in the 1800s.

    March 10, 2004 - 04:29 pm
    I read the comment on coaxing habits downstairs slowly as referring to bad habits one wants to get rid of. Somewhere Twain either wrote or said that "It's easy to give up smoking. I have given it up a hundred times."

    So let's take smoking as an example of a bad habit since I know a bit about being addicted to it. I no longer smoke, but I did for years. When I finally decided that this pleasure must be abandoned, I didn't tell anyone but I cut down to four cigarettes a day (from over a pack a day). One after each meal and one in the evening. I kept to this for maybe three months, maybe more.

    Then, when I went to my high school reunion last summer, I was so busy with events and old friends (only a few of whom seemed to smoke) that I reached the end of one day realizing that I had not had any cigarettes at all. So I stopped smoking. One day at a time (coaxing the habit downstairs as alcoholics give up drinking, just for today). Even on the long trip home to Maryland in the car, I didn't succomb. It took me months and months to stop smoking and when I actually did stop, it was almost an accident.

    End of personal narrative. Back to Pudd'nhead.

    Hats, I'm with you. You wrote "Is Tom, by nature, just plain heartless?" The question to me is its own answer. I think he is just plain heartless. The only part I disagree with is that it is "by nature." I think Tom has been indulged to the point of ruination. He has lousy physical health because he won't eat the right things; he never learns to stand up for himself because he has Chambers do all his fighting for him. He doesn't have a mother and his father is so busy with his own dealings that he apparently takes no hand in raising him. Someone needed to hit Tom upside the head and let him know where his bottom was.

    Now Tom is a young man who dresses like a dandy, drinks and gambles, losing lots of money along the way. He doesn't seem to be good at anything except being a pompous ass. He doesn't love anyone, least of all the Mammy who raised him.

    The tradition of white children being raised by black "mammies" was strong in the south and there are many stories of grown children so raised loving their mammies, visiting them and bringing presents.

    To take just one example from real life, William Faulkner was devoted to his Mammy. He dedicates one of his novels to her, and he built a small house for her in the backyard of his house in Oxford, Mississippi. He called her Mammy Callie and loved her all her life. If you visit Faulkner's house in Oxford, you can see a black and white photograph of Mammy Callie that Faulkner kept on his desk.

    I think Tom's failure to have any fondness for Roxy is the exception to the general run of things. I think Roxy, who has been disappointed by this son that she elevated to a position of power a hundred times, still wants to believe that he is not the heartless nogood that he obviously is. She goes to him for money because she thinks that he will have fond memories. We, the readers, know that Tom will not. Finally Roxy is confronted with this painful truth.


    Ella Gibbons
    March 10, 2004 - 06:23 pm
    Yes, JOAN, Roxy's back - was I suprised; MT has this habit in his writing to constantly astonish and bewilder us, doesn't he!

    I agree with HATS when she said " I thought that, throughout their life, children who were raised by slave nurses or mammies felt a great deal of affection towards these women." So did I! Where did this opinion come from if not from movies?

    As a youngster Tom knew no other mother...does he have no miniscule amount of affection in his body at all?

    Thank you, CHRIS, for your remarks, they help to understand Sam Clemens' views; particularly this one - "Many of them are rather cynical, and doubtful of human nature--that is Sam."

    He is cynical isn't he? Has Sam/MT written anything about any character so far that is complimentary? He's very contemptuous... he dismisses half the town as of no consequence. For a little while I thought Roxy was beautiful, majestic, smart, high moral values, but now she's "grim" and offering to help pilfer homes of valuables.

    If there is one person that Sam has not seen fit to denigrate it's PHW, isn't it, which some of you believe is MT himself? Interesting!

    JOAN, thanks for those clickables, you can read the biography of Clemens online, but I prefer to have the book in hand to read; I have been making a list of Twain's books that all of you have mentioned for futher reading but MT's biography will top the list.

    Dean Howells said when visiting with Twain's family - "the talk that could never suffer poverty of mind or soul was there, and we jubilantly found ourselves again in our middle youth.” What a treat it must have been to be around their hearth!

    Ella Gibbons
    March 10, 2004 - 06:27 pm
    MARYAL, we were posting together and you agree with HATS and myself that most southern children raised by a black mammy loved them and were loved in return. Why do you suppose that Twain chose to make an exception with Tom? All for the sake of a good story, possibly?

    Joan Pearson
    March 11, 2004 - 07:25 am
    Good morning, Puddings...

    You've been busy in here! So many good points! First thing, I'm going to put a link in the heading to The Memory test...the one about Twain that is based loosely on the Memory Builder game he created for his daughters. Ginny hahaha, can't stand to wait till the end, took a try at the first question and missed the decade in which Twain was born. Hmmm, the link describing his original test tells us that he created it following the completion of Huck Finn...and that he was in his early fifties when he wrote that. Let's keep our eyes and ears open and maybe we'll get the first question right!

    Ella, I too find it interesting the way Twain moves back and forth...between scenes of Roxy's world and her people's fight for survival and the white folk of Dawon's Landing, the townspeople who seem to represent public opinion, speaking in one voice as Gail has pointed out - fighting to maintain the status quo, while revering the "masters" and the nobility of the past. Bridging the two worlds ...the Judge, Pudd'nhead and now the Twins. Do you sense the inevitable collision of these two worlds before Mark Twain is through?

    March 11, 2004 - 07:28 am
    Not everyone who is raised by their own mother loves them. And not every mom or mammy is equally lovable. Generalities like "every child raised by a Black mammy loves them ARE generalities. There is a wide range of differences in humans. In any relationship where the power is all on one side, there are going to be some people who abuse that power.

    Don't forget, too, that the people who write the Hollywood stories may feel that slavery was more benign than it was. Just as Judge Driscoll feels he is being very generous not to sell his slaves down the river, and sees himself as a good (maybe even loved) master, we have views of things that make us feel good.

    Joan Pearson
    March 11, 2004 - 07:41 am
    A very good point on generalities, JoanK. We have to keep that in mind. At the same time, I have to agree with something Hats said yesterday...
    "Mark Twain is giving a true portrayal of the south because everything is not wrapped up in a nice, sweet package... I think Mark Twain is trying to stick to the facts whether the facts are painful or not painful. It is hard to accept the fact that slaves had to deceive in order to save the life of themselves and their children... It is hard to accept that not all masters were compassionate."
    So we'll try not to make generalities and to consider closely the individuals Mark Twain has presented here...at the same time let's keep in mind that he was a man of his times...he witnessed the scenes we only see in movies...and he is attempting to generalize to make point.

    I'm not sure the Judge felt the same way about the slaves as did his brother, Percy, Joan. It was Percy who felt good about not selling slaves down the river. The Judge is an interesting character - who seems to be straddling the fence in his desire to protect his honor and his noble roots and the Freethinking ideas that surely must question the status quo and look to the future...and change.

    Scrawler - yes, I can sense the Twins' growing frustration...as the Judge tries to impress them with his town. I still feel he has an ulterior motive in doing this. Is he showing the twins that there is more to having titles - that one must DO something and not idly rest on honors of the past. Is he trying to show them what he has accomplished as the leading citizen of the town. He's FFV, yes, but he's moved on and out of Virginia! It's almost as if he is trying to counsel the Twins against letting the adulation of the town go to their heads...(is he thinking of his wastrel nephew, Tom?) Why is Pudd'nhead important to the Judge? Why does he want them to like Pudd'nhead?

    Joan Pearson
    March 11, 2004 - 08:22 am
    It IS interesting that Twain describes Roxy as the "heroine" of a "romance" - I paused at that too. Do we need a definition of these two terms? I see a heroine as one overcomes some difficulty and can see that Roxy does what it takes to survive. A heroine? Even though her moral code does not include doing unto her neighbors (the white ones who do not do unto her), she is a churchgoer and does take to heart what she learns there. (Can anyone answer Ginny's question on the "amen corner"?)

    But Twain is referring to her steamboat travels and the years she spend aboard the GRAND MOGUL when he describes her as the heroine in a romance. I have a question about the name of the boat. Like you, Ella, I have a growing list of Twain titles I want to read. Last night I picked up Innocente Abroad, which Faith had recommended. In the first chapter - or second, Twain is referring to society's elite with whom he will travel the world on a ship...he names among others, the "grand moguls." I immediately thought of the name of Roxy's ship...and wondered if this is not an unusual name for a Mississippi riverboat. Do any of you think it is strange? What were other names of actual steamboats that went up and down the river?

    Faith, was Tom intimidated by the new, stronger Roxy who had the nerve to stand up to him...or was it the threat that she had some proof that gave her power over him? I thought it very funny when she tells him to call her "mammy" and the next time he addresses her, he calls her "ma" - he believes she is his mother, doesn't he? Do you get the feeling that he NEVER called her "mammy" as Faulkner called his Mammy Callie? Do you get the feeling that he used to call her "ROXY"...that she gave up a loving relationship with him...the kind that SOME mammies had with their little masters...when she slipped into the role of servant while transforming him into "master"? I don't think she treated him as a loving "mammy" would treat her little charge. She treated him as her master, she accepted the role of slave. Maryal - "Tom was indulged to his ruination." Yes, yes, and there was never a loving relationship there , why now?

    She did have a romantic memory that there had been something else there when she came back. She'd spent eight years with other freed slaves, who may have had very different relationships with masters' children...memory does strange things.

    Do any of you feel the least bit sympathy for Tom as a "victim" here?

    March 11, 2004 - 12:36 pm
    "It's God's own truth, jes as I tell you-two hund'd dollahs-I wisht I may never stir outen my tracks if it ain't so. En, oh, my lan', ole Mrse was jes a-hoppin'! He was b'ilin' mad, I tell you! He tuck 'n' dissenhurrit him."

    He licked his chops with relish after that stately word. Roxy struggled with it a moment, then gave it up and said: "Dissenwhiched him?" "Dissenhurrit him." "What's dat? What do it mean?" "Means he bu'sted de will." "Bu's-ted de will! He wouldn't ever treat him so! Take it back you mis'able imitation nigger dat I bore in sorrow en tribbilation."

    Isn't this what this story is really all about - money - the root of all evil? If Tom gets his inheirtance than everything will be all right with world, but if he doesn't than what Roxy did will go for naught. Also, I think most people even those in the south thought that slavery was not morally correct, but they had based their entire lives on this institution and like Tom if they did not get their money than it would be all for nothing.

    "You has said de word. You has had yo' chance, en you has trompled it under yo' foot. When you git another one, you'll git down on you' knees en beg for it!"

    A cold chill went to Tom's heart, he didn't know why; for he did not reflect that such words, from such an incongruous source, and so solemnly delivered, could not easily fail of that effect. However, he did the natural thing; he replied with bluster and mockery:

    "You'll give me a chance - you! Perhaps I'd better get down on my knees now! But in case I don't - just for argument's sake - what's going to happen, pray?"

    I think this is a great scene. Can't you see the tension between the two characters. What will happen next? I don't know about you but I know Twain has me on the edge of my seat. Twain has created in just a few words a truly revealing scene.

    "Tom slumped to his knees and began to beg saying: "You see, I'm begging, and it's honest begging, too! Now tell me, Roxy, tell me!"

    "The heir of two centuries of unatoned insult and outrage looked down on him and seemed to drink in deep draughts of satisfaction."

    Is there a message in this scene? Is this the way that Twain saw slavery in his day.

    "Twain raised his voice in protest at a time when American life was dominated by the materialism and corruption of the so-called Gilded Age following the Civil War. His work was inspired by the unconventional west; it's popularity marked the end of the domination of American literature by New England writers. Twain is justly renowned as a humorist, but his literay reputation also rests on his realistic use of dialects and the vernacular, especially of the Mississippi River Valley, in delineating characters and scenes of mid-19th century American life. In 1884 he formd a publishing company, but a disatrous investment in an automatic typesetting machine led to the firm's bankruptcy in 1894. Twain's work during the 1890s marked by growing pessimism and bitterness - the result of his business reverses and later the deaths of his wife and two daughters. Significant work of this period are Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a novel about miscegenation and murder."

    March 11, 2004 - 03:13 pm
    Sure, Joan--Here's the definition of "amen corner" for Ginny. It's the area in a church where they folks who respond "Amen" in a responsive reading (or by extension, those who do so in response to the sermon). It's sort of like a choir section only you don't have to sing.

    Scrawler--I admire the scene with Tom on his knees to Roxy, the tension between them, just as you do. Twain could really write, couldn't he?

    rachel rogers
    March 12, 2004 - 06:29 am
    Good Morning, Pudd'nheads. Chris Barnett has had to leave town for a while and asked me to finish out the discussion of Pudd'nhead Wilson. While I won't claim to be as knowledgeable or entertaining as Chris, I have worked at the Twain House for a number of years and hope to shed a little light on some parts of your discussion. Please forgive any missteps, repeated information or missed days. I spent most of yesterday catching up on everything that has been said previously and share Chris's admiration for the lively discussion that you've been engaging in. In the process I noted some Twain and PHW questions still hanging. Before launching into the novel (later on today for me) I'll try to wrap up some of those.

    Since so much of Mark Twain's work was semi-autobiographical, is it possible that he knew someone like Roxy? The authors of _Dark Midnight When I Rise: the Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America_ (2000) speculate on this. By the way, the Fisk Jubilee Singers of Fisk University in TN formed during Twain's lifetime and he was a great fan and supporter of this group, saying their renditions of Black Spirituals took him back 25-30 years to his childhood in Missouri (I'm a Yank, you see). One of the original 9 Jubilee Singers (who Twain heard perform 3 times), Ella Sheppard's mother, after learning of betrayal by her master planned to drown herself and her daughter in the Cumberland River. Another slave talked her out of it. While I've never seen any mention of this in Twain's papers, he may have known Ella's story from his knowledge and support of the Singers.

    Was this the first use of the phrase "Sell down the river"? No. The phrase appears in history texts as early as 1808 during the illegal slave trade. While I don't think it was the first use in fiction, Harriet Beecher Stowe uses the phrase repeatedly and with great effect in _Uncle Tom's Cabin_. Remember that Sam is writing Pudd'nhead 25+ years after the conclusion of the Civil War. PHW is definitely fiction, it is based on the history of an era.

    Why was he in Florence while writing this book? Sam's financial disaster was almost at its worse at this point. His publishing company was in dire straits, his investments of $200,000 in the Paige Compositor typesetting machine had not born the fruit he expected, instead sapping more money from the coffers. He's on the verge of declaring personal bankruptcy. As a result the family had closed down their Hartford home and moved abroad. Contrary to what we expect, it was far cheaper to live in Europe at this point, especially considering the lavish entertaining the family did in the States. In Florence Sam could lick his wounds and write without distraction and the family live on a much smaller scale.

    Did he keep all 15 cats inside? Yes, in fact, many of those cats were indoor/outdoor cats. There's a great photograph of Sam playing billiards, a favorite passtime of his, and placing kittens in the pockets of his pocket-billiard table and watching them bat the balls around the table. Yes they did have servants as well.

    More later. Have a great day.

    Joan Pearson
    March 12, 2004 - 06:53 am
    Welcome, Rachel Rogers!!!
    We will miss Chris's wonderful posts which were always chock full of inside information, Please relay to him our best wishes and gratitude.
    But such a happy surprise this morning...to have you appear on our doorstep ... like a fairy godmother! The thought of your taking the time to read back posts is ...overwhelming to say the least. And from your comments it is clear that you are truly another "Twainiac", a font of information. We can't thank you enough!

    Am still smiling at the kittens in the billiard table pockets, swatting the balls. Sam didn't take anything too seriously, did he? And my, don't we all wish for an inexpensive villa in Florence! From what I've read, it wasn't primitive - but one filled with statuary and artwork. This is going to be fun. Thank you for stepping in, Rachel. Don't sell yourself short, you are doing fine and we appreciate your time here
    Again, Welcome!

    Joan Pearson
    March 12, 2004 - 09:03 am
    You brought up some very good questions, yesterday, Scrawler...
    "The heir of two centuries of unatoned insult and outrage looked down on him and seemed to drink in deep draughts of satisfaction."
    "Is there a message in this scene? Is this the way that Twain saw slavery in his day", you ask?

    One of the best things about reading Twain in my opinion, is the history that is revealed, cloaked in satire and even humor - which makes it somewhat easier to accept. Slaves lived their lives and died, outraged at the "unatoned insult" with very little recourse. When you look at it that way, it's not too hard to understand how they developed a moral code which forgave any offense against their white masters Yes, Anne, economics (money) was at the heart of the slave trade, I agree - as theft against the white man was accepted practice among the slaves. Both groups profess clear conscience for their behavior. Roxy can plot to save the inheritance she has wrongly procured for her son, while remaining a "rabid and devouted Methodist...her piety no sham, but storn and sincere...her old place in the amen-corner in her possession again."

    Maryal - Do some churches have designated areas where a certain group responds "Amen" in a responsive reading (or by extension, those who do so in response to the sermon"? Is this in place of, or in addition to a choir section? I don't believe I've ever seen or heard of such a section, although I have heard in black churches, primarily, the congregation interjecting "amens" as the minister preaches. That's how I viewed the reference in the story. Do Methodist Churches have them? Is this a Southern thing?

    Anne - do you really think it is all about money for herself as far as Roxy is concerned? Earlier I would have said that it was concern for her son, for whom she had sacrificed so much. Now, I'm thinking you may be right...she seems to be thinking about herself alone.

    I'm thinking of the scene with Tom on his knees before Roxy...why is he on his knees before her, begging to know what she knows. At this point he has NO idea what she is going to tell him? What could she possibly know, other than his gambling debts? Maybe he's concerned that she knows he's been stealing from private homes? Isn't this delicious irony? Tom is stealing from the white families...what is Twain saying here?

    It is touching when Roxy tearfully asks him why he always treated her so badly - and he tells her it was because he didn't know she was his mother! Oh, my! Twain is saying so much in this little scene about the whites slave owners' treatment of the slaves, isn't he? He may have said, it was because he didn't know she was human...

    I can't help but ponder what would happen to Tom if Roxy revealed that he was really her child, Chambers. Do you think she really would make good on her threat? (I don't) If she did, what would happen to him? Is he still a slave? The Judge had bought the slave who goes by the name "Chambers" many years before...would the Judge own Tom, once the boys were "switched" back to their proper roles? How is Twain going to resolve this issue? Can't wait for the next installment...due to hit the news stands in Century Magazine tomorrow!

    Ella Gibbons
    March 12, 2004 - 09:19 am

    Joan, you posted some interesting statements/questions, particularly this one: "Isn't this delicious irony? Tom is stealing from the white families...what is Twain saying here?"

    I'm not sure of the answer to that one, except the white families are the only ones anyone can steal from. I was thinking of this last night while doing dishes. Slaves had no motivation whatsoever to improve their lot in life - no promotions, no home ownership, no education for their children.

    Another irony is that Tom, a very wealthy young man, has no motivation either to do anything with his life. He has it all (with the exception of money to pay his gambling debts); why should he work and to what purpose?

    Don't we all need a purpose in life?

    March 12, 2004 - 09:32 am
    Joan--As far as I know, the custom of an amen corner is Southern and most likely only in small churches. The custom of saying "amen" at intervals certainly continues in black churches to this day. I don't think there is a special place any more since the saying of amens is either going on throughout the church or not happening.

    My guess is that at the time Twain wrote, perhaps little Methodist Churches (and Roxy's would be an AME--a special African Methodist church) had actual pews or sections for the amen corner, but I've always thought of the amen corner as being where the faithful--those who attended church all the time--sat (and provided the amens). In other words, I understand it in a metaphorical sense.

    Best I can do.

    March 12, 2004 - 09:33 am
    Welcome, Rachel !!

    March 12, 2004 - 12:27 pm
    Welcome Rachel Rogers!
    Welcome! We are delighted to see you here, how good of you to help out, how interesting you are!! You all are very impressive there at the Mark Twain House, thank you so much for coming in and I second Joan's thoughts: please give Chris, when you speak to him our best wishes: we will miss him, and hope he is well. What a pleasure now to meet you!

    THANK you for going all the way back for some of those questions!!! I can't believe you did that! I am glad to know about the "sell down the river" thing (and 15 cats in the house).

    Thank you Maryal, for the definition of Amen Corner, I did not know that.

    That name of Tom's father, Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, just rolls with history, doesn't it? I wonder if there is any reason Twain picked those particular names, full of English history, in sort of a funny way.

    Another intersting piece of dialogue, to me was on page 103 of the paperback when Chambers told Roxy, "He tuck 'n' dissenhurrit him." I love that. In some small towns here locally you can hear what I think is a charming turn of phrase, "he took and..." The first time I heard it I actually stopped the confused speaker and made him back up and say it again, and now I can see it's an older expression and more widely used than I had thought, I had never heard it before moving to South Carolina, but it's still used here.

    I'm wondering, in relation to Question #2 in the heading for Chapter VIII if we consider it an example of irony, that Roxy addressed Chambers as a mis'able imitation? She knows the truth, he doesn't. He thinks she's talking about how white they both are? Is this also the use of irony, the reader knows more than Chambers and why did she say that, I wonder? He thought it was funny, or so it appears?

    I had to ask, had to laugh when Roxy said. "Now, Gab'r'el, blow de hawn, I'se ready"...you have to wonder if that's where Sanford & Son's writers got "I'm coming, Elizabeth !"

    March 12, 2004 - 12:29 pm
    Welcome, Rachel.

    I enjoyed reading about Mark Twain's love for the Fisk Jubilee Singers. I am sure their spirituals were very moving and brought joy to anyone who heard them.

    Poor Roxy. I am sorry she had to go and live in the haunted house for awhile. It does surprise me that Roxy had the courage to go there and stay. At least, in the beginning of the story, she seems very supertitious. I remember her fear of Pudd'nHead Wilson's glasses. Whenever she went to visit Pudd'nHead Wilson, she carried a horseshoe. I feel that living life on the steamboat changed Roxy. She seems stronger and less fearful. If living on the steamboat did not change Roxy, maybe losing her money made her more aware of the fact that she is the one responsible for her destiny.

    Now, she is a survivor. Wanting to survive, leads her to "blackmail" her own son, Tom, in order to save herself. I am not sure. Is it blackmail? That term might be too harsh.

    The haunted house does add to the mystery in the story. Mark Twain seems like a man who had the ability to tap into his boyhood and use it again and again in his books. MT does not spend a lot of time describing the haunted house. I feel like he wants me to put my imagination to work. If that is what he wanted, it worked. I remembered childhood memories of haunted houses and what I have read and seen of haunted houses as an adult.

    rachel rogers
    March 12, 2004 - 01:03 pm
    I was struck in the early chapters by the names of all the FFVs. They were all chock-full of images from the old country and brimming with the pride that their status gave them: Percy Northumberland Driscoll, Cecil Burleigh Essex and York Leicester Driscoll. As Chris said, Twain was an Anglophile and he made many of his character such as well.

    On an aside - Hats, we had today's Fisk Jubilee Singers at the museum this past weekend and their work is still powerful and awe inspiring. I could easily see why Sam was so enamored of their work.

    March 12, 2004 - 02:46 pm
    Love the image of Twain and the cats on the billard table chasing the balls around.

    "Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? Is it because we are not the person involved." Oh! What an interesting concept.

    "It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition. There was once a man who, not being able to find any other fault with his coal, complained that there were too many prehistoric toads in it." This one too is interesting, but I'm stumped to understand the part about the "prehistoric toads". Anyone know what this could refer too?

    "This story a two-story log house which had acquired the reputation a few years before of being haunted, and that was the end of its usefulness. Nobody would live in it afterward, or go near it by night, and most people even gave it a wide berth in the daytime. As it had no competition, it was called "the" haunted house. It was getting crazy and ruinous now from long neglect. It stood three hundred yards beyond Pudd'nhead Wilson's house, with nothing between but vacancy. It was the last house in the town at the end."

    Twain never really says why this house was called "the" haunted house and makes me wonder if there wasn't some significance that had both Roxy and Tom being under its roof. Was it because they too were "haunted"?

    "Why, Roxy, what do you mean? She rose, and gloomed above him like a Fate. "I mean dis-en it's de Lord's truth. You ain't no more kin to old Marse Driscoll den I is - dat's what I means!" and her eyes flamed with triumph. "What! "Yassir, en dat ain't all. You's a nigger!- bawn a nigger en a slave - en you's nigger en a slave disminute; en if I opens my mouf ole Marse Driscoll 'll sell you down de river befo' you is two days older den what you is now!" "It ain't no lie, nuther. It's jes de truth, en nothin' but de truth, so he'p me. Yessir-you's my son-"

    Wow! And just when you thought it was safe to go into the water! What would it feel like to find out that not only were you not a son of perhaps the richest man in town with the possiblity of getting an inheritance, but also that you were a "nigger" which you have been taught to despise since the time you were born. What would you do? What could you do?

    "Tom sprang up and sezied a billet of wood and raised it; but his mother only laughed at himn, and said: "Set down, you pup! Does you think you kin skyer me? It ain't in you, nor de likes of you. I reckon you'd shoot me in de back, maybe, if you got a chance, for dat's just yo' style - I knows you, throo en throo - but I don't mind gitt'n killed, beca'se all dis is down in writin' en it's in safe hands, too, en de man dat's got it know whah to look for de right man when I gits killed. Oh, bless yo' soul, foif you puts yo' mother up for as big a fool as you is, you's pow'ful mistaken, I kin tell you! Now den, you set still en behave yo'self; en don't you git up ag'in till I tell you!"

    I guess Roxy really did know her own son and took the necessary precaution in case something did happen to her. But I have to wonder if Tom thought Roxy was bluffing. What would happen if he had killed Roxy? At this time blacks couldn't testify against their masters. Who might have had this information about Roxy? Judge Driscoll? Pudd'nhead Wilson? Even if either of them had revealed this information, would the town's people really have taken the word of a black woman over what they thought was a white man?

    "Roxy knew her conquest was complete. She could have proved nothing to anybody, and her threat about the writings was a lie; but she knew the person she was dealing with, and had made both statements without any doubt as to the effect they would produce."

    Ah! Ha! The plot thickens. It would seem everyone has secrets or has told fibs. But the interesting part to me is that Roxy knew her own son so well that she knew she could get away with her lies. As parents do we really know our children that much?

    "I don't hate you so much now, but I've hated you a many a year - and anybody would. Didn't I change you off, en give you a good family en a good name, en made you a white gen'lman en rich, wid store clothes on - en what did I git for it? You despised me all de time, en was al-ays sayin' men hard things to me befo' folks, en wouldn't ever let me forgit I's a nigger - en -en" She fell to sobbing, and broke down. Tom said: "But you know I didn't know you were my mother; and besides-"

    I can't help wonder that even if he had known Roxy was his mother whether without her threats he would have treated her any different. If we are told since birth that someone is beneath you or different from you would it really make any difference if you found out you were related to that person? When in our lives do we start thinking for ourselves? What is it that makes one person hate another person? I have always felt that it doesn't really matter what labels we put on ourselves, underneath we are all human beings.

    March 12, 2004 - 03:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing the experience. I certainly would have enjoyed that evening.

    Scrawler's words,

    "Twain never really says why this house was called "the" haunted house and makes me wonder if there wasn't some significance that had both Roxy and Tom being under its roof. Was it because they too were "haunted"?

    Scrawler, to me, your idea about Tom and Roxy being haunted strikes true. When I read about the haunted house, it stayed with me. I thought about loneliness and emptiness in spirit. Anyway, your thought about the haunted house made me want to think more about the house and why MT included it in the story.

    Joan Pearson
    March 13, 2004 - 08:51 am
    Good morning!

    Many good points were made yesterday...plus MANY GOOD QUESTIONS! Some of them will follow us on into the next chapters, so let's address them here today before moving on to the fourth installment in Century Magazine covering Chapters X, XI and XII...
  • First Families of Virginia
    Rachel and Ginny both commented on the names..."old country names... brimming with the pride that their status gave them" - they would be British names; they were the first British families to settle in Virginia. The question remains - WHY did these families, so proud of their Virginia roots, move from their land to Dawson's Landing, Missouri? Chris has related that John Clemens was also a Virginian (but not FFV) ..."who always maintained his pride and bearing as a Virginian gentleman--a man from the Old Domninian, a legacy to the family"--he had moved to Missouri for economic reasons. Was this the reason these FFV families moved here too?

  • Irony - Tom stealing from the white families in Dawson's Landing
    Ella - Tom needed money, and yes the white families were the only ones to steal from - but did he HAVE to steal? I'm going to say something that is probably heresy to Twainiacs, and I'd love to have any of you say I'm wrong - and explain why. It seems to me that Twain is saying here, that the negroes felt justified to pilfer from the white masters and still maintain clear consciences because of the circumstances which had cast them into dire situations. But Tom? By including us, the readers in the secret that Tom is a slave (even 1/32 percent negro), isn't he putting Tom into the same category with the other pilfering slaves? What I'm asking - even inadvertantly, isn't Twain blaming Tom's negro blood for his behavior? I know that under it all, he's saying that when one's back is against the wall, no matter the color of his skin, any man will be guilty of the same behavior. Ella has pointed out, neither the slaves nor Tom have any motivation in life. But would the honorable Judge or any of his own blood who treasure integrity and honor be guilty of such behavior?

  • Haunted house - Superstition
    Hats makes the connection between the haunted house and superstition - and Pudd'nhead. Roxy carried that horseshoe whenever she went near Pudd'nhead. She feared his "glasses" - (I think she was referring to the glass plates he used for fingerprints, rather than eyeglasses)...Scrawler quotes the passage in which we learn that the haunted house is just 300 yards from Pudd'nhead's house. Yet here she is, spending her nights in the dark empty house. Roxy and Tom are "haunted" outcasts, now in the same deserted area where Pudd'nhead (another outcast?) lives..three "lonely" spirits as as Hats descibed them.

  • Blackmail
    Hats - Blackmail is one word for what Roxy is doing...and how about "extortion"? Of course she would like Tom to be in a position to help her out now that she has NO means of support, but basically, she is trying to keep her boy in line for the inheritance. In other words, she is trying to protect his future, the same as she was the day she switched him with the real heir, don't you think?

  • Would Tom have killed Roxy?
    That's an interesting point, Scrawler...what would have happened if he had? Would he ever be prosecuted for killing a black woman? Roxy is pretty confident that he won't...she knows the likes of him - he might shoot her in the back, but not bludgeon her with that wooden plank. "As parents, do we really know our children that much?" I think so, I really do. I can hear myself say of one of my boys, "he wouln't hurt a flea fly." I know no matter how desperate, he wouldn't inflict pain on anyone.

  • Coal and prehistoric toads
    Anne asked yesterday about the meaning of the calendar entry, "It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition. There was once a man who, not being able to find any other fault with his coal, complained that there were too many prehistoric toads in it."
    From what I was able to find, coal was an important in Twain's time...for fuel and more -
    "In the 19th century coal was used as a material to make buttons, spoons, plates, dishes, snuff boxes, inkwells, candlesticks - and even statues and church floors.."
    "A gigantic lump of coal was the most prominent item on display at the great exhibition of 1851, which was held at the Crystal Palace." Facts on Coal
    The 1822 Crystal Palace Park Exhibition in Sydenham, London made scientific headlines - geologists discovered fossils of prehistoric reptiles in coal...which changed long held views on dinosaurs' evolution. I am guessing that Twain knew of this discovery. If a man is an habitual complainer...even if fortunate enough to have sufficient coal, he'll find something to complain about. Is this Calendar entry referring to Tom and his gambling?
  • Joan Pearson
    March 13, 2004 - 09:46 am
    Scrawler...I agree with you...I don't believe Tom either when he tells Roxy the reason he treated her so badly was because he didn't know she was his mother. But it sounded good at the time, didn't it? Roxy didn't fall for it though... You ask, "what is it that makes one person hate another person? ...It doesn't really matter what labels we put on ourselves, underneath we are all human beings."

    Funny you should ask this question, Anne - Tom is asking the exact same thing about labels at the start of Chapter X, the morning after he has had time to think about the meaning of what Roxy had revealed to him. What is the "curse" of Ham?

    March 13, 2004 - 12:09 pm
    "All say, "How hard it is that we have to die" - a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live." What do you folks think of this statement? To me truer words were never spoken, after all if your dead - your dead!

    "A gigantic erruption, like that of Krakatoa a few years ago, with the accompanying earthquakes, tidal waves, and clouds of volcanic dust, changes the face of the surrounding landscape beyond recognition, bringing down the high lands, elevating the low, making fair lakes where deserts had been, and deserts where green prairies had smiled before. The tremendous catastrophe which had befallen Tom had changed his moral landscape in much the same way. Some of his low places he found lifted to ideals, some of his ideals had sunk to the valleys, and lay there with the sackcloth and ashes of pumice-stone and sulphur on their ruined heads."

    Twain has this wonderful way of expessing thoughts - a little melodramatic, but interesting never the less. Sometimes it does seem that you can describe your negative feelings by relating them to natural disasters.

    "Why were niggers and whites made? What crime did the uncreated first nigger commit that the curse of birth was decreed for him? And why is this awful difference made between white and black?...How hard the nigger's fate seems, this morning! - yet until last night such a thought never entered my head."

    Again such a wonderful description of a person's thoughts. It is so true that we can go through our lives and never really feel how the other person is feeling. Which is why we should in my opinion give him/her the benefit of our compassion. Twain mentions "the curse of Ham". What is that referring too?

    "For days he wandered in lonely places, thinking, thinking, thinking - trying to get his bearings. It was new work. If he met a friend, he found that the habit of a lifetime had in some mysterious way vanished - his arm hung limp, instead of involuntairly extending the hand for a shake. It was the "nigger" in him asserting its himility, and he blushed and was abashed. And the "nigger" in him was surprised when the white friend put out his hand for a shake with him. He found the "nigger" in him involuntarily giving the road, on the sidewalk, to the white rowdy and loafer. When Rowena, the dearest thing his heart knew, the idol of his secret worship, invited him in the "nigger' in him went shrinking and skulking here and there and yonder, and fancying it saw suspicion and maybe detection in all faces, tones, and gestures. So strange and uncharcteristic was Tom's conduct that people noticed it, and turned to look after him when he passed on; and when he glanced back - as he could not help doing, in spite of his best resistance - and caught that puzzled expression in a person's face, it gave him a sick feeling, and he took himself out of view as quickly as he could. He presently came to have a hunted sense and a hunted look, and then he fled away to the hilltops and the solitudes. He said to himself that the curse of Ham was upon him."

    I think this is perhaps the most provocative paragraph in the whole story. How would it feel to switch with another person? Especially one that you have been taught to hate.

    "In serval ways his opinions were totally changed, and would never go back to what they were before, but the main structure of his character was not changed, and could not be changed. One or two very important features of it were altered, and in time effects would result from this, if opportunity offered - effects of a quite serious nature, too. Under the influence of a great mental and moral upheavel his character and habits had taken on the appearance of complete change, but after a while with the subsidence of the storm both began to settle toward their former places. He dropped gradually back into his old frivolous and easy-going ways and conditions of feeling and manner of speech, and no familiar of his could have detected anything in him that differentiated him from the weak and careless Tom of other days."

    I guess you really can't change a leopard's spots.

    "Success gave him nerve and even actual intrepidity; insomuch, indeed, that after he had conveyed his harvest to his mother in a back alley, he went to the reception himself, and added several of the valueables of the house to his takings."

    It surprised me that after he realized he was a "nigger" that he continued these petty thefts. I would think that now that he knew he was a "nigger" he would fear the consequences of his actions and what the authorities would do to him if they caught him. But maybe Roxy encouraged him or did he feel that since he was a "nigger" his own preception of them was that they steal from the whites and so it was just predetermined that he would do it any way.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 13, 2004 - 01:55 pm
    hmmm I am not seeing hate here - I am not seeing these folks being taught to hate - I am not seeing white children taught to hate or dispise blacks - or Tom learning to hate Roxy - I simply see folks being taught that one has the right to use their power over another and if you are a victim of that over-power your survival is dependent on taking care of yourself - no one is going to take care of you - and your concept of right and wrong is skewed -

    To me a book being a classic, which Mark Twain's books are considered classics, the circumstances needs to translate beyond historical boundaries...we have all sorts of slavery - today we hear of illegals being bonded to the sex industry - we still have slavery active in various areas of the world. Recently there was an article on children slaves to war lords as soldiers.

    Looking up the meaning of Slavery we learn it means - Bondage to a master or household - Roxy is bonded to a master.

    Slavery also means a mode of production in which slaves constitute the principle work force -- the condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence - the citizens of Dawsons Landing are, out of habit and tradition, addicted to a specified influence.

    And finally slavery means - A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.

    Three words in this definition that to me required more clarification of Subjection - Bondage - Master.

    Subjection - under the power or authority of another - to submit to the authority of - to subjugate, subdue - to cause to experience - dependent or contingent.

    In a patriarchal society, with little contact from his father as a child, Tom is dependent on the Col. for recognition; probably wanting signs of affection - since his father (the father he grew up assuming was his) bailed him out of his debts once he is dependent on him for continued help, hoping to manage some of his Father's help with his current debts. And bottom line he is dependent on his father for his monthly allowance. And so Tom is a subject or under the power and authority of his father. Tom is in a power-over relationship with his father - the condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence

    Bondage - The condition of servitude - a state of subjection to a force, power, or influence (something that binds, ties, or fastens together as a fetter, cord or band, a link , captivity, confinement, a covenant, a promise, obligation -- LAW; a written and sealed obligation) Villeinage (the legal status of a villein - the legal tenure by which a villein held his land. Villein one class of feudal serfs who held the legal status of freemen in all dealing except with their Lord)

    Bondage is more defining of Roxy's relationship before she is free to work the river boats. Bondage is the relationship of Chambers and the other black citizens of Dawsons landing. They are bonded legally to their master or Lord...

    With this definition it is an easy leap to stories of serfs who poached and who cut down the Lords forests to heat their huts - later with fewer resources they became highway men - Dicken's street kids pilfered, pick pocketed and shoplifted. Bits of this story remind you of the adventures of Felding's Tom Jones and Roxy has some things in common with Moll Flanders, both characters 'take' after they have been subjugated to the authority of a master or lord.

    Seems it goes with the territory when you take from a person the dignity of their labor or other freedoms the victims give (or take) in kind. In the list of incest survivor after-affects is shoplifting - this is further explained that anyone who has been subject to the over-power of another - when they have been made dependent on that over-power and in the process loose themselves - they are left with no boundaries - they will do what they can to take back some power - that all pilfering is, is taking power - sometimes from the one who took power from you in the first place but not necessarily.

    A master - a person having control over the actions of another or others (there are many more definitions of master that do not fit ownership or controlling another) -

    We are not made to be forced to be controlled - as a Two year old, before reason, we see the natural instinct of a human to try - to experiment - we have an expectation of leading our own life. Reduce someone to subjugation and their inner war will submerge while they are dependent although, even dependent the war will rear itself in subtle ways...pilfering is a way to take - take back some power.

    To me Roxy was astute enough to know Tom was not capable of murder - he was a man in turmoil not an rageful man - a lonely man who wanted to be thought well of by his father and since he could not measure up he drowned himself in a lifestyle, 'live for today' as well as, the emotional high that risk offered him while gambling. Murder was too definite - he would have to live with that - hide what he did - maybe even leave Dawnsons Landing forever - basically he was a good man - just confused and overwhelmed in life while still dependent on his father. She understood dependency - in dependency there is hope - in murder there is independence and self-mastery.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 13, 2004 - 02:50 pm
    Thanks for joining us Rachel - the information about the Jubilee Singers was great - and so you actually heard them sing!! What a treat...

    Bingo I love it - the haunted house bit - would never have thought of the connection - yes...

    Wasn't Ham one of Jacob's sons and it was Ham who was the patriarch of the lost tribe - I didn't know in the Victorian years there was knowledge of the Black African tribes who have traced their heritage to Ham - recent DNA showed this connection as explained on a PBS special.

    Again I see Tom living out the behavior of anyone dependent in an over-power relationship regardless of his color. In fact his blackness is so small he may not show typical features and so again, to me he epitomzes the behavior of anyone who was made subject to the force, power, or influence under the power or authority of another.

    He is now under the power and authority of Roxy as well as dependent on the Col. for his allowance and therefore subject to pleasing his known father - he is bound to both his natural mother and his faux father. He is a man of circumstances - he did not control his destiny and can only take control by emotionaly disconnecting - emotional murder - and then go his own way lonlier then ever. This way his bond is keeping him feeling connected...

    March 13, 2004 - 08:19 pm
    Wow what interesting chapters and comments, love the questions in the heading! I am really enjoying reading it this way.

    Rachel and Joan, I have the strangest nagging feeling about the Cecils and the Burleighs, etc., etc., joined into one name. I wonder if Twain did something there, mixed families in English history which normally would not get along, and joined them by name as one family, as a joke. I was just rereading about the Cecils the other day, wouldn't that be funny tho, (and is probably not true, hahaha) but I think I'll look it up just to see if the joke might be there, hidden.

    My text has a super note on the "philopena " remark in Chapter 11, which might be interesting to the group here (from the Penguin Edition)

    A complicated joke to succeed in a town where irony "was not for these people"? [sic] It means a nut with two kernels, and comes through into "Philippene" Bartlett (Dict. Amer.) comments:
    There is a custom common in the Northern States at dinner or evening parties when almonds or other nuts are eaten, to reserve such as are double or contain two kernels, which are called fillipeens. If found by a lady, she gives one of the kernels to a gentlemen, when both eat their respective kernels. When the parties again meet, each strives to be the first to exclaim, Fillipeen! For by so doing he or she is entitled to a present from the other.
    I thought that was interesting.

    Very interesting questions on the palmistry! I've had my palm read, as a young child at a church bazaar by the Junior Warden's Wife, who wore a turban and sat in a tent. I was irritated over it for years (so far she was half right ahahaha). Supposedly your left palm shows your life line and your right shows what you've made of it? Is that right or do I have that backwards? I am not sure how it would show a murder, how can we find out?

    I thought Twain made a striking point when Tom, in Chapter X, was so thunderstruck by the news that he was Roxy's son that his outward behavior changed in tune with what he "supposed" that his black blood would cause him to do and say and the way he would act. I believe here Twain is saying here, thru Tom's almost ridiculous pendulum swinging in attitude and demeanor, first his "normal self," now his "black self," and finally his normal self again, (but he actually was black), is that the stereotypes so easily put on about people of color as an attitude and discarded in the same way, are worthless. I thought that part was brilliant. I am not sure if it was intended to be funny, there's a lot of pathos there, but it IS striking, I thought.


    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 13, 2004 - 09:48 pm
    Hurray - Ginny you found it - the mystery word "Philippene"

    Chapter 10 has so much going on - it was different than the other chapters where there may be a hint of something afoot but chapter 10 I could not figure out what all the Rum party and firemen were doing in the middle of it all...it did set the scene for Tom's humiliating removel from the hall but the chapter sure bounced around as much as Tom's emotions.

    Tom really big time disappoints his father, who I keep referring to as the Col. (Colonel) when he is really a Judge - ah so

    Seems to me I remember reading someplace the mark of success among nineteenth century German officers were the number of sabor marks on their face and body. I am guessing fistacuffs was the poorman's version of a duel.

    I didn't think we had a strong Irish population in the 1830s when this story is supposed to be taking place - there were a lot of Scotch-Irish in Appalachia but they were not the kind of Irish that this bit about the fireman and the Rum party seems to depict - of course I had look on the internet and find out if there really was a Rum party - found this interesting site about the election of 1884 that I wonder if the news lines of that election was the basis for Twain's idea of a Rum party...


    Joan Pearson
    March 14, 2004 - 11:25 am
    Good morning, all! Are you into the "March Madness" at your house? I"m hoping all that b'ball keeps Bruce occupied so I can get caught up here without his noticing...you provided much interesting information yesterday! Love it! There is so much here that comes to the surface, only with close scrutiny...
  • Tom's new "moral landscape"
    The news that Tom is not the person he thought he was (white FFV gentleman) has sent him reeling, hasn't it? Considering the times, this is BIG! Scrawler brings us the passage in which Twain compares the effects on Tom's "moral landscape" to th impact of the Krakatoa Earthquake The link describes the far-reaching effects of the quake - which took place in 1883. Yes, Anne - Twain does have a way of making his points...AND he's showing us with the earthquake example (as with the prehistoric fossils-in-coal discovery) that he is also very much aware of what is going on in the world outside of Hannibal, Mo.

    "Some of his low places he found lifted to ideals, some of his ideals had sunk to the valleys," Anne, I agree...we "go through our lives never feeling what another is feeling" - Do you think that this could be a fresh start for Tom? Presuming his secret is safe, and he does become "Marster, one might hope he has a new outlook regarding the slaves...

    Barbara, I checked the Curse of Ham which Tom bemoans...the link explains that Ham was the son of Noah who is to blame for the "black-skinned" peoples of the earth. This reference to Genesis shows that Twain was a Bible-reader, not necessarily with any knowledge of DNA...

    BUT Scrawler points out that Tom gradually reverted to his old ways...and soon it was impossible "to detect anything that differentiated him from the weak and careless Tom of other days." Oh, Ginny, yes! "Tom's almost ridiculous pendulum swinging from his normal self to his black self and finally his normal self again" does show the worthlessness of stereotyping. It's when Twain writes like this that you have to believe he really was "an unusual man of his times"...as Chris pointed out a while back. I think Twain is demonstrating an understanding of the psychological make up of both the slave and the whites during his time. Doesn't it make you wonder if there were many others who felt as he did? We need to separate the setting of the story, the 1880's from the post-Civil War period in which the book was written. I'm wondering how folks felt about the slavery system back in the 1830's.
  • Joan Pearson
    March 14, 2004 - 11:30 am
    Ginny! - good on you! You win the prize! You cracked the riddle of the philopena insult - which stumped us all when reading Those Extraordinary Twins Thank you! Now the puzzle remains - why did being called a "philopena" so enrage Luigi to cause him to kick Tom off the stage? I googled "fillipeen" and came up with this -
    "In a recent book on German life and manners, entitled "A Bout with the Burschens, or, Heidelberg in 1844," is an account of the existence of this custom in Germany, which at the same time furnishes us with the etymology of the word:

    Among the queer customs and habits of Germany, there is one which struck me as being particularly original, and which I should recommend to the consideration of turf-men in England ; who might, perhaps, find it nearly as good a way of getting rid of their spare cash as backing horses that have been made safe to lose, and prize fighters who have never intended to fight. It is a species of betting, and is accomplished thus: Each of two persons eats one of the kernels of a nut or almond which is double. The first of the two who, after so doing, takes anything fiom the hand of the other, without saving Ich denke, 'I think,' has to make the other a present, of a value which is sometimes previously determined, and sometimes left to the generosity of the loser. The presents are called Vielliebchens, and are usually trifles of a few florins value; a pipe, riding-whip, or such like.">
    In addition to Ginny's footnote, then, it would appear that by calling him a "fillipeen" - then Luigi would be expected to reply - and put in context, Luigi did what he thought custom demanded. Tom's "present" was a kick in the pants. When we were reading Extraordinary Twins, it seemed the term was an insult to the conjoined twins. Do you get the feeling that the separate twins, Luigi and Angelo are being severely dissed by Tom in this instance? Does the whole episode tie into the rum party/teetotaler conflict? (Thanks Barb, for checking this out.) It sounds like a "hot issue" in the 1830's... Do you think the kick merited a lawsuit?

    March 14, 2004 - 12:13 pm
    "There are three infallible ways of pleasing an author, and the three form a rising scale of compliment: 1, to tell him you have read one of his books; 2, to tell him you have read all of his books; 3, to ask him to let you read the manuscript of his forthcoming book. No. 1 admits you to his respect; No. 2 admits you to his admiration; No. 3 carries you clear into his heart." HERE! HERE! I love this one.

    "As to Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out." Good advice - Stephen King said the same thing in his book "On Writing".

    Although I have to admit that I'm not sure what the above has to do with this chapter.

    "Wilson began to study Luigi's palm, tracing life lines, heart lines, head lines, and so on, and noting carefully their relations with the cobweb of finer and more delicate marks and lines that enmeshed them on all sides; he felt of the fleshy cushion at the base of the thumb, and noted its shape; he felt of the fleshy side of the hand between the wrist and the base of the little finger, and noted its shape also; he painstakingly examined the fingers, observing their form, proportions, and natural manner of disposing themselves when in repose. All this process was watched by the three spectators with absorbing interest, their heads bent together over Lugi's palm, and nobody disturbing the stillness with a word. Wilson now entered upon a close survey of the palm again, and his revelations began. He mapped out Lugi's character and disposition..."

    I love the way Twain uses the latest (1880) fads to further the plot of the story. I think at one time or another some of us have had our palms read, now whether we believed in the result is another matter. But for the plot of this story at least one character will use the information about Lugi that he: "It was prophesied that I would kill a man. It came true before the year was out" to further his own cause.

    I thought it also interesting that Twain gave almost a "personality" to the weapon. "It killed a good many disagreeable people who troubled that hearthstone at one time or another. It isn't much to look at, except it isn't shaped like other knives, or dirks, or whatever it may be called...The devices engraved on it are the ciphers or names of its long line of possessors - I had Lugi's name added in Roman letters myself with our coat of arms, as you see..."

    "What, a man's own hand is his deadliest enemy! Just think of that - a man's own hand keeps a record of the deepest and fatalest secrets of his life, and is treacherously ready to expose him to any black-magic stranger that comes along..."

    Ah! How interesting. I wonder if this statement might have a double meaning. We know it refers to Lugi, but doesn't it also refer to Tom as well. Remember early in the story Wilson took Tom's fingerprints.

    "The visitor was a good natured, ignorant, energetic, middle-aged Irishman named, John Buckstone, who was a great politician in a small way, and always took a large share in public matters of every sort."

    I think this is an interesting description of what some southerners thought of the Irish of the 1800s. I once read somewhere referring to the Irish of this time that: they were good for two things No.1 drinking good Irish whiskey and No.2 being politicians and sometimes they did both at the same time. I'm of Irish desent so I can say things like that.

    "When the noise had moderated a little, the chair proposed that "our illustrious guests be at once elected, by complimentary acclamation, to memembership in our ever-glorious organization, the paradise of the free and the perdition of the slave."

    Again, how interesting Twain sticks in these little comments about the way of life in the south at this time of history. It's almost a sub story in itself.

    "Even a sober person does not like to have a human being emptied on him when he is not doing any harm; a person who is not sober cannot endure such an attention at all. The nest of Sons of Liberty that Driscoll landed in had not a sober bird in it; in fact, there was probably not an entirely sober one in the auditorium. Driscoll was promptly and indignantly flung onto the heads of Sons in the next row, and these Sons passed him on toward the rear, and then immediately began to pummel the front-row Sons who had passed him to them. This course was strictly followed by bench after bench as Driscoll traveled in his tumultuous and airy flight toward the door; so he left behind him an ever-lengthening wake of raging and plunging and fighting and swearing humanity..."

    Although this is a tragic story, I think this scene has to be one of the funnist I've ever read. Can't you just picture poor "young Tom" being "flung" from one row after the other.

    March 14, 2004 - 02:20 pm
    W H O O P W H O O P ! ! ! W H O O P

    OK, now that the whoops are out of my system---Maryland just beat DUKE 95-87 in overtime and my heart rate is still over the top. It was something else. Almost unbelievable.

    Scrawler--That advice Twain and Stephen King made about adjectives is one I give to my students all the time. They somehow feel that adjectives are "descriptive" and make nouns more powerful. I try to convince them that adjectives often weaken the noun, and they would do better to worry about their VERBS, which are the strongest part of speech.

    I think it's important to remember that Twain takes a strong antislavery stance in this book (as he did in his life) and that although "Tom" who is Roxy's son is black--he's really only 1/32 black and for all practical purposes he is white. Tom's character hasn't come from being 1/32 black. I think Twain makes nurture far more important than nature here as he spends so much time explaining how Tom was indulged and what a coward he became and how weak he was from eating all sorts of bad foods.

    I don't think he would have turned a new leaf under any circumstances this late in his life. Tom is a loser and it doesn't matter whether he is born into slavery or raised in the lap of luxury with great expectations of becoming an heir. There just isn't any hope for him, but that's OK from the reader's point of view since we haven't liked him from childhood on.

    Back to celebrating the BIG WIN. GO TERPS!!

    March 14, 2004 - 03:23 pm
    YEAH!!! ANOTHER TERPS FAN!!! I've been one for 50 years! We are dancing around in circles at my house. I'll have to learn HTML so I can do those WHOOPS.

    aS TO Ham: if I remember my torah/boble correctly, what he did was look at his father when he was naked. For this his descendents were (supposedly) condemned to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Interesting that the site quoted gives this as a reason for resenting the Jews. Prejudice and counter prejudice -- will it never end?

    An interesting comment on the Bible and race. In the Song of Songs, the Shulemite says something that the King James version translates as "Black I am but beautiful". But if you look at the Hebrew, it could equally well say "Black I am AND beautiful". We get our ideas of the past filtered through the ideas of time.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 14, 2004 - 04:29 pm
    Oh so Ham was supposed to have created the black man - interesting - wasn't Noah after Jacob and the 12 sons that became the 12 tribes - seems to me Jacob is in Genesis but I do not know where the story of Noah fits in the historical as laid out in the Bible.

    Have you read the book or seen the PBS series of the guy who traces the history of man through DNA - facinating - something about shunts that tell more and the line is traced through women - the show aired I think last summer - facinating and when you looked at the overlap of faces he did to show the visiable of what the DNA tells us it was amazing to see the various races within the features of most races - seems the white man out of Europe is almost a by product - a dead end that happened so much later than most of the other civilizations and the area around Iraq and the nations just to the north of Iraq is where the big crossroads took place - they even found the ocianic races to have come across from India out of this area that is now Iraq.

    I need to see if I can find the book and link it here - I thought the research was wounderful...

    Found it - one of these long URLs that you may have to copy and paste since the whole think may not become a link


    March 14, 2004 - 09:25 pm
    Barbara--Noah and his family were the only humans to survive the great flood. So everyone comes after Noah except for Adam and Eve and a few of their progeny. Jacob is the patriarch who had twelve sons (the twelve tribes of Israel). His son Joseph was sold into Egypt and later saved his family.

    Yes, JoanK, that was some game, wasn't it? My daughter "worked" so hard for the Terps that she was wiped out. All she did was cheer and scream, but all that support takes it out of one. Thanks for explaining the curse on Ham which was used for a long time to justify treatment of the black races. Since Noah's three sons were the only ones to survive and renew the race, I guess ancient thinking assumed that they must be the forebears of all the other races.

    Joan Pearson
    March 15, 2004 - 07:39 am
    Years ago, I think it was 1997, we were considering the next Great Books selection to follow our first - The Odyssey The two top contenders were Joyce's Ulysses and the Old Testament. As it turned out, there was reluctance to both - fear of controversy and the length of each of these works. In June we will finally get to Ulysses in celebration of the 100th birthday anniversary. Today, as I am spending time reading Genesis, following up on the Noah/Ham thread I'm really tempted to reconsider proposing a discussion of the Old Testament - as literature. It is such fascinating reading.

    Barb, you might enjoy this link to Genesis (King James)...the "begats" should put Noah and Jacob into a time line for you. JoanK - your memory serves you well - Ham DID look at his father, naked and for that he was severly punished. I went back to read the passage because that hardly made sense to me. I discovered something I thought was interesting - which may tie in with this chapter. Following are several verses...it's better to read the whole thing in context (see above link), but you may not have time this morning...

    005:032 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

    009:018 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.

    009:019 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.

    009:020 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

    009:021 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

    009:022 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

    009:023 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

    009:024 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

    009:025 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

    009:026 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

    009:027 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

    010:015 And Canaan begat Sidon his first born, and Heth,

    010:016 And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite,

    010:017 And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite,

    010:018 And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad.

    010:019 And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.
    I thought several things were interesting here - Noah was drunk - passed out, naked and his young (?) son witnessed him in his disgraceful condition - notice how the other sons who covered him up did so backwards so "they saw not their father's nakedness." When Noah "woke up from his wine" and realized that his son had seen him, he put a curse on his son Canaan - "a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." It sounds to me as if he has disinherited Ham and his son for having dishonored him. I'm wondering if we are reading something into the message about skin color when all Twain meant to do was include the curse of disinheritance and servitude here. What do you think? It is true that when the tribes multiplied and divided, the sons of Canaan found themselves in North Africa among other places, but can we passage we seem to have all the themes touched upon in this chapter...drink, honor, inheritance, servitude. Remarkable, really.

    Joan Pearson
    March 15, 2004 - 08:10 am
    The two Calendar entries for chapter XI are clear, the second one more sublte than the first. Scrawler, I thought of you, as an author - when reading the first...wondered what you thought of #3 - if I asked to read the manuscript of "a forthcoming" book, would I find a place in your heart? Why did the twins ask Pudd'nhead for a batch of the Calendar quotes? I got the feeling they were trying to flatter him. Lonely, unappreciated Pudd'nhead was probably touched by the request.

    You asked about the second entry - "As to the Adjective, when in doubt, strike it out" - there are a number of adjectives attributed to Pudd'nhead by the twins...they each viewed him differently - basically, Angelo thought him "pleasant", "free and easy" and Luigi thought there was something "veiled" and "sly" about him. I'm wondering if the Calendar message wasn't saying that adjectives are purely subjective...when they are in conflict, "strike" them out...you get a more objective view of the subject.

    JoanK, you know about twins first-hand. Chapter XI seems to be focusing on individuality and Tom's assumption that the twins will have the same fingerprints. Will you share your thoughts on Twain's portrayal of the twins in this chapter?

    Ella Gibbons
    March 15, 2004 - 09:24 am
    "Why were niggers and whites made? What crime did the uncreated first nigger commit that the curse of birth was decreed for him? And why is this awful difference made between white and black?"

    I doubt those questions can ever be answered. Joan asked "I'm wondering if we are reading something into the message about skin color when all Twain meant to do was include the curse of disinheritance and servitude here."

    I think so, Joan.

    I've always believed, and I can't tell you by what evidence other than vague references to the first human remains in Africa, that early man originated there and his skin color was black to protect him from the sun; as man spread northward the pigment in his skin became lighter as he was further away from the sun.

    The word "uncreated" in the second sentence of that quote needs explaining. Any ideas?

    Did we know before Chapter X that Rowena was the idol of Tom's secret worship?

    And all this time as Tom is pilfering from the townsfolk in order to keep his gaming debts paid up and prevent the smashing of his uncle's will, what are the townsfolk thinking? Aren't they missing their valuables? Are they blaming the slaves?

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 15, 2004 - 09:39 am
    Joan having been brought up Catholic the Bible was not a feature - we learned in school the main stories but I know the writings of St. John of the Cross and the Rule of St. Benedict far better than the Bible - I understand the issue is in the translations - we are seeing the 6 Wives of Henry the VIII here on PBS and was struck as to how, after getting some Jewish Biblical scholars back in England, Henry depended on Tindale's translation and interpretation given to him by Ann as the base for his Reformation -

    I am now reading the Book that goes into how a committee was formed by James, to create the King James Bible that was supposed to be a peace offering between the Puritans and the rest of the English protestants - and so where the Biblical history line I am sure is not changed it appears there are all sorts of changes between the Greek, the Latin and the original texts with some accounts included and others excluded throughout the history of this document.

    I know what you are saying though - the Bible as a piece of Literature since many authors refer to bits and pieces of the Bible - but having read some of the early bits - my oh my to me it is a horrible example of man trying to force a certain view of God and they do horrible things to each other in the name of God - but again, as a Catholic we hardly ever went to the early Bible before Christ - regardless the sins of the church and the sins of those representing the church I can see their point --

    Just among the many versions of the Bible written and available in English there is a difference in interpretation as this site points out. http://www.williamtyndale.com/0biblehistory.htm

    I do think you are on to something when you read this part that furthers the story of HAM and NOAH - we may be so struck by the the story as it relates to skin color and how unfair that we are not seeing Tom's character - but then for me it is hard to go into the mind of an author who wrote 100 years ago when the obvious cause and affects were all around the author even then and except for the church and society having strong opinion that were held in the Psyche of any author of the time so much so that the obvious became hidden. So far I am seeing Tom as a good guy caught in a world not of his making and stumbling through trying to hide from himself all sorts of pain.

    March 15, 2004 - 09:43 am
    Ella, I agree. I don't think those questions can ever be answered. I think the same questions can be asked of all the races who have lived on earth. It seems that at one time or another any one race is oppressed by another, made to live in servitude to another.

    "And why is this awfu difference made between white and black?" This could be asked of any two races on earth. For some reason, an animosity grows between the two. This question can also, I think, include any two religions. So, from the Crusades forward, there have been religious wars.

    Maybe Mark Twain was pondering the reason why human beings learn to hate one another.

    March 15, 2004 - 09:58 am
    OK, I'll occupy the unfavored ground. I think that Twain was specifically writing about slavery and the mistreatment and cruelty that the system created. Ella brings us this quote:

    "Why were niggers and whites made? What crime did the uncreated first nigger commit that the curse of birth was decreed for him? And why is this awful difference made between white and black?"

    The question is quite plainly put and it has to do with differences between the whites and blacks which seem like a punishment upon anyone with dark skin (and even on those like Roxy whose skin is white, but who has that fatal 1/16 of a drop of black blood. Twain takes the stand (cleverly disguised as a question) that the first black man must have committed some crime before he was created since such a heavy punishment has fallen on him.

    Twain is pointing directly at the evils of his time--and by extension to the legacy that slavery has left, even unto our own generation.

    I could go on and on about this issue, but right now all I want to do is not let the main theme slip away from us. We're not just reading about any old person who doesn't like another person here.

    March 15, 2004 - 10:10 am
    "I could go on and on about this issue, but right now all I want to do is not let the main theme slip away from us. We're not just reading about any old person who doesn't like another person here."

    Maryal, I didn't mean to make it sound like "any old person who doesn't like another person..." My mind just wandered in to other situations where humanity has suffered. Sorry to have gotten off topic. I definitely do not take slavery lightly. This whole discussion is very hard for me to deal with, as it is for other posters.

    Usually, we do allow book discussions to delve in to modern events, what we are suffering now. Sorry.

    March 15, 2004 - 11:01 am
    HATS~O, I agree, and my response was to a number of posts, starting with Ella's. Slavery is an extremely difficult issue, and that's why I think we need to discuss it. I believe we are getting somewhere in this country, but it has taken soooo long, and there's a lot further to go.

    I meant no attack on what you posted. Or on anyone else's post.

    Joan Pearson
    March 15, 2004 - 11:12 am
    Hats...you...and Ella were right on point! "I think the same questions can be asked of all the races who have lived on earth. It seems that at one time or another any one race is oppressed by another, made to live in servitude to another" And I think Twain sees the the bigger picture, HatsI think he is using this story to "ponder the reason why human beings learn to hate one another" and why some people assume to be better than others - throughout history.

    I can't get over how insightful Twain was...I think we need to keep in mind that although he sets the story in the 1830's, he's writing the novel in the 1890's ...AFTER Emancipation. By that time, there were probably more voices that agreed with his. This would explain some of his wisdom, I suppose. Twain is demonstrating here that Tom's thinking is flawed! He's using the Biblical story of the "curse of Ham" ...taking the story of Ham and applying it to a punishment, a condemnation of all dark skinned people.

    We just read it here...the Bible says no no such thing. (Barb, I referred to the King James version, assuming that is what Twain would have read.) I think your conclusion AND Ella's, that Twain is talking about SERVITUDE, not black and white. It is Tom who is asking about black and white. It is Tom who concludes that it was the curse of Ham. He sees slavery in terms of black and white skin color - (This was pretty ridiculous...as his skin color was white!) No, you and Ella were right on - Twain is really pointing to the evil of SERVITUDE - if the problem was skin color, then Roxy and Tom/Chambers would not be in jeopardy.

    March 15, 2004 - 11:24 am
    I went back and reread the posts that I must have read too quickly earlier. You're right, Joan--The publication of Pudd'nhead is in the 1890s, and thus after emancipation. My point was Twain's thoughts about slavery, which he saw growing up in Hannibal, MO. He felt something was wrong with slavery even when he was a boy. I think that these old childhood perceptions color this book just as fond memories of boyhood in Hannibal do. Twain was ahead of his time, not an unusual position for a great author.


    March 15, 2004 - 11:31 am
    Hi Joan and Maryal,

    I am trying to understand all of this as I go along. I travel a bit slower than the rest of you. Ella's post struck me as being so true. I wanted to agree with her. Sometimes my enthusiasm goes ahead of my brain.

    I understand all of the posts. I just need to take time and read more slowly. These three chapters have been harder for me to understand for some reason.

    March 15, 2004 - 12:00 pm
    Hats--I think these chapters are more difficult, but not because you are having trouble with them. I think it has more to do with a problem Twain had when Roxy revealed the truth to Tom. Tom now has to live in the light of what he knows, and what he knows is slavery, but he knows it as master and not as slave.

    If we look at the very beginning of chapter 10, we find Tom awakening and then thinking that what Roxy told him was a dream. He feels profound relief for about ten seconds and then realizes it was not a dream. "A nigger! I am a nigger! Oh, I wish I was dead."

    I think what is going on here is a kind of double irony. Twain is pointing to how ridiculous it is to think of oneself as white or nigger. He has deliberately made Tom very white indeed so that he can be brought up as the white man.

    But what Tom has learned about "niggers" and slavery is enough to make him realize that if he is a "nigger" then all is lost. When Chambers comes into the room, Tom blushes to see this "aristocratic" youth serving him and, because he is mortified and angry, orders Chambers out of the room.

    The irony here is bitter indeed because Tom now dreads to eat his meals at the white folks' table. He fears discovery all the time. His fear is completely irrational because he has been the white Tom for as long as he can remember. But the words alone are enough to bring misery upon him. It shows how deeply the system was entrenched, and how separate blacks and whites were.

    Tom does change, but not much as Twain is careful to point out:

    "the main structure of his character was not changed. . . .He dropped gradually back into his old frivolous and easygoing ways and conditions of feeling and manner of speech, and no familiar of his could have detected anything in him that differentiated him from the weak and careless Tom of other days."

    Since Tom has never had a good character, I think his return to his former self is believable.

    At the very end of this chapter, Tom dresses in women's clothes to go out and steal and we are reminded that this is the "woman" that Puddnhead Wilson saw in Tom's room. (Wilson saw the "woman" way back at the end of chapter 7.)


    March 15, 2004 - 12:02 pm
    I wonder if Twain is doing something very clever here with Tom's sudden hatred for himself because he is a "nigger."

    Is Twain saying that the system of slave and master essentially was a matter of man hating himself?

    Does that make any sense?

    I'm off to an appointment now, but will return.

    Jo Meander
    March 15, 2004 - 07:03 pm
    Hi, all! I’ve been out of the discussion for quite a while (St. Pat’s Parade weekend played havoc with my days) but I’ve read all the posts as well as the rest of the book, so I’ll be very careful! I’ll confine myself to the questions above and to your observations as if I had been good about the reading schedule! (Sorry!)

    JOAN, you asked the following:

    “…isn't he (Twain) putting Tom into the same category with the other pilfering slaves? What I'm asking - even inadvertantly, isn't Twain blaming Tom's negro blood for his behavior? I know that under it all, he's saying that when one's back is against the wall, no matter the color of his skin, any man will be guilty of the same behavior. Ella has pointed out, neither the slaves nor Tom have any motivation in life. But would the honorable Judge or any of his own blood who treasure integrity and honor be guilty of such behavior?”

    I don’t think it’s the Negro blood Twin is blaming for Tom’s behavior. I think it’s a combination of his individual character and the misguided indulgence he received when he was growing up. It seems as if all the indulgence formed his attitude and habits, and that he missed all the significant points of honor that characterized a descendent of a Fine Family of Virginia. Many other FFV sons must have had a relatively easy life, but Tom is the one Twain characterizes as a brat and a wastrel. This is partly Roxy’s fault, but that’s not the whole reason, either. He should have been motivated by the behavior and the opportunities he had as the Judge’s heir, but he was only motivated to lie about and gamble and drink. The slaves who had no motivation were taught early on that motivation wouldn’t do them much good, unless it was motivation to escape! When Roxy is freed, she begins to better herself in the one way available to her. Her son could have learned a profession or become a businessman, but he did nothing. How can we know which part of his mixed bloodline was responsible for that? Most of it is white!

    A teacher friend who is black told me one time that it was the curse of Ham that caused many Blacks to behave badly! She mentioned the color difference, too, and I don’t remember if she said that Ham just happened to be the dark brother when he got himself into trouble with his father, or if his descendents were black after the curse. She was very Bible oriented!

    MARYAL wonders if Twain is saying that the system of slave and master essentially was a matter of man hating himself.
    Slavery is a system that caused the slave to hate himself for not being a free and self-directed human being. They must have wondered often if it was some inferiority that kept them in such humiliating servitude. I think it would wear down the capacity for self-esteem, especially when one realized that his ancestors were in the same situation, and things didn’t appear to be changing for them.
    As for the master, if he hated himself it was usually on some subconscious level, don’t you think? I’m sure there were some who knew it was awful but felt trapped by the system themselves and reluctant to rock the boat or endanger their privileged lives.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 15, 2004 - 09:01 pm
    This conversation may be better served by not bringing up modern examples of servitude (I like that word Joan) but to me two things - one, if we can look at modern servitude we have a better chance of developing some understanding and insight into Slavery - today we may be living with the legacy of slavery but, for most in this nation, there is no outright slavery - where as there is still examples of servitude and examples of economic servitude - how do people react in a power-over situation today...

    Then the second, as long as we isolate these characters and their behavior to 'Slavery' what are we learning about our own humanity - we can say it was a system that affected both black and white but, as if isolated to history - as if we were pondering what it was like before cars - how did non-mechanical transportation affect everyday life and individual production, as if studying any discarded event in history - it feels safe looking back -

    Seems to me if we take a leap of courage and consider the characteristics or behavior that were part of slavery as a comparison to similar behavior in today's examples of servitude, we can more quickly react to this skewed misuse of power and recognize how we perpetrate the system, if only in a benign way, when we are not outraged, affecting change as we are confronted with the practice of servitude. I am not speaking of the unfairness the system perpetrates - I am speaking of our acceptance of the behavior that lets someone or group gain power over another or, our lack of understanding the aftermath from a victim that will be unleashed when a system of servitude is ignored.

    Twain may be saying the slave hated himself for not being a free and self-directed human being but, I wonder if Tom hates how he feels identifying with the shame of being a slave - not feeling ashamed but feeling toxic shame that says; you are worthless, everything you do is wrong, you do not measure up and never will measure up, from your toes to the tip of your hair you are wrong.

    Tom maybe a brat and a wastrel but to me he is only the product of his situation - Roxy was still a slave when Tom was the white master's son - not only would she show deference to a child of the master but, she had to be sure her switch was not suspect and so she made double sure she gave deference to this child -

    And then let's not forget the role of the father - Tom's supposed mother died - with her death the Judge all but ignores Tom - Tom is not given any fine points of how to handle himself - Tom's father cannot even identify the children before or after the switch - Tom is not included in his father's dealings or his conversations with the 'Freethinkers' - Tom simply copies his father when he downgrades Wilson's lack of cliental. That to me showed that Tom was trying to be acceptable to his father and his father's friends. There is no close bond between Tom and his father, the judge. And his mother, Roxy, as a slave is inferior and cannot straighten him out without risking the secret.

    As a slave women to a slave child she can be strong and demanding of certain behavior from her son but she cannot be strong and demanding of the white master's son. When Roxy is strong and demanding it is when she tells Tom of his heritage - not before.

    Black or white, a boy without a strong parent is going to have to figure life out for himself and Tom simply substituded his lack of ethics learned as a child by staying in a state of high risk, gambling and stealing, with no incentive to work since he received a handsome allowance nor did he have the ability to develop a relationship with his father, the Judge. The stuff of obsessive personalities today - a prime candidate for gambler's anonymous and a stint with the local court/correctional system. Oh I am sure there are other boys with similar stories that make different choices but I cannot condemn Tom because of his spoiled brat behavior that developed into a high risk livestyle - I do have a problem with his father's lack of parentin

    March 15, 2004 - 11:16 pm
    Note: on another site we are reading "The Count of Monte Cristo" written in the 1840s in France. I was struck by the fact that there is a child character in there who is portrayed very much like the young Tom. This is the child of a rich official who is completely indulged by a weak and foolish mother, and becomes a complete brat. He goads people in much the same way Tom does. I'm wondering if this was a stock character that Twain would have been familiar with.

    Jo Meander
    March 16, 2004 - 06:11 am
    Barbara,Wasn't the Judge friendly to Pudd'nhead Wilson? Together, they made up the Freethinker's Society. I thought he was his one true advocate in the community. "Tom" certainly didn't copy that! He bullyragged Wilson every time he had the chance. And I do wonder why all the other privileged young men weren't as awful as "Tom." Surely they were treated with deference by their caretakers, too!

    March 16, 2004 - 06:11 am
    I believe the Bible and read it for inspiration and for ways to be a better human being. I don't know much about the Curse of Ham. I guess to say someone is "cursed" seems very demeaning. If a person feels "cursed," it would be like a death sentence. Why try to improve yourself? You have already been predestined to fail.

    Jo Meander
    March 16, 2004 - 06:15 am
    Hats, I quite agree! I never could understand how anyone could accept the "curse," unless it was being taught or used as a way to intimidate people into compliant behavior. In a way it reminds me of the Puritan belief in predestination: everyone tried to act as if they were "saved," having been taught that God had already decided who was chosen for salvation and who was not.

    March 16, 2004 - 06:29 am
    Yes, Jo. That "Puritan belief in Predestination" makes me feel as uncomfortable as the "Curse of Ham."

    March 16, 2004 - 06:49 am
    good additional point on the filipeen, Joan P, who knew! Hahaah

    Ella! What a stunning observation, Tom stole, did the people not notice did they then blame the slaves? What a POINT! So Tom, the imposter, passing for white tho black, has brought... TO the black slaves...wow at the irony there.

    I've not seen, I hope, any reference to this, but again my text has three last huge notes and here are two, on Chapter 11?
    "There was a strong rum party and a strong anti-rum party..."

    Twain builds into his recreation of Missouri society here a significant passing reference to reform activity in the south. Temperance and eventually prohibition were growingly important matters in American progressivism and such matters in some ways brought southerners and northerners closer together. Maine passed the first state-wide prohibition law in 1846, and by 1855 twelve states and the Minnesota Territory had followed suit.

    On the Sons of Liberty, this very complicated thing!

    The title, and the rhetoric twain uses, seem ironically conceived, since the original Sons of Liberty were secret organizations formed in the summer of 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act; they later led armed resistance against British soldiers, and in New York dumped tea into the harbor. But since some of the Southern temperance supporters were called Sons of Temperance, the title has an analogical significance.
    Thought that was interesting, there's a lot here, huh?

    OK I'll bite, Professor Maryal, hahaa what's with the "Deems?"

    I'm not sure we're all on the same page about what the Main Theme actually is, should we all declare and (in my case) see how wrong we are? I thought Chris earlier explained the 1890 versus the 1840 stuff pretty well.

    I personally am not seeing "slavery," tho it certainly is an element, as the main theme of the book. There was no outward "slavery" in America in 1890, and there would not be, or would there, any point in pointing out it was wrong, but the underlying assumptions OF slavery in the US, and as many of you have pointed out there are all KINDS of slavery, but in the United States in 1890, and later, the result of slavery was some racist (let's say the word) assumptions on color. There is a LOT about color and misapprehensions and misunderstood items of identity in this book. It challenges the basis on which we build our societies. There's sort of a dichotomy in every man, a twin existence, if you will, that I think Twain is exemplifying here, in every way he can. I think that is the root of what Twain is actually saying, and that slavery is one of the means, just like the "code" of the FFV is?


    March 16, 2004 - 08:27 am
    Morning, Ginny~~I changed my name to make it easier for folks to tell the difference between me and Mal. When you are reading quickly, the two names are much alike. Deems is my maiden name, so I've restored my whole original name in reverse order. Thought it might be useful.

    Joan K--You bring up another character (from The Count of Monte Cristo) who was wealthy and indulged and who turned out to be a rotter. I think your question about whether or not Twain is working from a "type" is a good one. There are a number of indulged characters in fiction, and I've always attributed their boorish adult behavior to their upbringing. I think novelists are sometimes better psychologists than psychologists are--they watch people, they observe, the distill, they provide us with people we recognize.

    I wish Twain had left the Italian twins, now separate, out of this novel and worked with some new character who could provoke a duel. To me, the twins are a weak point in the novel, but some antagonist is necessary for the plot to unravel. Neither of the twins is developed at all, and about all there is to differentiate them is the polar opinions they expound.


    March 16, 2004 - 08:33 am
    And the fact that every man has good and evil in himself: a dichotomy of identity?

    Joan Pearson
    March 16, 2004 - 08:54 am
    I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that MTwain read ...and was influenced somewhat by Dumas. He was an Anglophile and a Francophile (I'm reading Innocents Abroad) although the French were not that impressed with him. Joan K. let's ask Rachel Rogers to check Twain's library in the Twain House. Wouldn't it be interesting (satisfying?) to find Count of Monte Cristo on his book shelf?

    Maryal, I'm going to disagree with you on the inclusion of the twins' characters in the story. Personally I'm finding them very useful in understanding Twain's points on individuality, genetic makeup, and inherited traits... False assumptions about twins as individuals (fingerprints for example) extend to false assumptions made about the slaves as individuals. Ginny, do you think that the twins are blurring the fact of the dichotomy of individual identity? Do you think that Twain would have made the point better with a "singleton"? I think that Tom is the "singleton" - that the twins are for emphasis. I'm not explaining this very well.

    Ginny brought up a question on the "theme" of this book...and agreed with Chris that the "underlying assumptions" of slavery are at issue here. I'm going to agree with that.

    rachel rogers
    March 16, 2004 - 09:05 am
    Whew, you've been busy and are raising lots of interesting points and questions.

    A few days ago the question was raised about racism during the time when Mark Twain wrote PHW and did others share his opinions? I'm sure several other people shared the sense of disappointment that racism was still rampant in the US. On the other hand, many others were feeding this hatred. For instance, the KKK, created in 1866 had a brief lull in the 1870-1880s, then experienced a revival in the 1890s. The growing fear of foreigners (and people different from them) caused this resurgence. Similarly, I think, Sam is responding to what he sees first hand when visiting the States. He's seen that Reconstruction failed to create equality and make a better lives for African Americans in general and specifically former slaves. Most scholars believe this realization to be the reason for the last 1/3 of Huckleberry Finn. Twain saw the failures in the system and decided to point them out in a book published shortly after Reconstruction officially ended.

    Was life really getting better in the south, or anyplace? Lynchings were also on the rise during this time. A few years after PHW was published Sam wrote and published "The United States of Lyncherdom" (published in 1901)arguing that the nation's name should be changed to more accurately represent its current trends and behavior. This essay is nearly as vitriolic and direct as Sam gets. (If you read it, don't look for craft. He's just plain MAD and is trying to get his point across. It's not a beautiful piece of writing like his fiction.)

    In terms of the Rum and Anti-rum parties. Sam had first hand knowledge of these organizations. The Cadets of Temperance formed in Hannibal when he was a boy and, liking the uniform (they wore a very official looking red sash) and wanting to join something, Sam jumped in - taking the vow to give up tobacco and drinking. Once he was a member, they never got a chance to march, wearing their wonderful uniforms, and Sam quickly lost interest and quit. (This instance made it, almost verbatim, into Tom Sawyer demonstrating the semi-autobiographical nature of that novel.

    "Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." In my opinion, Tom's behavior is, simply put, his training. He was raised to be a brat. His every whim was catered to - giving him everthing he wanted (if he didn't take it first). No voice ever raised to him, coddled and pampered. His father, Roxy and then the Judge and his family raised him to lord it over everyone - both in the master/slave dichotomy and also because of his good stock - FFV, don't you know, and one of the first famiies in Dawson's Landing. The real Tom (Chambers) was raised to be a slave, accepting punishment, not making eye contact and acting inferior. Tom picked on him mercilessly and used his power as "master" to make Chambers suffer. The one time Chambers did fight back, he was whipped severely and so accepted his treatment, all the while knowing it was unjust - but there was nothing he could do about it.

    This takes us firmly back into the nature vs nurture debate. I don't think that 1/32 black blood really has a thing to do with Tom's behavior, nor does Twain think so. Twain is also speaking out against anti-miscegenation, a very delicate topic. That 1 drop of black blood flowing in a person's veins has nothing to do with how he behaves. Behavior is fixed by the way a person is taught to behave.

    On a final question, linking this discussion to that of Count of Monte Cristo, Twain was a huge fan of Dumas'. There are several letters he writes to Livy while traveling saying he was 'lying abed with a cigar and Dumas while it rains/snows outside and was perfectly content.' So, yes, Mark Twain would definitely have been familiar with 'Count.

    Joan Pearson
    March 16, 2004 - 09:18 am
    Good morning, Rachel! We were just talking talking about you! Thank you SO much for filling in so many of the blanks. I hope you know how much we appreciate your posts!

    The quote for Pudd'head's Calendar takes on new meaning in this context, doesn't it? "Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."

    Several years ago, the Shakespeare Theater in Washington did Othello...cast Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) as Othello...and the rest of the cast was made up of black actors and actresses. Shakespeare's Othello is a Moor - (most often played by a black actor) who assumes he is being discriminated against because of his dark skin. This particular staging emphasized that his race was not the issue, but rather the fact that he was a stranger in the the country, different.

    Twain's casting white-skinned Roxy and her son as Negroe slaves achieves the same as the white skinned Othello. We are made to see that skin color, blood make-up are irrelevant. We agree with you, Rachel, it is nurture, not nature...it seems elememtary, doesn't it? Obvious? Why do some continue to believe that some are born superior to others?

    No, Jo, I don't think that Twain is blaming Tom's behaviour on his Negro blood, but that's EXACTLY what his characters are doing, aren't they? (I keep remembering our earlier definition of irony

    Do you get the feeling that the town ASSUMES that the blueblooded FFV have inherited an inborn sense of honor, rather than inbred - in the same way that slaves are born with inferior moral? Tom is expected to understand simply honor because he was born with it.

    Jo Meander
    March 16, 2004 - 09:29 am
    I wonder if there is a connection between Ginny’s observations and D. Maryal’s wish that Twain hadn’t included the twins? Ginny, you said “There is a LOT about color and misapprehensions and misunderstood items of identity in this book. It challenges the basis on which we build our societies. There's sort of a dichotomy in every man, a twin existence, if you will, that I think Twain is exemplifying here, in every way he can. I think that is the root of what Twain is actually saying, and that slavery is one of the means, just like the "code" of the FFV is?
    Perhaps that is what the twins represent: the dichotomy in society, the duality in human nature, the conflicts that result? Slavery seemed a practical means to an end, but it served man on one level and destroyed him (both sides of the “bargain”) in another. We struggle within ourselves and with others all of our lives, and society struggles to find a golden mean that simultaneously honors the humanity of everyone and ensures group survival. Some have vested interests in systems that may threaten the survival, prosperity and dignity of others, and because we are aware of the conflicts we keep trying to find ways to satisfy our deepest convictions and our material needs at the same time. The twins were polarized in their opinions on several matters, but in both versions Twain clearly intends for us to see how much they care about each other. Maybe the struggles of society are as permanent to our human condition as our daily internal struggles and our self-love. Deems Maryal, maybe that’s why the twins are included?! (Thinking “out loud”—in print!)

    March 16, 2004 - 10:02 am
    What a lively and active discussion. I have been "lost" because my computer went to a blue screen and would not wake up. So Son came and brought me a new computer Sunday, plus a knock down work station. He took a day to put that together another day to open the new computer and install all my disks on it. I had backup disks for everything except favorites and address book!! So I will be rebuilding my address list, and also I have set up a new address in my preferences. I was recieving hundreds of spams (not so nice ones either) so we are in the process of changing everything and then will retire my old address totally. O I am glad to be back and will contribute more later. Faith

    Jo Meander
    March 16, 2004 - 10:04 am
    Faithr, what would we do without our "Techie" sons?! Will a new email address help to eliminate spam?? I was thinking about that today!

    Joan Pearson
    March 16, 2004 - 10:09 am
    Is this another vote to keep the Twins, Jo? Twain has separated them from one another, I think it might be too much to ask him to write them out of the script altogether!

    Rachel, I enjoyed the story of Sam's stint in the Cadets of Temperance - he quit because he never got the chance to march in the uniform, so he gave up his vow to quit drinking and smoking! That is funny! We know that he took up drinking and cigars from one of Chris's earlier posts! The Rum/Anti-rum issue was quite intense at the time- I think the fact that they were all drunk at the time of the "kicking" was important (did you all note that when Ham laid eyes on his naked father, he was drunk too, not on whiskey, but wine?)

    Was Tom supposed to know that it was "ungentlemanly" to go to court on an assault issue? The trial seems to have taken place that very night? I can't imagine leaving the drunken meeting and staggering over to court. But that's what seems to have happened - or am I mistaken? Why did Tom want the thing settled in court?

    ps Ma foi! - FAITH! Will change your address in my own address book...and make a backup copy right way. So good to have you back! Will watch for your post.

    March 16, 2004 - 10:29 am
    FAITH I have a second address that I use when I sign on to a site I think might be a spam producer. I gota free one from yahoo. It helps a little -- I only get about 50 spam hahaha.

    Tom apparently did know he was supposed to duel. He said he thought the twins would go to jail, and then he wouldn't be able to fight them. (I'm not sure I remember that right). Interesting that Puddenhead, the outsider, takes it for granted too.

    Joan Pearson
    March 16, 2004 - 10:37 am
    Joan, if Pudd'nhead knew it too, why did he get out of bed and come over to the courthouse/jail to represent Luigi? I've got to get off ...this is addictive!

    Have a good afternoon, everyone! Enjoy SPAM-lite, while it lasts, Fai!

    March 16, 2004 - 11:16 am
    Joan P--That's what discussion is about, isn't it? Difference of opinion? I still think the twins are really weak but I'm thinking about the novel and how it hangs together, not the message that may be emerging.

    rachel rogers--Thank you for your post. I now don't have to look up all the years for Reconstruction and the various KKKs. Racism continued into the 1890s when this novel was written.

    Faith--Grab my shirt tail and hang on this time!

    hurriedly, (Deems)Maryal

    Joan Pearson
    March 16, 2004 - 11:53 am
    Yes, Maryal...oh yes, this is a real discussion! And as in every discussion, misunderstandings do arise. - Jo to be clear, I DON'T BELIEVE for a minute that Twain was blaming Tom's behavior on his negro blood. BUT, I have an uncomfortable feeling that Twain's readers might have mistaken what Twain was saying at the time. How did they respond to the installments of Pudd'nhead in Century Magazine? We are told it was extremely popular; I can't help but wonder why.

    Remember the reason the Dawson's Landing townspeople didn't appreciate Pudd'nhead's Calendar? They didn't get the irony - they read the words and accepted what they read literally. Irony was lost on them. So how did they read Twain's message back in the 1890's - the repetition that it was the fraction of Tom's negro blood that accounted for his bad behavior? ...Did they get the irony - or did they accept what they read literally? Rachel's post telling us that Reconstructin did not improve racial attitudes makes me wonder if his irony fell on deaf ears.

    March 16, 2004 - 01:26 pm
    I think these drastically different times in history slavery, the Civil War and then, the Emancipation led Mark Twain to see and believe that historical change can influence our moral character.

    For example, Roxy is one woman while in slavery. After her freedom, her attitude changes. The same goes for Tom. Before he realizes that he was truly born a slave, he acts one way. He acts the part of a master. The minute he knows that he was mothered by a slave his character changes again. He begins to act the part of a man who is a servant to others. Either way Tom remains an uncontrollable boar.

    The twins live during the time of the strong rum party and the anti-rum party. These are two more historically social changing events. Yet, each of the twins, although having different views, maintain their dignity towards one another. Social change does not cause the twins to act disrespectfully toward themselves or others.

    Do we or can we maintain our dignity through changing events? No matter what we might be labeled during these times, can we continue to respect ourselves?

    Pudd'nHead's glass slides prove that, at one time, our physical makeup was far more important than our inner character. During slavery, how much black or white blood was important down to a numerical value.

    I see two sides of history. Before emancipation and then, after emancipation. After emancipation, slaves had a chance to begin proving that they were more than a skin color or an institution. It was not easy. Rachel talked about lynchings, the KKK. These were times of hard struggle. However, it was a beginning for people to try and prove that they were more than a skin color.

    March 16, 2004 - 09:36 pm
    I was reading an article for purposes of my own when lo! and behold!, I came across this excellent description of the "amen corner" in action. Dr. Smitherman is telling the story of a white friend of hers whose husband, an African American was giving his first sermon:

    There’s a whole belief that the way to get the message out and to construct communities is for everybody to participate, so you have people talking back to the preacher, and talking back to anybody in the church who stands up to say something. This is a call and response kind of dynamic. So, when our novice minister was giving his sermon and he was really getting deep into it, the people over there in the amen corner, which is where the cheerleaders of the church sit, started saying, “Ah ha, watch yoself doc, take yo time, yes I hear you, come on up now.” And so my friend, the European American wife, she started feeling sort of out of it, you know, and she wanted to get into the spirit of things and so she shouted out “Now that’s a very good point.” Wrong response for this audience. She laughs about that now, herself.

    It's from an address given by Geneva Smitherman, "African-American English." Professor Smitherman teaches at Michigan State University.

    ~Maryal (Deems)

    Jo Meander
    March 17, 2004 - 01:38 am
    Maryal, good story--funny! She "had the words but not the tune!"

    Joan, sorry! I thought you were considering the possibility that Twain, as a "man of his time," might still have harbored some notion about race influencing behavior. Obviously, if I missed your reference to an ironic intention, it's likely that his contemporary readers would miss it! I'll bet they did!
    Hats, what a great question:
    "Do we or can we maintain our dignity through changing events? No matter what we might be labeled during these times, can we continue to respect ourselves? "
    This must have been particularly challenging for people coming from a totally different culture, not understanding the language of their captors. How confusing and unsettling it would be to find yorself in such alien territory. After a time, I imagine it would be a type of brainwashing for the slaves who never had a chance to make decisions about their own destinies here. If aliens from a distant planet came and got me I'll bet I'd learn to be compliant very quickly if I wanted to survive!

    Jo Meander
    March 17, 2004 - 01:40 am

    Joan Pearson
    March 17, 2004 - 07:05 am
    Top of the morning, O'Pudd'nheads! It's a grand day for all - as we are all of us Irish today!

    Amen, Deems! Your little funny about the amen-corner led to breakfast table talk this morning. I had all kinds of questions and my husband is a google-head - how one man can store so much information in that head of his, I don't know. We talked about the religion, Churches and then Emancipation and Reconstruction, KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow....till the oatmeal went cold.

    The day after the Twins came to town, the Judge took them for the grand tour of Dawson's Landing - (which we understand to be Twain's description of his home town of Hannibal, Mo.) He showed them three churches...four if you want to count the Freemason's Hall (is this where the Freethinkers met, or is it something entirely different?) My question - was Roxy's amen-corner in an integrated Methodist Church - or in another separate meeting place. I looked up something on the African Methodist Episcopal Church and see that given the time frame and the fact that Missouri is considered a Northern State, or at least a border state, not part of the Confederacy it is possible Roxy attended one of these churches. Thought you might be interested in this site, which includes the folling information...
    RICHARD ALLEN - 1760-1831 Richard Allen, the founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,

    was born a slave on February 14, 1760 on the Benjamin Chew estate. Deeply religious from an early, age, Allen was converted at the age of 17. He began preaching in 1780 and was ordained in 1799. Through thrift and industry, he and his brother worked at night to pay for their freedom.
    Despite his lack of formal medical training, Allen was a noted "Bleeder", the equivalent of our present day surgeons. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a leading physician of the time and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, gave praise to Bishop Allen for his services during the Black Plague in 1793 which took the lives of thousands of Philadelphians.

    In 1791 Allen established what was known as the Blacksmith Shop Meeting House when he purchased an abandoned blacksmith shop foreman named Sims and moved it to a plot of ground on 6th Street between Lombard and Pine Streets. This building was dedicated as a church in 1794 by Bishop Francis A. Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

    From July 1805, Allen conducted services in the "Roughcast Church". This had been the first brick church erected on American soil by people of color. The African Methodist Episcopal denomination was organized in Philadelphia in 1816. Richard Allen was consecrated as its first Bishop at the General Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 10, 1816. In 1841 the red brick church was built to replace the old roughcast one, and remained in use until the present church (dedicated in 1890) was erected in its place on the original plot of ground.

    Allen was an organizer of the Free African Society, a group that fostered self-help and self-dependence. He established day and night schools, and was co-organizer of the first Masonic Lodge among colored men in Pennsylvania, African Lodge 459 in Philadelphia.

    From 1797 to his death on March 26, 1831, Allen operated a station on the Underground Railway for escaping slaves. This work was continued by Bethel Church until the Emancipation.

    March 17, 2004 - 07:16 am
    Thank you Joan for the very interesting information and the clickable about the AMEC and Richard Allen.

    Maryal, I laughed over the reactions in the Amen Corner too.


    Joan Pearson
    March 17, 2004 - 07:18 am
    Good mornin', Hats!

    The three churches the Judge pointed out to the visitors were: Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist (so, yes, Roxy's corner might have been in the town's Methodist Church.) What was of special interest to my husband ...the fact that there was NO Episcopal Church on the tour AND the fact that the FFV families were Presbyterians...husband says there were VERY FEW English Presbyterians. Presbyterians were of Scots-Irish descent...the FFVs - were Episcopalians/Anglicans. He knows this stuff - advanced degrees in American Studies AND his father's family was Scotch-Irish...<br.
    Just had to work the Irish into my post this morning! Can you?

    Will be back after I change into my green shirt - sweater...how could I have forgotten!

    March 17, 2004 - 08:45 am
    This is the day that everyone is Irish, isn't it? I have a wee bit of Scots-Irish from my mother's family (Dunn, NC) because much of the south was settled by Scots-IRish as Bruce pointed out.

    I think the Methodist Church in Pudd'nhead is a white church. My guess, and this is pure speculation, is that Roxy goes to an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church which may be small--could be a chapel. But whatever it is, it is a black church.

    Get Bruce to look it up, Joan, but somewhere I think in the 50s or 60s, the AME church merged with the Meth. Church. Anyhoo, the time of the novel is 1830 or so. All churches would have been segregated in this little town. Also there's a (black) deacon referred to who finds it OK to steal the occasional ham. So there is a black church that has an organization and members, among them Roxana.


    Ella Gibbons
    March 17, 2004 - 08:46 am
    FOR THE F.F.V. and others among us who might have hailed from Virginia:

    Carry me back to old Virginny,
    There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
    There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
    There's where the old darke'ys heart am long'd to go,
    There's where I labored so hard for old massa,
    Day after day in the field of yellow corn,
    No place on earth do I love more sincerely
    Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.


    Carry me back to old Virginny,
    There's where the cotton and the c
    orn and tatoes grow,
    There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
    There's where this old darkey's heart am long'd to go.

    Carry me back to old Virginny,
    There let me live 'till I wither and decay,
    Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wandered,
    There's where this old darke'ys life will pass away.
    Massa and missis have long gone before me,
    Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore,
    There we'll be happy and free from all sorrow,
    There's where we'll meet and we'll never part no more.

    Composed by James Bland

    This song is rooted in the early days of America and the Southern agrarian society, well before the war between the states that abolished slavery and that southern society. In one respect, I'm impressed that Virginia has not sullied the song by sanitizing the lyrics which are clearly based in a period that some would sooner have expunged from our history. That it still survives as an official state song is encouraging. Musically, this song is probably one of America's "greatest hits" in that it has been carried down to us as a living "folk" song that has been heard and known for well over a century and one half. The melody is simple yet memorable and eminently singable, which all contribute to its staying power. The origins of this song are rather interesting. Originally, a song was published in 1847 under the title, De Floating Scow and written by Charles T. White. That song was sub titled, Carry Me Back To Ole Virginny and was performed far and wide by a number of minstrel groups. In 1878, James Bland took the title, added a different set of lyrics and music and published it as Carry Me Back To Old Virginny. Though the two songs share the same (almost) title, musically they are quite different.

    Joan Pearson
    March 17, 2004 - 09:04 am
    Ella, Didn't know the song was written 1847. It's sort of old Virginia's Danny Boy, sure to bring forth the tears. Gotta tell you though...Virginia never changed the words...BUT because of the words, "Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny" is No LONGER the State Song of Virginia. (It's called the "state song "emeritus", now) What is the state song now, you ask? Don't ask me, I only live here..hahaha. There was a contest in 1998, but don't know what won. Everyone thinks it's "Carry Me Back." I'll bet the FFVs in Missouri heard that song though, don't you think? Did they want to go back? (What are these FFVers doing in Dawson's Landing in the first place?)

    Maryal, we DID look up the AME...there's a link back in post #306 that tells the AME united with the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in 1816 and spread from there... Roxy could have belonged to this church, especially since you just reminded us of the minister and the ham...surely there must have been some association between the Methodists and the AME before that? Are they separate Churches now - meaning separate hierarchies of bishops?

    Let's continue to watch the twins...AND the FFVers before deciding if their presence works or takes from the basic plot. Right now I agree you, Jo...Twain seems to be "exemplifying here, in every way he can... the dichotomy in society, the duality in human nature, the conflicts that result..." And the fact that the twins are aristocrats...at least former nobility - puts them on a par with the FFVs of Dawson's Landing. There are expectations of honorable behavior - and the townspeople seem to have great respect for the "power" they once held - not so much for what they have achieved since then. Though the Judge had a career, doesn't he - and the twins play a mean piano. (What are these FFVers doing in Dawson's Landing?) Mark Twain deliberately sets his story in the pre-Emancipation period. Do you think the twins would be received, or the FFVers so revered if he had set the story in 1865 - post Emancipation?

    Hats writes that Emancipation marked "a beginning for people to try and prove that they were more than a skin color." Perhaps it also marked a time for folks to recognize they were more (or less) than entitled nobility as well?

    Chapter XIII - (the next installment of Century Magazine is on your newstand today - Chapters XIII-XV> - we need to understand why taking a personal assault-case to court was such a disgrace? Was it because Tom was considered "nobility" and his class didn't stoop to a court-appointed law? Was it because the twins were "nobility"...and how on earth did Pudd'nhead Wilson get called upon to represent Luigi?

    Joan Pearson
    March 17, 2004 - 09:23 am
    This site - AME and Methodist Church indicates that the AME is part fo the Methodist church...but brings up another question...about the relationship between the Methodist Church and the Episcopal Churh* ...
    "Most religious groups had their origin in some theological, doctrinal, or ideological dispute or concern. But the A.M.E. Church originated as a protest against the inhumane treatment which the helpless people of African descent were forced to accept from the white people belonging to the St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelpha, Pennsylvania. This fact says to us that the organization of the A.M.E. Church was the result of racial discrimination rather than of any theological or doctrinal concern."

    *Bruce just explained that the defining word in Methodist Episcopal is "Methodist...that the Methodists and Anglican/ Episcopalians never united - were and continue to be separate.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 17, 2004 - 02:14 pm
    PHW's calendar about courage is wonderful and the brave flea! hahaa But here I can see the reference to the current chapters we are discussing. Courage!

    These latest chapters were the weakest, in my opinion, in the book, perhaps because I don't understand how anyone could look forward to a duel as the Judge did - "the light of battle gleamed joyously in the Judge's eyes."

    This practice of dueling goes back centuries and, apparently, MT thought it was still prevalent in the South particularly during this period - even Roxy thought it a disgrace not to fight for one's honor. A matter of honor and not for the court!

    Roxy claims that their blood line goes back to John Smith and Pocahontas and her husband was an African King? I must look up the story!

    And speaking of honor, Judge Driscoll is suggesting that votes can be bought - is that the way you read it?

    Is there no one in this town that can be called an honest citizen with character beyond reproach?

    Joan Pearson
    March 18, 2004 - 07:07 am
    Ella, though we know very little about Pudd'nhead Wilson - (why is he here in Dawson's Landing living like a pauper all these years?) - if I had to answer your question about the "one honest citizen with character beyond reproach," I'd put my money on Pudd'nhead. -
    Another intriguing question you asked about the Judge's apparent delight in the prospect of a duel - "the light of battle gleamed joyously in the Judge's eyes." He is aware of the fact that he might not survive. He is willing to fight to the death...for what?

    I googled for more information on dueling in 19th century America - some of this you might find interesting...
    "Like many early American customs, dueling was imported. Starting in the Middle Ages, European nobles had defended their honor in man-to-man battles. An early version of dueling was known as "judicial combat," so called because God allegedly judged the man in the right and let him win. In an era known for its bloody encounters, judicial combats probably prevented men from killing in the heat of passion."

    " In 1777, a group of Irishmen codified dueling practices in a document called the Code Duello. The Code contained 26 specific rules outlining all aspects of the duel, from the time of day during which challenges could be received to the number of shots or wounds required for satisfaction of honor. An Americanized version of the Code, written by South Carolina Governor John Lyde Wilson, appeared in 1838. Prior to that, Americans made do with European rules.

    In a typical duel, each party acted through a second. The seconds' duty, above all, was to try to reconcile the parties without violence. An offended party sent a challenge through his second. If the recipient apologized, the matter usually ended. If he elected to fight, the recipient chose the weapons and the time and place of the encounter. Up until combat began, apologies could be given and the duel stopped. After combat began, it could be stopped at any point after honor had been satisfied." Dueling in America
    Don't miss the example in the code..."if one fellow calls another "impertinent" a duel can be avoided with an apology.

    "God allegedly judged the man in the right and let him win." Interestingly, no one won this duel...

    Also, Pudd'nhead had agreed to be the second...for the twins! This puts him opposite the Judge if anything happened to Luigi. I'm not sure why Pudd'nhead is ready to put his life on the line in this matter. Is he that committed to the twins? (They just met the day before?) Does he feel his own honor is on the line? Apparently, Ella, you and I didn't understand how honor was defended one hundred years ago. For us, (in our litigious society) we'd be in the courtroom to let the Judge (not God) decide...

    March 18, 2004 - 03:06 pm
    Jo I thought this post of yours
    Perhaps that is what the twins represent: the dichotomy in society, the duality in human nature, the conflicts that result? Slavery seemed a practical means to an end, but it served man on one level and destroyed him (both sides of the “bargain”) in another. We struggle within ourselves and with others all of our lives, and society struggles to find a golden mean that simultaneously honors the humanity of everyone and ensures group survival. Some have vested interests in systems that may threaten the survival, prosperity and dignity of others, and because we are aware of the conflicts we keep trying to find ways to satisfy our deepest convictions and our material needs at the same time. The twins were polarized in their opinions on several matters, but in both versions Twain clearly intends for us to see how much they care about each other. Maybe the struggles of society are as permanent to our human condition as our daily internal struggles and our self-love.

    is just absolutely brilliant, love it!

    I've found some stuff on the real Cecils and Burghleys, which I think might be interesting.

    We had read about "Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex" in Chapter 4, and I was struck by that name and both Chris and Rachel noted that not only was Twain an Anglophile but he was well up on English history.

    So I thought there might be a joke in the name, that is, warring families united, and what I found is a joke on me, the Cecil and the Burghley families in real life were intertwined but they went two ways! The Cecils and Burghleys were of Exeter and Salisbury and they were all descended from William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I's lord treasurer. There were Cecils with Henry VII and VIII and on the Field of the Cloth of Gold, then the Burghley line has remained seated at Burghley, their great mansion. The Burghleys ended up owning Hatfield House which their descendents still occupy. It's not too clear how they branched off in two.

    In fact it's quite confusing to read and try to separate the two branches, one at Exeter and one at Salisbury. You know, of course, that Biltmore House in North Carolina was owned by a Cecil, in that George Vanderbilt's widow Cornelia, married a Cecil and as far as I know that's still the family name of the owners, the family running the estate now, each child taking a different part of it.

    So the line was almost inextricably mixed but split, and did use those two names, all down through history.

    Another strange thing I found last night in reading David Starkey's new book on Six Wives (the Wives of Henry VIII) is that in 1862 a big thing in England that happened was the publishing of the Calendar which concerned itself with Letters, Dispatches and State Papers of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, and whether or not the marriage had been consummated. It was quite a revelation of the day apparently. However there was not one, but TWO Calendars, Volume I published in 1862 and Volume II (duality even of calendars I wonder if THAT means anything for us?) was put out in 1866, and THESE were followed by ANOTHER set, a dual publication of the Supplement in Volume I and Volume II which were published later in 1868. And apparently scholars are still arguing hotly over the wisdom found in these, not in mottoes but in cryptic statements and letters. At any rate, I thought the juxtaposition of the real Cecil- Burghey entwined family history and split and rejoining and the appearance of a real twin set of "Calendars" at this time in history were kind of interesting.

    THIS Is a really exciting set of chapters, isn't it? Machinations galore. It's almost a comedy of errors or….what do you call this type of situation where misunderstanding on misunderstanding multiplies on top of itself, it's hilarious, in a way?

    Honor seems to be very important to the Judge, he'd disinherit his nephew over it, if he thought he was a coward, and fight the twin himself, only to be told that one twin was a confessed assassin, and so that made it OK that his heir had refused to duel, because no gentleman would fight a confessed assassin. I don't know what a confessed assassin would have to do with it, unless that rendered him a man of dishonor? Then you would not be meeting on a field of honor, at all, and all your fancy pretenses would be lost.

    Apparently the "code" does not include the heir prohibiting the Judge, who is his...own...adopted father? or Uncle? from discrediting himself by allowing him to fight a duel with a "confessed assassin, " I thought that entire rationale of why Tom had not told the Judge and what the Judge intended to do about it really satirical. And maybe ironic, tho irony is not my forte.

    All I can say is they must have had ridiculously bad aim (again) because each had three shots and nobody died, how many paces did they stand off?

    Again bystanders are injured, this sounds familiar, didn't we just see that in The Twins?

    I was struck by this in Chapter 13

    a kindly courtesy does at least save one's feelings, even if it is not professing to stand for a welcome.

    That's a complicated thought, on the surface, you'd say that's a pretty good definition of the virtue of manners, but when you look harder at it, something else comes out. Just like this book.

    I was laughing at all of the epigrams when I stopped over this one, When I reflect upon the number of disagreeable people who I know have gone to a better world, I am moved to lead a different life." Hahahaah Does that mean what I think it does?

    How does he know what world they've gone to?

    I'm wondering idly who in this book is going to show the most "honor" at the end?


    March 18, 2004 - 03:09 pm
    Joan--That's part of my problem with the twins being in the book, other than the obvious reason of moving the plot along. Same goes for Rowena (who might as well go out back, fall into a well and drown!). Puddn'head has no relationship with the twins at all. Do you think he agrees to be their second since there probably isn't anyone else in town who would do so and he's a good guy?

    As for dueling--I've done the barest minimum research. In 1804 Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, NJ.

    For our purposes reading Mark Twain, the most famous duel in California's history was fought in 1859. David Broderick, US Senator from California, was killed in a duel with David Terry, former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Both Broderick and Terry were members of the Democratic Party, but Broderick was in the antislavery faction and Terry was in the pro-slavery faction. Terry was the instigator of the duel and also the winner. From the challenge to the actual duel, some months passed, and Terry practiced with firearms.

    When Broderick drew his weapon, it discharged into the ground. One article I read said that Broderick was told just before the duel that the pistol had a hair trigger. Then Terry shot Broderick in the chest. As he was carried off the field, Broderick said to one of his seconds, "They have killed me because I was opposed to a corrupt administration and the extension of slavery." He died about three days later.

    There's a lot more to the story than I have put here.

    And now we come to the connection to Twain. In 1864 (just 5 years after this famous duel), Twain moved to California where he worked as a reporter in San Francisco. I think he would have known about the Broderick-Terry Duel.

    In 1777 in Ireland, the Code Duello was signed. It became the guide for duels in Europe and in America.

    The Code Duello has 26 rules for conducting a duel. Link to the Code Duello from PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/sfeature/rulesofdueling.html

    Maryal (Deems)

    Joan Pearson
    March 19, 2004 - 06:03 am
    Good morning! Snow here...not really sticking, but snow on the blossoms...an oxymoron? Cherry blossoms due to open next week - and peak starting Wednesday. Spring had better get her act together and send old man winter packing!

    Ginny, YOU are another Anglophile if I ever knew one! With your notes on the Cecil Burleigh Essexes, ties with Henry VIII,etc., I'm still stuck on the fact that these FFVers (including the Colonel) are Presbyterians - Scottish Presbyterians. Not sure what Twain is saying here. If it were just one of the FFV families, okay, but the leading FFVers are all Presbyterians, not Anglican Episcopalians.

    You ask an interesting question - "what do you call this type of situation where misunderstanding on misunderstanding multiplies on top of itself?" I'm going to add that the "comedy," more often than not, centers on a serious subject. Are we defining "farce"?

    You mention "bad aim" - neither party wins. In the Dueling in America link we read:
    "Starting in the Middle Ages, European nobles had defended their honor in man-to-man battles. An early version of dueling was known as "judicial combat," so called because God allegedly judged the man in the right and let him win"
    I guess God didn't deem either party in the right here (or the wrong). Don't you think it would have turned out differently had God punished the dishonorable "assassin" Luigi would have fallen then? The Judge never questions this. I'm thinking that this may be Twain's irony at work.

    Deems, I've been thinking about Rowena's role. I think she plays one, though not carefully portrayed. Maybe she doesn't have to be. We know she's beautiful - Tom would be attracted to her beauty. We know everyone expects a "match", but she is silent on the subject. This could mean that she has reservations, but knows it would be a step up for her family if she became a Driscoll. Young, and conflicted, but clearly overwhelmed with the handsome, talented, polite nobles who are staying in her cottage! She's pivotal, I think, because she is the only one in the world Tom seems to care for. He can't talk to her now because the confounded twins are staying in her house. Did this have a lot to do with his animosity towards the twins?

    The other character Twain seems to be "using" without too many brushstrokes is Pudd'nhead Wilson. He seems to be "the one honorable person" in Dawson's Landing, doesn't he? Even though he had defended Luigi in court - against Tom, Tom knows that he can count on him to be courteous and level-headed. Here again, I have to ask, is Pudd'nhead the character in the story playing Twain's role? Whudduya think?

    rachel rogers
    March 19, 2004 - 07:38 am
    Remember Chris Barnett's introductory comments on romantic "historical" fiction and its effect on the South. Mark Twain deplored the false sense of chivalry rampant around the Southern nobility. He blamed Sir Walter Scott, specifically, for perpetuating this attitude and Southerners for adopting it as their own. I believe some of you mentioned Gone With the Wind a couple of weeks ago, and they have the same belief system - which Rhett Butler mocks as a useless waste of time and life.

    Dueling was the common and "honorable" way of solving debates dealing with honor. The booting of Tom off the stage would be defined as an insult to the Driscoll honor and name. Then the Judge insulting the Twins from the stump on election day would impugn their honor. Since the Judge takes great pride in his honor as a Southern gentleman and the Twins as European nobility, the two combatants are basically cut from the same cloth.

    Does Pudd'nhead agree to be a 2nd for the same reason that he berates Tom for not issuing the challenge and sneaking the issue into court in the first place? As a friend of the principals, the Judge and Luigi, he understands their sense of chivalry and honor and stands by that, even if he doesn't entirely agree with it.

    On another topic, I'm not entirely sure that someone in Tom's position could count on Mark Twain to always be courteous and level headed. This really wasn't in his nature, although the ironic comments from PHW's calendar, that most of the town fails to comprehend, is entirely his nature. Twain was actually embroiled in a duel during his time out west, although it came to naught. (Much like his time with the Cadets of Temperance, really.) A challenge was issued, his seconds told the challenger that Twain was a crack shot, while being told themselves that the challenger was deadly. Twain left town, heading to California - no duel ever fought. While Sam Clemens was entirely honorable in many ways, Twain wasn't.

    March 19, 2004 - 09:02 am
    Well, Joan, I am impressed. You have actually given Rowena thoughts and motives and a personality. Who knew? Rowena is nothing but an outline, and I don't think there's any way we can tell what she thought about Tom. She is a stock character, the ingenue, the pretty young girl without a thought in her head. She occupies a place in this book, but she does not breathe.

    Good morning, Rachel, good to see you again. It's interesting to me that Twain was almost involved in a duel, and you have given us an interesting insight into the role that a second might play. Spreading news about his person's ability with a gun would certainly be one.

    From what I've read sometimes the duelists met at the appointed time in the appointed place and when the count "Fire, one, two, three" was given, both men fired in the air. Apparently that settled the matter and both men retained their "honor."

    Deems (Maryal)

    March 19, 2004 - 09:34 am
    Wow, Rachel!

    Does Pudd'nhead agree to be a 2nd for the same reason that he berates Tom for not issuing the challenge and sneaking the issue into court in the first place? Wow! and this one!! While Sam Clemens was entirely honorable in many ways, Twain wasn't. WOW! Thank you for that!


    Jo Meander
    March 19, 2004 - 11:19 am
    Thanks, Ginny! I was trying to find a way of applying the “split” idea implicit in the twins to the human condition. In my mind’s eye I see the conjoined twins on the dueling ground: Luigi scowling and aiming his pistol while Angelo, terrified, is trying to run in the other direction! I think there is a cartoony version in Those Extraordinary Twins.

    Pudd’nhead Wilson is Twain’s repository for the entire goings-on in Dawson’s Landing. He had to have someone who didn’t quite fit in with his neighbors to observe without personal involvement. When the time comes for him to take a more active part, he is ready to do so, even though he doesn’t share the common view on issues like slavery and honor. He understands where the people are coming from, and he is tolerant of their limited vision and undeveloped sense of what is honorable and what is not. The whole dueling business is his statement about the silliness of the honor code of the southern gentleman: he will risk killing or being killed over a trifle, but he uses and disposes of other human beings like worn pocket handkerchiefs. There could be no story without a “puddn’head,” viewed by the population as a thickheaded if congenial eccentric, living on the outside of their world with his own strange preoccupations. He’s Twain’s way of making sure his own views are clear. Twain doesn’t provide an omniscient narrator, but Tom is still his way of letting us see the whole picture.

    The issues are deep but the story is short. It was expedient for the author to have certain undeveloped character fulfill some stereotypical function, like Rowena. Maybe the twins belong in this category. Twain needed an outsider or outsiders for the folks to respond to with a sense of wonder at their foreignness, their classier educations and accomplishments. They represent the duality already discussed, and they provide a way for Rowena to frustrate Tom as well as an opportunity for the people to show how little they know of the wider world. When they play the piano so admirably, I think Twain called the performance an impressive banging or crashing or something like that, indicating that’s what it all sounded like to those listeners. They based their admiration upon that experience.

    March 19, 2004 - 11:48 am
    Jo--I really like your last post on Pudd'nhead's being an outsider, a person who can see clearly and who is needed as our point of view character. The duel is absurd and it is absurdly presented here with Roxy's account to her son Tom. She, like so many other people of the time, thought that witnessing a duel would be fine entertainment. In this case it was because no one was injured.

    Tom's aversion to dueling, however, has nothing to do with a principled stand against the practice. He is a poltroon, an abject coward. If he can help it, he will take no risks that might cause harm to his person.

    Twain was wonderful with depicting small towns. He wrote another book, or maybe it's a long short story, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" which we might take a look at one of these days.

    Jo Meander
    March 19, 2004 - 11:51 am
    Poltroon! Love that word! Maybe we should take a look at "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg" after we finish this one???

    March 19, 2004 - 01:05 pm
    Me too, Jo! I'll tell you a secret, I've been reading that POLTROON word all these years (it comes up quite a bit in lit. of the 18th and 19th centuries) and I always sort of knew what it meant, by the context.

    But yesterday, I actually looked it up because I saw it somewhere in these chapters, and it does mean "an abject coward," a "coward of the worst sort." So I had to work it into a post.

    In addition to being a worthless scoundrel, Tom is also a POLTROON, and not only when it comes to dueling.

    March 19, 2004 - 01:17 pm
    He's worse. He's a POLTROON in PANTLOONS.

    March 19, 2004 - 02:00 pm

    Ella Gibbons
    March 19, 2004 - 02:36 pm
    I just learned a new word also, Maryal! I doubt if I ever use it though, hahaha - or remember it.

    Rachel stated - "Mark Twain deplored the false sense of chivalry rampant around the Southern nobility" and that fact is readily seen in this farce of a duel.

    And JO I liked your description of Pudd'nhead Wilson as being Twain's repository for what was going in Dawson's Landing. Very well put!

    This book was serialized??? In what - a newspaper or a magazine? Were there any reviews of it published anywhere? Any letters to the editor about it?

    I'm wondering if it was in a national publication if the reactions to the story was the same in the south as in the North. It would be interesting to have read it in the context of the era in which it was written and published.

    March 19, 2004 - 02:52 pm
    Ella--Yes, the book was serialized. Joan has divided up the chapters so that we are reading it in the installments. Published in a magazine. I'm sure there were reader responses to it, and the question about reception in the north v. the south is a good one. Don't know the answer, but I'd hazard a guess that it was more popular with northern readers.

    I think Twain was popular enough at this stage (1890's) that his public appreciated just about everything that came from his pen. Like Dickens, who was enormously popular in his own time, Twain was famous in his own lifetime. He went on several series of lecture tours in Europe where he read from his own works. Dickens did the same thing.

    I think it would have been fun to see these writers read their works. Readings today are fun to go to, and to hear a really popular best-selling author with a huge ouevre would be even more fun.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 19, 2004 - 03:14 pm
    Do you know what magazine - was it widely read or popular throughout the nation?

    The next best thing to listening to an author today is C-SPan, which I watch at times on weekends. You don't have to go out in the rain or snow.

    March 19, 2004 - 03:22 pm
    Yes, Ella, it was originally published (four chapters at a time) in The Century Magazine which was nationwide. I found an interesting review, actually a response, for you.

    It won't ruin anyone's reading experience because it is a response to only the first eight chapters of Pudd'nhead. The author, Martha McCulloch Williams, published it in the February issue of Southern Magazine.

    You can find it here: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/wilson/pwsouthn.html

    Mrs. Williams, a Southerner, attacks Twain. She also mentions his popularity.

    You are so right about C-Span's Book TV which has kept me company many a weekend. It's hard for me to turn it off.


    Joan Pearson
    March 19, 2004 - 03:42 pm
    Aha, an interesting review from the Southern Magazine, Deems! For one minute there, I thought the "reviewer" was going to shed some light on the FFVers... But that was an interesting observation about the surnames
    "She had christened her own child "Valet de Chambre -- no surname. Slaves hadn't the privilege." That is some more news to us who owned them, and who keep lively memories of their pride in their surnames.

    I guess we're the sheep Martha is talking about - unless you find yourself agreeing with her...do you?
    And it is a melancholy fact that the sheep instinct of humanity is so strong as to make it follow en masse into any pasture of opinion where he (Twain) may lead.
    After seeing Ella's question on the magazine, I just HAD to look it up and see if it was in fact a national publication. Did New York count as "national" if you lived in the South?
    Century Magazine/once Scribners
    While Harper’s Magazine may well claim to be the pioneer among high-class illustrated magazines in America, it was not spurred to its greatest exertions until the appearance of Scribner’s Monthly in 1870. The rivalry between these two magazines, and later the triangular rivalry engaged in by Harper’s, the Century, and Scribner’s Magazine, has led to great improvements in the art of engraving and in the technique of printing illustrations.

    After the death of Charles Scribner differences arose between the management and the publishing firm of Charles Scribner’s Sons, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Scribner interests and a change of name to The Century Magazine in 1881.

    The change of name brought no radical change in scope or policy, and Scribner’s Monthly and the Century constitute virtually an unbroken series from 1870 to the present time.

    The Century has always given much space to illustrated articles on history. There was something a trifle “journalistic” in a series of articles on the Civil War by Northern and Southern generals, yet even in these the editorial control was such as to insure a reasonable standard of excellence. The Life of Lincoln by Nicolay and Hay, large parts of which appeared serially in the Century, was of higher grade.

    Chris of Mark Twain House noted that he had the first installment of the serialized Pudd'nhead Wilson story - there were 7 installments altogether and he assumed that three chapters were serialized each month. (It appears that 8 had appeared in the first two, if Martha was correct).

    Such good stuff here today...need to put the groceries away and come back!

    March 19, 2004 - 04:00 pm
    Ms. Williams critic of Puddin head has some virtue but not much. She states in one paragraph "a story of two boys born to the same father on the same day, one by his wife, and one by his slave..." which is erroneous. The way I read this point the child of the slave was fathered by someone who is no longer in this town. I could have missed something. Don't believe I did. I wonder if others still think that. I am very concerned that Mark Twain failed to give us a better picture of the life of the real Tom Driscoll.

    I was reading an introduction to an authors book in which she stated that after her works are published the public find all manner of meaning and metaphor es, etc in her work that she had no idea were there.

    I believe this is true re: Mark Twain,who was writing a satire filled with humor, with irony and sarcasm which he did accomplish. However his Social Statement if he truly is making one, is blurred by a lot of stuff that is questionable to a modern mind. It is difficult to interpreter the meaning of the this story without interpreting the personal psychology of the Writer, Mr. Clemens. Faith

    Joan Pearson
    March 19, 2004 - 04:23 pm
    Faith, you missed the funeral...the biggest one in town - Tom's father was the honorable FFV man, Col. Essex (Ginny will remember his full name) - Roxy was quite proud of this - though there aren't too many other details given. (I just looked it up...Chapter IX - following Tom's question - "Ma, would you mind telling me who was my father?"

    Rachel: "I'm not entirely sure that someone in Tom's position could count on Mark Twain to always be courteous and level headed - While Sam Clemens was entirely honorable in many ways, Twain wasn't. Oh, good point - I should have said then that Pudd'nhead Wilson speaks for SAM CLEMENS, instead of Mark Twain.

    Jo, yes! You state it well - "He (Pudd'nhead) is Twain’s way of making sure his own views are clear. Twain doesn’t provide an omniscient narrator, but Tom is still his way of letting us see the whole picture." So...it's Twain the author, making Sam Clemens' observations through his character...as Faith just said, -it's difficult to interprete the meaning of the this story without interpreting the personal psychology of the Writer, Mr. Clemens."

    Rachel reminds us of what Chris had said about romantic "historical" fiction and its effect on the South. Mark Twain deplored the false sense of chivalry rampant around the Southern nobility." It's not hard to understand why the South would not be receptive to the satire in Pudd'nhead Wilson.

    Maryal - so you were impressed that I came up with thoughts and motives and a personality for Rowena...but you weren't surprised, right? You must remember in Beowulf I was sympathetic towards Grendel's mother. Had her "breathing" too!

    So where are we now - is Tom in or out of the will? I think he's worse than a "poltroon"- and worse than a "poltroon in pantaloons" Joan K - he wished his uncle would die in this duel he would not fight! -Then he would come into the Driscoll family fortune....which he know knows, as Chambers, he has no right to anyway. You have to wonder if Twain/Clemens really knew any one person as low as Tom, on whom he based this character. I don't see Tom "living" and "breathing"...do you?

    Even Roxy knew it was a great dishonor that Tom refused to take part in the duel, not only to his father's name, but also to her own line. Ella, did you look up something on Pocahontas? hahaha, I bet you didn't find anything like the story Roxy is telling Tom...

    March 19, 2004 - 04:52 pm
    Heh, Joan. I do remember, now that you remind me, that you were indeed sympathetic with Grendel's mother. What am I going to do with you?

    Faith--Yes, I noticed that very same error in the review that you did. Mrs. Williams assumes that both boys have the same father. Shame on her for not reading carefully! Or, just to cut her a break, maybe that information is not in the first 8 chapters?

    When the Judge (here comes de judge!) goes off to fight the duel, Tom is in the will which is why he hopes that the judge will die in the duel.

    There is an interesting point in the judge's thinking which reinforces my argument that Twain is on the side of nuture here (and that all that business about having one drop of nigger blood is deep irony). As the judge is contemplating his will, just before the duel, he says

    "This may be my last night in the world--I must not take the chance. He is worthless and unworthy, but it is largely my fault. He was entrusted to me by my brother on his dying bed, and I have indulged him to his hurt, instead of training hin up severely, and making a man of him. I have violated my trust, and I must not add the sin of desertion to that. I have forgiven him once already, and would subject him to a long and hard trial before forgiving him again, if I could live; but I must not run that risk. No, I must restore the will. Bur if I survive the duel, I will hide it away, and he will not know, and I will not tell him until he reforms and I see that his reformation is going to be permanent."

    (italics added)

    What this says to me is that first Roxanne indulged Tom and then the Judge took over the role of Indulger-in-Chief and they both know exactly who Tom is and here we see the judge taking responsibility.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 20, 2004 - 07:33 pm
    "he who has the gold makes the rules" and in this case it looks like 'he who has the booty makes the rules'... my heart is in my mouth...!

    Joan Pearson
    March 21, 2004 - 06:13 am
    But Maryal, even I cannot come up with a living, bbreathing boy in Tom. Yes, as the Judge says, he's been indulged, and not properly trained. That would account for the fact that he is a coward, a wastrel, a achemer Up to this point, I would have agreed with Barbara...the gleem of gold motivates him and accounts for his dirty tricks. But from the first chapter in the next installment, (Chapter XVI), I'm seeing a boy so evil that he becomes ...inhuman. This boy is worse than a "poltroon"...he is so bad that he ceases to be believable to me. At the same time Roxy becomes hugely believable. It broke my heart to see her mistake the feelings of her darling boy once more. Powerful writing in these scenes.

    In this installment, Twain seems to be using Tom to represent something, rather to present an over-indulged boy worthy of our understanding and compassion. Does he change, does he grow as a living, breathing character? I'm beginning to think he's the contretemps of Pudd'nhead. THe contract btween Chambers and Tom seems to have been left behind in these later chapters.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 21, 2004 - 07:35 am
    Thanks for the "outraged response" from Martha Williams in the Century Magazine - she dug into Twain didn't she? There must have been others who didn't like how MT described his characters, but his books have been and will be read for many years so we know the man is - what? A humorist? A cynicist? Just a storyteller? Can we put Twain in a category?

    I haven't read the next 3 chapters but will today.

    Are you enjoying "THE INNOCENTS ABROAD," Joan?

    March 21, 2004 - 08:26 am
    I am not finished the next chapters either. I had to comment because the few lines took my breath away. It is hard to believe that Tom is willing to sell his mother back into slavery. Roxy loves him so much, but Tom just loves himself. He cares only about his welfare. It is so sad.

    Roxy is a true mother. Her love is sacrificial. She is willing to suffer to save her son. This is a "powerful" chapter.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 21, 2004 - 09:49 am
    What an imagination Twain has; the dilemmas he can get his characters in and out of is more fun! I can understand how popular he must have been, particularly in this serialized format in a magazine. Can't you see just see how the people would be laughing over the newest adventures?

    As soon as I read that the Judge trusted Tom enough to allow him access to the safe in which money was kept, I knew Twain planned to have Tom rob it! I knew it, it was just a matter of how MT was going to plot it - and what a plot!!

    Of course, Roxy should never have trusted Tom to sell her - does she never learn? And she thought she was smart????

    JOAN, yes, I noticed that Tom is calling her Mammy and Roxy is calling him Chambers, they have their relationship straighted out.

    Sam Clemens has it right occasionally - "In de inside, mothers is all de same. De good Lord he made 'em so."

    Well, most of the time that is true!

    Was Kentucky a slave state? I must look it up! I know Ohio wasn't.

    "It seems almost certain that we have been choosing the wrong time for studying the oyster." Hahahaaaaa Exactly - there is no pearl to be found here.

    Didn't understand PHW's calendar for the the Fourth of July? Nor the reference to use plumbers in Fiji instead of turkeys?

    I'm curious as to what the rest of you think? Is gossip as prevalent today as it was in MT's generation? People do not congregate in groups (or maybe I don't) to discuss or while away the time in gossip due, in part, to television or the computer. Does it seem to you we have become more solitary in nature?

    Were you amused or amazed that the YANKEE wife was so mean to Roxy? That's another irony of Twain's isn't it?

    And, at last (but who knows if it is the final time?) Roxy admits the truth about Chambers - who is "de low-downest orneriest hound dat was ever pup'd into dis worl'-EN I'S 'SPONSIBLE FOR IT" - and she spat on him.

    March 21, 2004 - 10:14 am
    I think Roxy trusted Tom because mothers refuse to lose hope in their children. Until the end a mother wants to hope that her child will change. When a mother does not see her child change, there is a tendency to blame herself. Still, she is in denial that her child could commit a heinous crime against herself or others.

    I think Tom is believable too. He might be called a sociopath. He just does not have a conscience. There are such people. I have heard of parents selling their children for one reason or another. There are all sorts of destructive behaviors in society.

    At some point, unfortunately, people lose touch with the fact that they are dealing with a relative and think only of money or have some other obscure and/or absurd reason which causes them to not care about a fellow human being.

    March 21, 2004 - 10:28 am
    These three chapters are the best yet. I think Tom might have met his match. Roxy might have been sold down the river, but she comes back stronger than ever. She is not going to allow Tom to get away with his dirty deed. But at the end of chapter XVIII, Tom is thinking of another dirty scheme.

    March 21, 2004 - 12:07 pm
    I've been sick do I need a note from my mother to return to the fold?

    "We know all about the habits of the ant, we know all about the habits of the bee, but we know nothing at all about the habits of the oyster. It seems certain that we have been choosing the wrong time for studying the oyster."

    I think Twain was having a little fun at our expense. This is just a guess but I think this refers to the fact that we or science know about the habits of the ant and the bee, but that we or science at the time this book was written knew nothing of the habits of oysters. Now some oysters give us beautiful pearls and some give us nothing. And I think this is what Twain was talking about in reference to Tom. Of course today we can produce synthetic pearls so I guess that wouldn't apply to us today or would it?

    "Ain't you my chile? Dey ain't nothin' a white mother won'd do for her chile? Who made 'em so? De Lord done it."

    It's interesting that Twain states: "..a white mother won'd do for her chile". Does this mean that only white mothers would do anything for their children or does it mean that black mothers were unable to do the same thing for their children. At this time black children were often taken from their mothers arms to be sold and the mothers couldn't do anything about it. Harriet Stowe mentioned in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" that black children were taken from the arms of their mothers at the wharf before the mother boarded the ships to her new master. The children were sold for a dollar a piece. Could this be what Twain was refering to?

    "By mid-nineteenth centuy, women in Victorian America were generally reduced to dependency status, though there were marked regional and class differences. in the South, wives and daughters of wealthy plantation owners were put on a pedestal, supposedly shielded and protected from realities; they were waited on and not expected to do menial work in their homes. However, on plantations Southern women often nursed the sick and had important supervisory duties. Earning money in the home was frowned upon. When a man and wife worked together to maintain a farm, there was recognition of the fact that the woman's labor was needed for survival. But when the husband left home every day to work at a business or industry, the wife lost independence. Although she worked very hard at home, her labor was considered less productive than her husband's, presumbably because she received no financial recompense. Such a woman was her husband's dependent rather than his partner, and in almost all families the husband' (or father's or brother's) word was law."

    If a woman had to or chose to support herself, where could she work and still be considered a lady. Aside from writing at home, teaching the very young was a respectable occupation, and one not particularly attractive to men. Other possibilities for low-paid work were domestic service, sewing, and factory work. Women who did such work were not considered ladies, despite the necessity that drove all of them to out-of-the-house labor." "Mid-Nineteenth Century in the United States and Uncle Tom's Cabin"

    From the above paragraphs we get a look at what it was like for women in the 19th century. For the black woman the opportunities were even less than those of the white woman. So it does not surprise me that the only option that Roxy had was to "sell herself down the river." I think somewhere in her head she realized what Tom would do, but than she was seeing him with her heart - the heart of a mother.

    March 21, 2004 - 01:33 pm
    "black mothers were unable to do the same thing for their children".

    Frederick Douglass tells of his mother in his autobiography. As was so common, they were on different plantations, miles apart. (I forget which one was sold). But in the middle of the night, his mother would walk the miles to hold him in her arms for awhile, and then walk back again, to get up and work the next morning with very little sleep. He says he can't remember her face, just the feeling of waking up at night with warm arms around him.

    March 21, 2004 - 03:09 pm
    I read this a long time ago, but I haven't taken part in this discussion. However, I have just found a video of "Pudd'nhead Wilson" and plan to watch it tonight. Just thought you guys might be interested in seeing it, too.

    Joan Pearson
    March 22, 2004 - 05:51 am
    Good morning - Anne/Scrawler, we hope, hope, hope you are feeling better. You sound like your old self, that's a good sign. No note required, hahaha...

    horselover, come back and tell us about the video...when was it made? Were you able to rent it? Our library has quite a collection of classic books-into-movies videos...will have to check that when I return Innocents Abroad.

    Ella, you asked about Innocents - have you read it? It is an amazing book...so detailed a travelog that you feel you are actually seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting what Twain is describing!

    It seems that he was commissioned in 1869 by a San Francisco publication to go on the first American world cruise and send home articles of the ports of call. What a plum of a job! The cruise goes on for months...a big fat book. When he got home, the articles were collected and then published in this book.

    I can't begin to describe the places he visits...Tangier stands out in my memory. Here he found many Negroes held in slavery by the Moors. Of interest to him - when a female slave became her master's concubine, she was immediately free from bondage.(oh?!)

    Hilarious accounts of his attempts to communicate with the French. Twain knew French - how many languages could he speak? Maybe a question for Rachel? I'm assuming he knew Italian - having lived in Florence for a time. He does visit Italy on this world tour, but I'm not there yet. I know he visits Florence. (The cruise allowed passengers off for side trips - he took a train ride from Marseille to Paris. Don't know how he gets from there to Italy. More chapters to go.)

    While he was on the ship, the Quaker City, he met Charles Langdon, who showed him a miniature photo of his sister, Olivia. Love at first sight.

    Within two years, he had met, wooed, married Livy, sold the house her father had given to them as a wedding present and relocated to Hartford, Conn. - the Mark Twain House - Rschel's place! And here we are!

    I'm sorry, Ella - a simpler answer to your question - Yes, I am enjoying Innocents Abroad - have you read it? If not, follow Fai's recommendation and now mine - put this book on your reading list!

    Oh, and one more thing before getting back to the story - Ms. William's did not write her scathing review of the first eight chapters of Pudd'nhead Wilson in Century Magazine - but in Southern Magazine Century is the former Scribner's Magazine which is publishing these serialized installments of Pudd'nhead - Century would hardly want to publish such negative articles when they are midway through the installments.

    "There must have been others who didn't like how MT described his characters"- Ella, it seems there were many who reacted to Twain as you suspect. Remember how he states in Pudd'nhead - irony is lost on the people of Dawson's Landing - it seems to have been lost on Ms. Williams and many others outside Mo. as well. Look in the heading to see some published reaction to this book at this time - Early Reviews of Pudd'nhead Wilson - the first you see was published in the New York Times. You need to click the image of the boy on a raft to see more.

    Joan Pearson
    March 22, 2004 - 06:45 am
    Ella, do the predictable events detract from the story for you? Notice again...Tom isn't calling her "mammy" as she asked him to - he's calling her "mummy"...telling her the idea of selling herself to raise money for his debts is "lovely" - speaking like a proper little British lad, isn't he? Aristocratic? And she's calling him, "Chambers" ...I'll agree they each have their relationship "straightened out" - but they are not on the same page.

    No, no pearl in this oyster, Ella. Anne- "Now some oysters give us beautiful pearls and some give us nothing. And I think this is what Twain was talking about in reference to Tom." Do the rest of you agree? (I think of Roxy as the oyster with the pearl, Anne.)

    A sobering reminder of what it must have been like to be a slave mother at the time. JoanK, thanks for the story of Frederick Douglas' mother - risking all to hold him in her warm arms. I'll bet that Twain knew about the hardships and was referring to them.

    I agree with Ella, Roxy was so smart - smarter than anyone n the story perhaps - How could she be so blind when Tom was concerned. I squirm when she misreads expressions on his face as feelings for her - or when he told her the plan to sell herself back into slavery was "lovely" and she cried...saying this was enough for her to get her through whatever was in store for her. Did you ever trust that he would come through and redeem her once the year was over? Would he ever be out of debt, have two nickels to rub together?

    Anne I wonder if Roxy's plan included getting sent "down the river." I think I'll agree with Ella on this one - getting sold "down the river" was the last straw as far as Roxana was concerned. Being sold as a slave, that was HER idea,yes, BUT the fact that he deceived her and sent her DOWN South? Is she stronger now that she's back?

    Hats, do you still think she is "in denial that her child could commit a heinous crime against her"? I guess the question is - does Roxana consider being sold down the river a "heinous crime? Does she finally see him for what he is? Can he convince her that it was not?

    ps. Ella - the gossip goes on on the Internet, the tabloids...with no more foundation of truth than the gossip in Dawson's Landing?

    Ella Gibbons
    March 22, 2004 - 08:38 am
    Does he call her "Mummy?" In Chapter XVI - where my postit note is sitting, I see Tom calling Roxy "mammy" twice, must go further on then to see the "mummy" name.

    No, Joan, I love the little hints of what is to come from MT - that doesn't detract at all from the surprises he gives us here; in fact, I believe the twists and turns of the story are so astonishing that I am constantly amazed at the author's imagination.

    You ask did many slaves escape via the river? I would like to know, too. However, the current is such that it would only take down river if they were in a rowboat and they could hardly escape on a big paddlewheel without notice, right? I'm sure it must have been very tempting for those that lived near enough though.

    I have the book - INNOCENTS ABROAD - and will just open it and feast my eyes on Twain's adventures.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 22, 2004 - 08:41 am
    Gossip on the INternet? Where? Do you imbibe?

    Joan Pearson
    March 22, 2004 - 08:59 am
    Oh Ella - you're right...he's calling her "mammy" all the time squirming as she lavishes her affection on him. He hates that she's a "nigger" - the fact that she is his mother has not changed this. Dreadful boy! I must have been reading with the weaker reading glasses - no "mummy"!

    Reading these pages makes me wonder about the law that forced a freed slave from a state if they tell her to leave in six months and she does't go. What did that have to do with this story? Tom takes her to Kentucky (a border state, not part of the Confederacy)...that's okay with Roxy. It's when Tom sells her to the Arkansas planter that the deception is complete. What did you understand about the planter's cruel Yankee wife and the Yank overseer?

    No, I don't "imbibe" in the Internet sites...SN doesn't allow me the time - hahaha...No Matt Drudge for me!

    March 22, 2004 - 09:12 am
    "What did you understand about the cruel Yankee wife and the Yank overseer?"

    I thought Sam was saying that slavery was not just a southern problem. Although I grew up in DC my folks were from Ohio, and tended to be rather smug. OUR ancesters didn't have slaves and fought for the north. It wasn't OUR problem. In fact, as discussed with the Garrison article, slavery was an economic system that benefitted the whole country. ecause literature focusses on domestic slaves, we tend to forget that. Northern mill owners benefitted from the cheap cotton, northern traders from the exports etc. He is saying northerners werre no better than southerners and sometimes worse, since they had no tradition of being good masters.

    March 22, 2004 - 09:33 am

    Wow, these were really eventful chapters, weren't they? I like the way the first two were very short and the third longer, Twain really touches on the soul of depravity here, doesn't he?

    I am confused about the state of slavery or how a slave is identified as such. My book notes the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 wherein "a …runaway slave….[is] liable to be arrested and returned to her master in any State or Territory of the Union."

    But yet she went up on the boat where they knew her, does this mean a freed slave needed to carry on his person papers at all times saying he was freed, and if so what good would the "papers" showing Roxy sold to herself do in the hands of Pudd'nhead Wilson, unless she intended to stay in Dawson's Landing all her days?

    I thought it was interesting that even as far down the river as she was sent were cotton farms, again my book says that St. Louis and Cairo, in Huckleberry Finn is the place where "real" slavery, not sure what that is, starts…. The quotation "rich, slave worked grain and pork country," signifies the differences between slavery in Missouri and farther south—where the crop was cotton and slavery was on a plantation or gang-labour basis." And of course that's exactly what we see in Roxy's bitter experience.

    I have a wonderful illustration on the cover of my book of slaves in cotton fields, and now can scan it in, because it did not, apparently, fit the story, before.

    I have to say that Roxy's experience reminds me a lot of the stories of the Old Testament, particularly her rising up and striking the Overseer, didn't Moses do the same thing? And in the sacrifice for her son, again reminded me of several old stories, the sacrifice of Isaac for one, but isn't there a particular Old Testament story of sacrifice of a parent for a child?

    Was this "that despised race," in Chapter 16 the first use of the word "race" in the book?

    Joan K, what a poignant story, I can't get it out of my mind, thank you for that. I really had forgotten Roxy did not know how to read until Chapter 18 and I thought Twain did a wonderful job of illustrating the plight of the slave.

    The relating of the "Who made 'em so? De Lord done it, " reminds me of a cute true story very similar sounding that my mother used to tell from the early 1900's of her childhood in North Carolina, where the children in church would be lined up in sort of a catechism and asked "Who made you?" Apparently that was a theme of the times, at least I've heard it before now. Unfortunately I've forgotten everything but the punch line, but this reminded me of it, very much.

    I don't understand why the Twins, publicly insulted and humiliated, would not demand a duel? I must have missed the proof of the "assassination" other than Tom's own opinion of it? Which was, wasn't it, a lie?

    Absolutely loved the Calendar on Gratitude and treachery and have had a wonderful morning trying to think which came first in the parade. Haahahah


    March 22, 2004 - 09:34 am
    On the Yankee overseer, and points raised here about different areas of the country during the Civil War, I assume you all know that the rate of slave owning in the South at the time of the Civil War was quite low? The majority of people did not own plantations, and could not afford and did not own slaves. Something like only 1 in 10 families owned slaves, or less than that, and the average number of slaves per family that did have them was quite small, less than 5, I believe. The average white Southern male went to war for several reasons, all of which you know, but to protect his own holdings of family slaves was not the rule or majority, very few of those soldiers entering the army actually had any slaves. Many Confederate soldiers were conscripted, some right off the boat from Germany, etc. Some were paid initially to be soldiers, before the draft which I think was in 1863. Many went to preserve what they saw as a threat to their way of life, many went to "protect" their women and land from what they saw as a threat, and many went for the free lands they were promised in return. I'm not a Civil War scholar, nor particularly interested in the Civil War, but there are misconceptions on all sides of the issue, I think.


    March 22, 2004 - 09:46 am
    Ginny! Your mother was a North Carolinian?? So was my mother. My mother lived in Dunn, NC until she married. Where did you mother live?

    The series of questions and answers you mention probably came from the Baltimore Catechism. The first question was "Who made you?" The second question (working on memory) was "Why did he make you?" and the answer was along the lines of "To love Him, to worship Him, to serve Him." From there it went on to many more questions and memorized (by the children) answers.

    Will be back later to discuss all the messages I've missed. Currently trying to work a straw to breathe through from the bottom of a pile of student papers.


    March 22, 2004 - 09:47 am
    Ginny--Yes, it was Moses who struck the Egyptian overseer, but he didn't just strike him, he killed him. And then he went and hid for a while.

    rachel rogers
    March 22, 2004 - 12:25 pm
    Happy Monday, Pudd'nheads! To follow up on a few points.

    Yankee overseer and Yankee wife. I believe that Simon Legree, the extremely cruel master from Uncle Tom's Cabin is a Connecticut native, in any case - he is a Yankee. So bad, in fact, that in time "Simon Legree" became and epithet for an especially cruel and demanding master.

    For Innocents Abroad: Sam was commissioned by San Francisco's Alta California newspaper to take the voyage aboard the Quaker City and write letters about what he saw during his travels. The letters were published in California but also syndicated in other parts of the country. So popular were these letters that a Hartford publisher invited him to Hartford to discuss a book contract - built from the "Alta Letters." This embroiled Sam into a copyright battle with the newspaper, and the publishing company to get the rights. In the end, he rewrote the contents of the letters into the chapters that became Innocents Abroad. For the original letters visit: twainquotes.com, follow the directions to Newspaper Articles and see "San Francisco, Alta California."

    Sam did have some grounding (later in life) in other languages. He was strongest in German but could read and understand some French and Italian.

    March 22, 2004 - 12:58 pm
    There are so many wonderful posts I am left with virtually nothing new to say. Except about the oysters. When I read the item in the Calendar I thought, well, mostly we study oysters when they are on a plate of ice with lemon, or in a wonderful milk stew. This is not the best time to study the habits of the oyster . I might remark that the picture of a dog with toms head on it is very appropriate for the last page of chapter 18. faith

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 22, 2004 - 02:18 pm
    Oh my how many immigrant children, especially in their teen years secretly had the same thoughts and aversion to the love of their family as Tom - "It made him wince, secretly -- for she was a "nigger." That he was one himself was far from reconciling him to that despised race."

    This reminds me of that poignant story of the dress in the PBS series "The Family" when the Mexican-American daughter became valedictorian and she lies to prevent her family from attending the graduation where she makes her speech in a store bought suit that her teacher pays for while her mother handmade a beautiful but typical frilly purple Quincineras dress - or how many German families here in the States disowned their heritage during and after WWII - and how many children of prisoners today are conflicted and emotionally remove themselves from the affection of their families.

    No none of these had the added burden of slavery but teen and young adult children want the approval of society and are in a race, so to speak, for the best placement of themselves in society that will allow them the best perks.

    And the love of this women - when all she has is her body, her labor, her life that she is willing to lay down for her son - and yet, there is that bit that if the son shines she herself will have an easier time of it when the judge dies -- what a desperate pair - and I have not even finished reading the chapter much less all three chapters --

    Roxy reminds me of the saying - when you hold the hand of a child you hold a mother's heart.

    Saw Hal Holbrook on the Bill Moyer's show on Friday night - Hal has been playing Twain for more than 30 years now and the show has been shut out of public TV because of the way Twain expresses himself especially what seems like racist remarks -

    Hal Holbrook was saying the reason Twain did that was to hit folks over the head hard - that to get their attention he had to repeat the worst of it over and over in quick succession in order to capture their attention so he could allow the hammer to fall. And the biggie that I thought was remarkable Hal Holbrook says that Twain KNEW that we DO NOT EVEN SEE OR KNOW OF OUR OWN RACIST PREJUDICE - Wow -

    They went on with that revelation in their discussion - how we are not aware of our attitudes since we live with them and as others have shared here in this discussion that the most judgemental have hidden pockets of prejudice if none other than they judge.

    I think it takes a giant to portray a giant and to me both Twain and Holbrook are giants

    March 22, 2004 - 03:06 pm

    Rachel, thank you so much for that link to Mark Twain's correspondence with the San Francisco Alta California, it's incredible, I had no idea he wrote so much. I got hung up on the one about June 10, 1867 - CRUELTY TO ANIMALS, and the pig in the theater and "They are going to put up hydrants and water tanks at convenient distances all over the city, for drinking places for men, horses and dogs." That reminded me of the water troughs you can still see in some parts of the country for horses, (and some of them are for men and dogs, too, all in one). It's like a step back in history, love it.

    Was not sure about the point of the pig story but it seemed ironic, the Richard III touch was a hoot.

    He was particularly touching on the part about the returning soldiers, tho and the lack of begging in the streets and how well they had been assimilated into society and concludes,
    But it is a toiling, thinking, determined nation, this of ours, and little given to dreaming. It appreciates the fact that the moment one thing is ended, it must be crossed out and dropped, and something else begun. Our Alexanders do not sit down and cry because there are no more worlds to conquer, but snatch off their coats and fall to shinning around and raising corn and cotton, and improving sewing machines.
    Gosh he's powerful, thank you so much for that link!

    Maryal, yes, my mother was from Lenoir, North Carolina, she was born in 1908, and her father was a country doctor, in fact quite a few of her family were physicians (Twain would have hated them haha) , but maybe not, I well recall my Great Aunt Caroline sometimes getting nothing at all for her work as a physician, on call all hours of the day and night (and always went), and sometimes she would receive a basket of eggs in payment, I have seen that with my own eyes, left on the doorstep, or some apples: she would treat the eggs as if they had been gold pieces and I also saw her refuse payment from persons she thought could ill afford it, it CAN be a noble calling.

    Isn't Twain as revealed in these new letters fascinating, almost a different person, to me.

    I wonder if we like him better in the letters? I find them fascinating, and am so glad to have that site.


    March 22, 2004 - 03:49 pm
    A pass written and signed by a master allowing his slaves to travel was needed by all blacks traveling from plantation to plantation or from plantation to town in the South before 1860. If the blacks did not have a pass, than she/he would be sent back to their master or if the master could not be found than she/he would be sold to a slave trader and "sold up the river". Since a Negro could not testify against the master, it would be easy to say that she/he had forged any papers she/he was carrying that said she/he was free.

    "Even popularity can be overdone. In Rome, along at first, you are full of regrets that Michaelangelo died; but by and by you only regret that you didn't see him do it."

    I would have to agree especially in our world. I get so tired of hearing about the celebrities and politicians of the day that I begin to think of them like Michaelangelo.

    I would think that Twain had his bad feelings about his popularity. For one thing it kept him away from his family. I can't imagine traveling around trying to make people laugh when in fact you would rather be home with your wife and children. His daughter Susy died in 1896 and another daughter Jean was diagnosed with epilepsy, and his wife Olivia also began to fail about the time "Pudd'nhead Wilson" was published.

    "The closing speech of the campaign was made by Judge Driscoll, and he made it against both of the foreigners. It was distrously effective. He poured out rivers of ridcule upon them, and forced the big mass-meeting to laugh and applaud... At last he stopped and stood still. He waited until the place had become absolutely silent and expectant, then he delivered the deadliest shot; delivered it with ice-cold seriousness and deliberation, with a significant emphasis upon the closing words: he said that he believed the reward offered for the lost knife was humbug and buncombe, and that its owner would know where to find it whenever he he should have occasion to assassiante somebody."

    Spoken like a true politician or lawyer or judge. Twain certainly could use the right words in the mouths of his characters to create a mood. These words certainly sow the seeds of doubt about these two "foreigners". Who wouldn't believe the judge - upstanding citzen and all - over these - foreigners! Just the thought that something is not quite right about these two, will change anyone's opinion of them. It reminds me of today's negative campaign ads.

    March 22, 2004 - 03:49 pm
    Ginny--My mother was born in 1899 in Dunn, NC. Isn't it interesting to think that these two girls might have bumped into each other somewhere? Of course, North Carolina is a big state and even back in the day had lots of people.

    Any minute now, I'm going to respond to posts, but right at the moment I have just one: Faith--Thank you so much for insight into Twain's oyster remark. I had no idea what he meant by it, none. I'm not an oyster eater, but I really like your explanation that the way we usually observe oysters is as food, on a plate with lemon, in a lovely oyster stew. Yep, that makes sense.

    March 22, 2004 - 03:59 pm
    Scrawler--Welcome back; sorry to hear that you were sick. You point out that Twain must have gotten lonely for his family when he was travelling. His letters show that he did. He went on lecture tours because they paid well and he was in debt. He was in Europe with Mrs. Twain when Suzy died. Her death broke his heart. Later, after Mrs. Twain's death, Twain lived with his daughter, Jean, whom you also mention. She also died and Twain was again filled with sorrow. He and Livy had four children, a son who lived only about a year and three daughters, only one of whom survived her father.

    March 22, 2004 - 08:10 pm
    Here are some wonderful sites. I love his lectures and one of these takes you to his Vandals abroad lecture.

    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/innocent/iahompag.html links to more about this book

    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/TwaInno.html text of Innocents Abroad.

    http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/innocent/vandtext.html -- and here is the text of the lecture that became so popular (based on his travels abroad) The American Vandal Abroad. I would love to hear this performed by the author himself. faith

    Much info about Mr. Clemens with links to text of other books at this site--- http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/index2.html

    Joan Pearson
    March 23, 2004 - 05:11 am
    Good morning!
    Thought I was going to come in here bright and early this morning, post and get ready for work. But there is so much here! And Fai, I got lost in links! Fascinating (too fascinating when time is short!) I put the UVA site up in the heading for future reference, there's so much in it of interest to Pudd'nheads. Thank you!

    - Also, loved the links to Innocents Abroad - spent time in those too! Loved that Twain referred to to himself and others on the cruise...other American tourists, as "Vandals"! hahaha, I haven't read that in the book yet - maybe it's in later pages, maybe not. I did notice too a wonderful photograph of the Castle of Count Luigi in the illustrated Innocents Abroad too. He must have kept a notebook of names he liked for future stories...Pudd'nhead was written nearly thirty years later when Count Luigi would reappear...

    Rachel, thank you for the inside nformation on the publishing/copoyright difficulties of involved in publishing the travel letters which were to become Innocents Abroad. Was this the first time that Twain ever visited Hartford? He seems to have known some French when he took the world trip - I'm still amazed at his mind, his writing, his linguistic abilities, his knowledge of history, science - with so little formal schooling. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? I think kids learned more in their early years than they do today. Am I wrong about that?

    Faith, your "translation" of the Calendar entry on oysters as referring to those served on the plate - makes such good sense. Not much to them, is there? Bruce loves to order them when on the menu - in months that end in "r" - basically not in summer. Why is that? Bruce says that in summer they are smaller, (young?) and because they spoil in summer. Hmmm, was Twain referring to "spoiled oysters"? In the UVA site (now in the heading,) I came across this menu - from a dinner the Aldine Association (?) hosted for Twain six years after Pudd'nhead was published. If you click the menu, you will probably be able to read it better. The point is - the context puts those oysters on the dinner plate! Good on you, Faith!

    Ella, you asked yesterday about the entry for Chapter XVII on the Fourth of July -
    "Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than in all the other days of the year put together..."
    ...a distant bell was ringing... so I went back to "Those Extraordinary Twins" and there it was! At the start of Chapter XVII. Twain left it there for this chapter, but the connection to the text is no longer there...or is it?
    In Twins Twain has just confessed to the Reader that he doesn't know what to do with Rowena - the Book is finished and there is no way to bring her back into it. It "grieved him for having to give her the bounce"...so, Rowena goes out in the backyard after supper to see the FIREWORKS on the Fourth of July...and fell down the well and drowned. (Apparently there were a lot of fireworks-associated injuries on the fourth...there's an illustration that shows this) It got Rowena out of the way...the quote appeared at the top of this annecdote. And there it stays in Pudd'nhead...hmmm, where IS Rowena, now that we mention her? Oh, no! The well?

    Will be back after work...so many good posts yesterday that I haven't had time this morning to consider. Thank you!

    ps. Faith, where do you see the graphic - the dog with Tom's face on it? I wanna see that too!

    Malryn (Mal)
    March 23, 2004 - 07:00 am
    The Lives and Loves of Samuel Clemens

    rachel rogers
    March 23, 2004 - 07:45 am
    Glad you're enjoying the letters to the Alta. Contrary to Chris's experience and interest, when I started working at The Mark Twain House, I DIDN'T like Mark Twain...instead I enjoyed history, specifically the Gilded Age, and educating people. Once here I started reading his letters and personal papers and found an historical figure who I really liked. Now, while I'm still not a huge fan of his fiction, I have a greater appreciation of his incredible skill and talent and the struggles to produce.

    A side note - Sam Clemens never legally changed his name to Mark Twain, although he did trademark it so nobody else could use it. "Mark Twain" was merely a stage name/pseudonym and he largely kept his personal and public lives separate. As a result, Livy was not Mrs. Twain - she was Mrs. Clemens. A few friends who met him as the author called him Mark but most stuck to Sam or Clemens. (Sorry to be vehement, this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.)

    Sam did hate parts of his popularity, while also blessing it for keeping him flush. More, he hated the constant necessity of lecturing and writing. His correspondence with Livy frequently touched on their mutual anguish at being separated - and his desire to never again lecture after "this" season. The surprise to me was that he hoped, while writing A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, that he'd never HAVE to write to make a living again, and therefore would probably not write at all. (Think of the horror! Mark Twain - not writing? At the very least that would have deprived us of PHW and some other powerful pieces as well.) Within 5 years of making this pronouncement he was bankrupt and pounding out any writing he could, in the hopes of getting paid for it. [An interesting side bar: When he declared bankruptcy, Olivia was his biggest creditor, having loaned him money to support both the Paige Compositor investments and Charles L. Webster & Co. publishing house. At the recommendation of his financial advisor he signed the copyrights of all his published books over to Livy to pay her back for her losses, while simultaneously guaranteeing that the family had support as he labored out of debt. In the end, he paid ALL his creditors back 100% of the money he owed them, exceeding the expectation of 50%. Remember what I said last week about Sam having a tremendous amount of honor? This was an issue of pride for him, and for Livy, too I think.]

    Work took him away from the family a significant amount. When Susy died he, Livy and Clara had just completed the around-the-world lecture tour to recoup his losses (Susy and Jean stayed behind with family in New York). The family had just sent for Susy and Jean to join them in England when Susy became ill and couldn't travel. Livy and Clara headed to the States but Sam didn't think it was serious enough to warrant that and stayed behind. He learned of Susy's death via telegram. Livy and Clara learned of it when Rev. Joseph Twichell met their ship.

    Sorry. I guess the rambling comes with the job. Get either Chris or myself started and we go on kind of like Twain himself. I'm moving further away from PHW in these explanations, but I hope shedding more light on Sam and his motivations.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 23, 2004 - 12:04 pm
    I guess politics even in a small fictitious town is more the same, more the same - simply have some disparaging news about your opponent that cannot be proved one way or the other and either you have enough support to rise above the reported news who will defend you or you are dust.

    Nice way to stay insulated as this small town circles the wagons around a known citizen to take leadership and where these fancy outsiders were in high fashion - they are like fashion - in one year and out the next. I guess that is the same with ideas as well - new ideas can get a lot of play but until the are adapted so much that they replace old ideas they are simply fashionable ideas.

    And so Rachel you did not like Twain - hmmm did you read him before you worked at the center - I only read Twain as the writer of childhood books and never knew the depth of the man - can't say that I liked or disliked - only piled him in the corner with Laura Ingalls and a few others who wrote books for the young teen. His weren't even as adventurous as Stevenson's, London's or Fenimore Cooper's books.

    March 23, 2004 - 12:36 pm
    "The Friday after the election was a rainy one in St. Louis. It rained all day long, and rained hard, apparently trying it's best to wash that soot-blackened town white, but of course not succeeding."

    I can't help but wonder if this sentence has a double meaning: refering to the town itself and also to its citizens who tend to gamble and drink.

    "Dat overseer wuz a Yank, too, outen New Englan', en anybody down South kin tell you what dat mean. Dey knows how to work a nigger to death, en dey knows how to whale' em, too - whale' em till dey backs is welted like a washboard."

    Twain here seems to say that a Yank overseer was worst than a southern overseer.

    When Roxana confronted Tom, he was just returning from the theater, which reminded me of something I read in regard to slavery:

    "The likelihood of southerners imitating northerners in the performance of menial tasks was remote, indeed. To do so would have been to reject an important principle on which Southern civilization was based, namely the idea that the use of slaves freed the masters to engage in more edifying cultural, social, and political pursuits..." ~ "The Southern Odyssey"

    Twain seems to point to these "edifying cultural, social, and political pursuits in his story. Was Twain sending a message to his readers?

    rachel rogers
    March 23, 2004 - 12:44 pm
    Barbara, I had read Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and a couple of short stories in school as assignments. I don't know why Mark Twain fell so far down on the enjoyed list of school books for me - but it did take understanding the man and his motivations for me to get any enjoyment out of the stories he told.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 23, 2004 - 01:25 pm
    Yep Rachel - you read the same books I read - I think I was in probably the seventh or eighth grade - all I remember was I liked more adventure or the quarky characters in Eudora Welty's stories rather than the stories of Twain. His books to me almost had a Brair Rabbit quality about them.

    Been reading Flann O'Brien and have been introduced to this whole huge concept of Satire - I am vaguely remembering Twain was called a Satirest and so I've been trying to learn as much as I can about Satire -

    From what I gather there are various Greek and later Roman writers who each have a style of satire so that today these authors are used to label the various kinds of satirical writing. So far I have learned there are satire styles called Menippean - Horation - Persius - Juvenalian.

    There is Formal and In-formal Satire.

    In-formal ridiculous the behavior of its characters to make its point - This indirect form includes irony, burlesque, travesty, and parody.

    Formal satire is further divided into: the "Horatian," which ridicules gently, and the "Juvenalian," the angry satirist who derides subjects harshly and bitterly as did Jonathan Swift in his essay "A Modest Proposal" where he suggests that the Irish eat their own children as a solutions for the poor so that they are not a burden to the community. I have not read but it is now on my list.

    In general satire is often comic, but to provoke laughter for corrective purposes. The satire always has a target to mock. The satirist is a cold-eyed realist, who penetrates through shame and pretense for the lessons they will teach. The simplest form of satire is criticism, an up-front attack, a sudden, harsh exposure of the truth. Satire can be an exaggeration - only the negative is emphasized.

    Here is the Encarta site explaining Satire and includes a bit about Mark Twain.


    And this is a great site that if you scroll down there is bunches about Satire in its different forms. The print is small but it is worth it - there is also on the page a good discription of Comedy and since Comedy is used in Satire it may be worth reading about.


    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 23, 2004 - 03:35 pm
    Oh my - oh oh oh - this is hard enough to read but here it is - the essay by Swift - A Modest Proposal - he mentions practices among Americans a couple of times and this is an example - "I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled ..."

    I guess it is the emotionless way he speaks of all this that evidently is considered typical of many Irish authors who can speak of human horrors as if they have no value nor is the normal reaction valued - but rather a matter of factness and what crazy behavior followed resulting from the horror.

    I am thinking that is a bit of what Twain is doing here when he had Tom sell his mother back into slavery but then Twain did not stay true to this saterical form as he has Roxy herself give a soliloquy of her ordeal and escape.

    Ella Gibbons
    March 23, 2004 - 05:03 pm
    As we have just a few chapters left to read in the book (and I have not read ahead at all) I was thinking who is the protagonist in this story? Although the title of the book is Puddn'head Wilson, he plays such a small role in the plot - at least as far as I have read - that I am wondering if perhaps we can say Tom Driscoll is or would it be Roxy? And how did MT come up with the name of PUDD'NHEAD?

    What does that name sound like to you? Something soft perhaps - pudding? And why the "head" after the pudd? For some reason I cannot account for I get the feeling that it is the name of a simpleton - a dunce - but that is not this Pudd'nhead!

    Now in most books where a character such as Tom is portrayed - a sefish, wealthy, neer-do-well young man that has not found himself as yet, no purpose in life, the author allows the character to come to an impasse in his life; one in which he either gains character or sinks into hell forever. Which will it be?

    What end do you foresee for Tom and Roxy?

    It's just a guess at this point as many of us have gone no further but we can speculate! What as an author would you do with Tom or Roxy?

    Would you plot a happy ending? And what would that be?

    Or will Pudd'nhead come forth and make an identification with those fingerprint slides he has?

    March 23, 2004 - 05:24 pm

    I would hope that Tom would change and become a responsible young man. In other words, I would like to see him put love before greed. I think he owes an apology, if not orally, at least by his actions to his mother, Roxy, and also to Pudd'nHead Wilson. At one point, I thought Tom seemed to go out of his way to hurt Pudd'nHead Wilson for no reason. Maybe Tom will become a pearl. It takes a slow amount of time for a pearl to form and so does character. I am holding out hope for Tom.

    I believe before the end of the book those fingerprints will have a big part in the climax of the story. I think those fingerprints and what they will reveal will shock all of Dawson's Landing. Then, I think Pudd'nHead Wilson will gain the respect he deserves.

    Rachel, thank you for all of your comments. Your posts about Mark Twain and Pudd'nHead Wilson have made this book very special.

    Joan Pearson
    March 23, 2004 - 05:58 pm
    Ella, that's such a good question...you'd have to think that Pudd'nhead, the title character would be the protagonist. "The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson"...you're right, it's a tad early to comment on that, but right now, it would appear that "the protagonist" is Tom Driscoll. This appears to be HIS tragic story - unless of course he makes an about-face and "changes into a responsible young man...and puts love before greed"- as Hats is anticipating. Somehow, he doesn't seem to have it in him, Hats. But I admire your optimism. Others have called this a "romance" ...can a tragedy be a romance? It's also called a "farce" - a form of comedy. Barbara, I think "satire" works as both comedy and tragedy at the same time. Do we need a definition of tragedy, yet one more time?

    Yes, I agree those fingerprints will play a huge part...and maybe they will put Pudd'nhead in the limelight. Still can't see how this will become his "tragedy," though.

    Ella, "Pudd'nhead" seems to have been a term for someone who had a brain of mush, of "pudding" ... do you remember the comment Wilson made when he was new in town - about the barking dog he'd drown if he owned half of him? The town took this to mean that he must be a simpleton since he didn't realize if he drowned half the dog he owned, he'd also drown the half he didn't own. Says a lot about the mind-set of the townsfolk of Dawson's Landing.

    I put to use the "Google" tip Maryal passed on to us a few days ago. The Webster definition came up ...which explains it as a related word for "fool" and for "fool". Webster gives this definition:
    ...a compound of gooseberries, scalded and crushed, with cream, commonly called a "gooseberry fool"...Puddinghead
    Today I spent some time at the Folger Shakespeare Library. It was fun seeing so many of the folks I used to work with. One of my buddies, Officer Cheney asked me what my "book club" was reading these days...and I told him, Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson'...Mr. Cheney's wife loves to read and belongs to a book club and he always liked to tell her about books we were reading on-line. "Mark Twain," he said, "I'll have to remember that. With a name like Pudd'nhead, I assume he's black, right?" "Well, no..." Mr. Cheney is black himself, and I thought his assumption was interesting. I wish we had had more time to talk about it. I'm going back on Thursday. If I get a chance, I'll ask him why. Was this more of Mark Twain's irony - giving an educated white man, a lawyer from the east, a name which another black man assumed was "black"? Had you ever heard this term used before?

    Ella Gibbons
    March 23, 2004 - 06:22 pm
    Oh, the plot becomes thicker with all these hints and dreams of things to come! What fun!

    It is a farce in my view, Joan.

    Rachel, I did want to thank you for the information you have given us about Sam Clemens, so interesting to know him and the sad story of his later years.

    Perhaps you have told us this before (I apologize if that is so), but it is not clear to me why Sam Clemens wanted to take on a pseudonym? I can think of a few authors who did - one of the Brontes did because she didn't want to be known as a female; other authors afraid of relatives/friends recognizing themselves or authors afraid of failure perhaps. But Samuel Clemens? And I do know how he got the name of Mark Twain, but why?

    One other question, please. What is the one Twain book that is most read? I know that Huck Finn is the one most banned? Hahahaaaaa It does come up now and then that some librarian or some school has banned it again, but the one most popular?

    Joan Pearson
    March 23, 2004 - 06:26 pm
    Oh, Rachel, please do feel free to fill us in on the Sam Clemens that you have come to know and understand better than the rest of us ever will. You are convincing - I will refer to him as "Sam" now...except when I feel he is expressing himself as the author. There are times when the voice seems to be the author, and others, when he is the man who wishes he could do anything other than what he's doing. I feel it is Sam who speaks through Pudd'nhead.

    Ginny writes..."Isn't Twain as revealed in these new letters fascinating, almost a different person? I wonder if we like him better in the letters?" Ginny, maybe we're getting to know Sam Clemens in the letters, the man behind the author, Mark Twain? Barbara, I too knew Mark Twain only from reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as a very young girl - and I'm going to admit, it was my brothers loved these stories of adventure. I thought they were "Boys'Life" kind of thing...Clemens' underlying themes were totally lost on me. I enjoyed them, yes, but didn't really appreciate them. I'm wondering what my brothers would have thought of Pudd'nhead Wilson way back when? Satire, irony - I think we would have been just like the townsfolk in Dawson's Creek when they saw the pages from Pudd'nhead's Calendar.

    Joan Pearson
    March 23, 2004 - 07:08 pm
    Have been going back through other recent posts this evening...
    Barbara - "the reason Twain did that was to hit folks over the head hard - that to get their attention he had to repeat the worst of it over and over in quick succession in order to capture their attention so he could allow the hammer to fall. - "Twain KNEW that we DO NOT EVEN SEE OR KNOW OF OUR OWN RACIST PREJUDICE" - This accounts for the number of times the pejorative is used in this story, Barbara. Did it make you wince too?

    Scrawler - "Judge Driscoll... poured out rivers of ridicule upon them, and forced the big mass-meeting to laugh and applaud... At last he stopped and stood still. He waited until the place had become absolutely silent and expectant, then he delivered the deadliest shot...Spoken like a true politician or lawyer or judge" - Anne, I'll agree with you on politicians and lawyers, but am resisting applying such behavior to judges. Expect more, I guess.

    A fascinating observation, Anne - "Twain seems to point to these "edifying cultural, social, and political pursuits in his story. Was Twain sending a message to his readers?" I'm not sure, but Tom does seem to be spending time entertaining himself, knowing that his own mother is "down, NOT up the river"...maybe such forms of entertainment were necessary to get one's mind off harsh realities.

    I gasped and then laughed at Tom's preposterous comment about Roxy's motherly insticts - coming back to St. Louis, knowing she'd get him in trouble. Why did she risk coming back?

    March 23, 2004 - 07:32 pm

    I think Roxy risked coming back because she had unfinished business with her son, Tom. I think she came back angry. She wanted to look Tom in the eye and let him know that she was not a fool. Seeing him face to face, after he had sold her, made Roxy face the fact that her son cared about no one but himself. Also, by coming back Roxy made it known to Tom that he did not control her life. Tom's schemes just made Roxy fight harder to stay in control of her life.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 23, 2004 - 08:46 pm
    I think she would come back - not disappear never to be heard of again - as bad as their relationship is she needs someone in her old age - no one wants to be totally alone - I think when family members disappoint us we do not abandon completely our ties - today the tie can be maintained long distance but then there was no phone or e-mail - I also think they both knew that they were trying to play a trick on the planter - that she had her freedom and they were doing something illegal even if it was to make her life worse it was still something that was not clear and clean and so to take the easy way by going with someone who would not ask many questions had to be given some value even if being sold down river was the upshot and the most dreaded which turned out to be as awful as was hinted at earlier in the story.

    Joan it didn't make me wince so much as made me feel even more humble - I doubt any of us can root out all our Prejudice - we are what we have learned both at home, in school and within the society we live as well as, the media that instructs as it entertains. It was a statement that made me aware that if I ever think it is ok to risk pointing a finger I need to turn my finger around and ask how am I adding to a lack of understanding or acceptance.

    I have not lived in the shoes of any other than those whose shoes are similar to my own. And where I have experienced an imbalance of power my experiences have not included as much to overcome. How many self-serving beliefs do I hold that allow me not to see or know of my racist prejudices. Some times it is the small drips that wears away what the large deluge, although shocking bringing with it the garbage of the river, roars through on its way down river.

    March 24, 2004 - 05:18 am
    because, according to my lights, she is the protagonist. I agree with Joan that Pudd'nhead is not the protagonist and although I agree that Tom is a main character, I see him as the antagonist.

    If nothing else, Roxy is one of Twain's great fictional creations. She is real. We get inside her mind. Pudd'nhead is the rational outsider who is necessary in Dawson's Landing because he can see clearly. He also understands irony as demonstrated in his Calendar.

    Hats--You are an eternal optimist. Do you see anything in Tom's previous behavior that leads you to think that he might redeem himself in the end?

    I'm still in the midst of paper-grading (long ones this time) and apologize for my absence.

    March 24, 2004 - 05:48 am
    Hi Maryal,

    Maryal, that's a hard question. I feel that, at times, I get a small glimpse of humanity in Tom. For example, this quote. "For days he wandered in lonely places, thinking, thinking, thinking--trying to get his bearings. It was new work."

    I think there have been so many obstacles in Tom's path. It's like he is fighting in quicksand. He doesn't know his true father, he learns that the woman whom he thought of as a slave is really his mother. He has a gambling habit which I have heard is not easy to overcome.

    When Tom meekly asks Roxy who is his real father, I see a person who is not malicious. It's just that his life is all mixed up. No wonder he is confused and a bit inhuman.

    At first, I called him a sociopath. I take that back. That term is too harsh. To answer the question, I really don't see anything in Tom's previous behavior that explains my feelings of hope for him.

    I think of a seed. A lot of growth takes place beneath the soil. Then, one day, all of a sudden, we have a beautiful green seedling. I am hoping Tom pops out all of a sudden just like a flower seed. I hope I am not disappointed.

    March 24, 2004 - 06:03 am
    "For a whole week he was not able to sleep well, so much the villainy which he had played upon his trusting mother preyed upon his rag of a conscience;"

    At least, Tom has a little bit of remorse. The problem is that his repentence does not last long. I am hoping the "rag" will grow in to a cloth. Then, he might become more civilized.

    March 24, 2004 - 03:40 pm
    "The character story is about a person trying to change his role in life. It begins at the point when the main character finds his present situation intolerable and sets out to change; it ends when the character either finds a new role, willingly returns to the old one, or despairs of improving his lot."

    Who in this story fits the bill as described above: Tom Driscoll or Pudd'nhead Wilson. I would think Tom Driscoll changes more than Pudd'nhead Wilson although he does not always have control of the change at the beginning. It's almost as if Twain is spinning a coin and we don't know how the coin will drop - will it be heads he willingly returns to the old one or will it be tails he despairs of improving his lot. I think I'd vote for Tom despairing over improving his lot - after all this is a tragedy.

    Yes, there were way too many coincidences, but I think Twain wanted to drum home a point here - the fact that slaves did want to escape their masters. If this book were set in the 1830s, than books like "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had not yet been written. True there were rumblings of anti-slavery in the north and even in the south, but for the most part people accepted their plights and yet still wished to escape them. Twain has taken bits and pieces and stirred them into a gigantic stew pot. It's what fiction is all about. Exagerating something to the point that we "the reader" begin to understand what its all about. It's like hitting us over the head with a hammer - it only hurts for a little while or at least until the next time it happens.

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 24, 2004 - 04:24 pm
    site includes a link to the interview with Ken Burns who had the series on Mark Twain last year on PBS.


    Joan Pearson
    March 25, 2004 - 06:38 am
    Good morning! Did you get your final installment in Century Magazine? It just hit the news stands this morning! All of our questions will be answered...well, many of them, hopefully...

    Hats, do you think that Roxy looked for Tom in St. Louis because she was still hoping for some sort of explanation from him? (The Grand Mogul stopped in St. Louis. Did she have an option to continue on until she reached a free state?) She tells Tom that she didn't want to trouble him by going back to Dawson's. Maybe she thought it was safe if she hid out in the bustling town of St. Louis and waited for him. Who would have written to the planter from the ship?

    Oh, yes, she's mad...she's lost all hope in the son for whom she's sacrificed so much. An interesting observation, Hats - she's down, but not out. She is still strong. I don't know how I'd react to such deception..and rejection from a child of mine...

    Barbara...do you think that Roxy - Roxana now (do you notice that she is never again referred to as "Roxy" since she's back upriver?)...comes back because she wants to hear an explanation from Tom himself? But when she hears that he is working with the planter to capture her - shouldn't that have been the final blow?

    In a way, I guess it was. All she had ever wanted for her son was his freedom and prosperity. By insisting he go back and confess all to his uncle, she is saying she KNOWS he will again lose the estate, but that this is no longer a priority. She wants the Judge to give Tom the money to buy her own freedom now. In other words, she has rejected him - and is fighting for her own survival.

    Maryal - will you give us your definition of "protagonist"? This is a problematic term. If we are in agreement that Tom is Twain's central character (are we?) - then I think the "protagonist" is Tom...in that sense.

    Scrawler - "The character story is about a person trying to change his role in life. It begins at the point when the main character finds his present situation intolerable and sets out to change; it ends when the character either finds a new role, willingly returns to the old one, or despairs of improving his lot." A word or two seems to be missing here. Did you mean to be describing "protagonist" - and if so, do you think we are describing Tom - or Wilson? Or Roxana? Which of the three would you say is trying to change his/her own role in life?

    Hold on to your hat, Hats! We're about to see if the "rag" has grown into a cloth" - we'll all have to make our way back to Dawson's Landing for answers to these questions...

    March 25, 2004 - 12:59 pm
    My reference to a "character story" referred more to the type of story as opposed to the story being about event, milieu, or an idea story. This story is about the characters in the story and how they relate to each other. In my opinion Tom Driscoll is the protaganist of this story because he is the one that changes the most, even though some of those changes were not his by choice.

    "Dawson's Landing was comfortably finishing its season of dull repose and waiting patiently for the duel. Count Luigi was waiting too; but not patiently, rumor said. Sunday came, and Luigi insisted on having his challenge conveyed. Wilson carried it. Judge Driscoll declined to fight with an assassin - "that is," he added significantly, "in the field of honor."

    At a time in our history when men were apt to settle things in the "honorable" way by dueling this was Twain's dig at who was honorable and who was not.

    It was a time when congessmen and senators alike carried swords into the senate and representative chambers which resulted in several duels within the halls of congress. In 1859 Edwin M. Stanton had been Congressman Daniel Sickles attorney for the murder of his wife's lover. The court caused Sickles to be found not guilty on the grounds of temporary insanity, which was the first time such a defense had been used. Later, in the war he lost a leg at the battle of Gettyburg and received the Medal of Honor. So there you have it - was Sickles like Luigie an assassin or a man of honor?

    "Wilson went back to his principal and reported the failure of his mission. Luigi was incensed, and asked how it could be that the old gentleman, who was by no means dull-witted, held his trifling nephew's evidence and interferences to be of more value than Wilson's. But Wilson laughed, and said:

    That is quite simple; that is easily explicable. I am not his doll - his baby - his infatuation: his nephew is..."

    This brings up an interesting concept. Are we blinded to what our own children do? So much so that we accept on faith what they tell us, when indeed what they are telling us are exaggerated truths at the very least. Do we do them more harm to let them go on believing that what they are doing is right? Or is it more important for parents to be straight with their children? I can't help but wonder how Twain felt about his own children. Did he always agree with them? Keeping in mind that by the time he wrote this story he would soon loose Suzy and find out that his wife and his daughter Jean were ill.

    rachel rogers
    March 25, 2004 - 01:45 pm
    Sam had some difficulties as a father, mainly I think because of his mercurial temperament. He learned after the girls were teenagers that they feared him, his quick temper. This mortified him.

    On a specific instance of fatherhood. In December, 1892 the family was in Florence and Clara was studying music in Berlin. During the season, Clara attended a party and for a time was the only woman in a room filled with 40 German officers. She wrote to her family, gaily describing her experiences and her father flew into a response straight out of Jane Austen (a comparison that would horrify Sam as he hated her work).

    He wrote a response, "Clara, dear, your letter brought strong delight in your pleasure, but at the same time a deep sense of regret. From the out spoken frankness with which you tell about excluding yourself with forty officers, one is compelled to believe that you did not know any better. -- The average intelligent American girl who had never crossed the ocean would know better than to do that in America. It would be an offence against propriety there -- then what name shall it be called when done in Berlin. -- I mean, of course, by an American girl, for what European girl would dream of doing it?...Of the forty officers was there one, old or young, who would have allowed his daughter or sister to stay in your place a minute? Didn't it occur to you that there was but one course for you to pursue -- leave that room the moment you found yourself the only representative of your sex in it? I wish to impress upon you one thing so that it will stay: that an American girl in Europe cannot offend in theleast degree against the proprieties of these countries and not get herself talked about. There is not an American girl in Berlin who cannot better afford to make her conduct a matter of criticism than you. If you would not have yourself and us talked about, there is but one course for you -- to make yourself acquainted...with the nicest shades of what is allowable by German custom and keep strictly within the boundaries of it for the future..." "We love you and are proud of your talents, and we want you to be a lady - a lady above reproach - a lady always, modest and never loud - a lady recognizable as such at a glance, everywhere, indoors and out. Watch yourself at Miss Phelp's ball - be conspicuous for not being conspicuous; let no canon of perfect breeding suffer by you."

    Susy wrote another letter adding hers and Olivia's opinions. Mostly they echoed Sam's on a less vehement scale, but with the added line of 'include these tale in letters to me but not to papa. He doesn't understand.'

    Basically, Sam and Olivia both struggled through parenting as do parents today. Moments of pride, others of confusion and anger occasionally.

    March 25, 2004 - 01:58 pm
    Joan~It was unwise of me to use the term "protagonist" which has meanings that I don't intend here. Let me back up three steps please and say that I think Roxy is the main character in Pudd'nhead. A good argument can be made that Tom is the main character. Perhaps my suggesting Roxy has to do with how close we get to her. Tom, on the other hand, is seen mostly from the outside.

    Anyway, a protagonist is, in the simplest and probably most helpful words, "The main character in a work, on whom the author focuses most of the narrative attention."

    Got that one by using the "Define protagonist" feature on Google.

    So, with that definition, I guess that Tom is the main character, although I would have to go over the text and check how often he appears, or speaks, as opposed to the time Roxy appears or speaks.

    My laptop from work has expired so I am using my own laptop which has a shift key on the left that doesn't work, a tab key that doesn't work, as well as a couple of other problems. So I am slow today.

    Almost through with the last group of LONG papers. Tomorrow I get two more sets, but they are shorter. Did I ever mention that I assign too many papers? WHY can't I remember that when I am typing up a syllabus?


    March 25, 2004 - 02:57 pm
    Joan, I think Tom told the planter that Roxy was sure to show up in St. Louis. Roxy tells Tom, "Hain't you tole dat man dat I would be sho' to come here, and den you would fix it so he could set a trap en ketch me?"

    "Tom recognized that neither lies nor argument could help him any longer-he was in a vise, with the screw turned on, and out of it there was no budging."

    Jo Meander
    March 25, 2004 - 10:29 pm
    I think both Scrawler’s and Maryal’s points about “protagonist "are important. When Scrawler says that the protagonist is the main character who seeks a new roll or some way of improving his/her lot, I think of Roxana. When Maryal says that it’s the character who gets the most narrative attention, I see that point, too. But I have always considered the protagonist as the character that engages the sympathies of the reader, and therefore I will still think of Roxana rather than Tom. Considering Twain’s focus upon her crucial decisions and behavior and how those decisions set off the chain of events necessary to the development of the tale, I don’t see how she can be denied. Her desire to change her son’s life from that of a slave who would never have any power to make choices and who would always be in danger of suffering the consequences of his owner’s decisions, capricious, vengeful, or cruelly mindless as they might be, she makes the fateful switch. The irony increases as a result of that desperate decision, with Chambers/”Tom” becoming a callow, self-serving character while Tom/”Chambers” becomes strong and capable. Roxana’s behavior results in her own son subjecting her to the fate she wanted to protect him from ever experiencing – being sold down the river, and she survives the horrible experience only to witness the revelation of her actions by Pudd’nhead during the trial. The consequence is the final bitter frustration of her desire to improve the life of her son and perhaps someday her own life. She is free at the end, but the joy she expected to experience when she made her original decision has completely eluded her. Slavery set everybody up for tragedy, but the specific events make this Roxana’s tragedy, brought about by her own choices.

    March 26, 2004 - 06:31 am
    This is an incredible segment, isn't it? Just incredible. I really have enjoyed the oppportunity of reading it in the original installments.

    Exciting courtroom drama. (Not admissible today, would the fingerprints be? Violating Disclosure rules?) But even so very exciting drama, very well written. Sort of Perry Masonish! Discovery on the stand! Revelation of the actual Murderer! Revelation of the switch!

    I really liked Jo's Roxana’s behavior results in her own son subjecting her to the fate she wanted to protect him from ever experiencing – being sold down the river… and Slavery set everybody up for tragedy, but the specific events make this Roxana’s tragedy, brought about by her own choices.

    I also wanted to thank Scrawler way back there for her information about the slave carrying the papers always on him, we do see Roxy doing it.

    I love the questions in the heading, too: 4. Did Twain's ironic ending put everything into perspective and tie up all the loose ends? Was it a happy ending?

    What a good question, I wonder if the answer to that depends on who you think the protagonist is?

    To me, it's not a tragedy but a social comedy or farce with a very serious premise, sort of almost a moral tale, like Aesop's, but without allegorical characters unless you wanted to go into the dehumanization of the slaves. It does have tragic elements in slavery and Roxy.

    To me, in the end, it's a strong statement about race. I don't know how he could have been plainer.

    Chambers, returned to being "white," because of his nurture by society, could not take his place in the society we now see revealed as hogwash, as white, that's certain, but his fate will remain unknown as that's another story. So by nurture not color, Chambers is displaced.

    However Tom, by race, now, not color, and not nurture, by simple virtue of his being a slave, has become a piece of property, how more clearly can Twain say it?

    ...the guilt lay with the erroneous inventory. Everybody saw there was reason in this. Everybody granted that if "Tom" were white and free it would be unquestionably right to punish him— it would be no loss to anybody; but to shut up a valuable slave for life—that was quite another matter….

    So Tom by only the virtue of his being black, thus rendering him a slave, becomes property and "inventory."

    Boy the irony in those few sentences. The twists of mind and logic, the thing is a hoot and it has serious underlying messages, too. Which message, I wonder, is the strongest?

    I was not sure what was meant in the opening of Chapter 20 by Tom's having a "weed in his hat?" Is that something about mourning?

    So at the end everything is reversed, like a negative.

  • The town is the Pudd'nheads and Wilson is the smart one.
  • Chambers is white and Tom is black.
  • Chambers can't take his place among honorable white men because he's been nurtured as a slave, even tho he's white and Tom who has passed for white, upon being found out to be black, becomes a piece of property.

    Powerful stuff here.

    I don't see Roxy as the Protagonist, I do see hers as a tragic story, but so is that of Chambers, and so is that of the Judge, trapped in his own pride and "codes," loving that worthless child as his own, Twain makes quite a point of that. I see Wilson as the main protagonist and therefore to me, it's not a tragedy, unless it's a tragedy of the human condition and the values of society of that time.

  • Joan Pearson
    March 26, 2004 - 07:31 am
    Good morning! Such good, thought-provoking comments! (Ginny, just see your post now...not ignoring you...will be back later as soon as more calls are made about this raccoon who is living/nesting in our attic. Will copy it and read it off-line)

    Where to start?
    ...perhaps the "field of honor" is the best place. Is this Twain's underlying theme? Scrawler - "At a time in our history when men were apt to settle things in the "honorable" way by dueling this was Twain's dig at who was honorable and who was not". A "story of character" - I like that - when we determine the "central character" - "protagonist" - would it be wise to examine the "honorable motives" of the three top contenders for this "honor"?
    Tom - what motivates Tom? There are two Tom's. Some of you have found sympathy in your hearts for his position . There's Tom the heir-apparent wastrel, and then there's the desperate "slave" Tom who would do anything to hold on to that which is not his. Neither Tom is "honorable" - never has been Twain paints him as a "bad" child, a "vicious" child from the time he was two years old. He doesn't change, or grow from there, does he Anne? No "field of honor" for this young man...

    Roxana - Maryal, we do get "closer" to Roxana. We understand her motivation for what she did. But was it "honorable", Twain seems to be asking? Pudd'nhead characterizes the person who switched the babies as "selfish" - do you agree with that? Jo,Roxana's motivation was to change her son's life, yes, but she was willing to sacrifice "honor" to do that, wasn't she? When the Judge dies, Tom becomes the master...Roxana knows the evil and heartlessness that is in this boy of hers. Yet, she lets him go on playing the role, knowing full well that Chambers is down in the kitchen, still a slave. How could she do this? Why would she do this? Simply to survive? She's living this lie for a measely $35 per month?

    Jo, do you see the moment in the courtroom when Roxana drops to her knees and calls herself a "misable sinner" as the realization that her act was the cause of the Judge's death? This is indeed a tragedy. But Twain didn't choose to call his story "The Tragedy of Roxana the slave." I'm looking for the reason why he focused on Pudd'n for the title role?.

    Pudd'nhead Wilson - Pudd'nhead is such a sketchy character to me. WE don't get close to him. Maryal, does Twain focus much attention on this character? We read in these chapters that he's been fighting prejudice for years - I take that to mean that he's fighting those who have dismissed him as an "airhead" - well, as a "pudd'nhead". Is that how you saw that line? Yet he CHANGES at the end, he comes forth as brilliant, doesn't he? One with a true understanding of human nature- justice - and honor?

    Surely he dropped the ball when delivering Luigi's challenge. Why didn't he go ahead and tell his friend the details of Luigi's incident with Angelo's attacker? Why was he silent? I understand that he doesn't feel he can talk to the Judge about his "doll, his baby" - but he didn't have to mention Tom at all, did he? As soon as the Judge referred to Luigi as an "assassin"...Pudd'nhead could have told him what happened years before. Where are the two free-talkin FREETHINKERS in this scenes?
    Rachel, interesting information on the other side of Sam Clemens, the father...touching really. He was quite concerned with appearances, and what others might think of his Clara..."be conspicuous for not being conspicuous; let no canon of perfect breeding suffer by you." Concerned her "breeding" - her upbringing would be questioned. "If you would not have yourself and us talked about..." Sam Clemens and outspoken Mark Twain are two different characters, aren't they?

    ps. Thanks, Hats, I'd been puzzling that question - NO ONE aboard the Grand Mogul wrote to the planter about Roxy, then. It was the plot between the planter and Tom to trap Roxy and send her back. Got it. It stinks, but I understand now. Thanks!

    Joan Pearson
    March 26, 2004 - 09:05 am
    Ginny...yes, I think fingerprints would be admissable evidence. Hmmm, disclosure rules. No, I still think that if the bloody fingerprints on a knife are associated with a suspect, the fingerpints would be admissable under any circumstances...Here's something that may be of interest on Twain's source of interest in fingerprints...
    Fingerprints by Francis Galton. - a British scientist and a cousin of Charles Darwin whose main interest was in heredity. He coined the term "eugenics." At several points in Finger Prints he discusses his subject in the context of race and class, although he acknowledges that the data will not support his "great expectations" -- that fingerprints would display racial differences. After reading Galton's book, MT enthusiastically decided to feature fingerprints in the story

    Pudd'nhead Wilson is MT's most direct and sustained imaginative engagement with the issues of slavery and race, but although it has never been controversial in the way Huck Finn is, there is no critical consensus about whether the novel is racist or anti-racist, about what the novel is saying or implying about race."
    You make an interesting comment on the term "tragedy," Ginny - maybe Rachel can shed some light on this...the title seems to no longer include the words, "The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson" as Twain wrote it...my edition is simply titled, "PUdd'nhead Wilson" - when did it change? Did Sam Clemens change it? But, let's say there is a "tragedy" here. Of course that would be racial prejudice and Sam Clemens has made a strong statement, cloaked in Mark Twain's irony. I can see where folks of the 1890's may have missed the point...just as the folks in Dawson's didn't "get" Pudd'nhead's Calendar entries.

    March 26, 2004 - 09:10 am
    Joan, ask your husband about that, I think that the Defense canNOT bring in new evidence that has not been revealed prior to the trial, I have forgotten the terminology for it but anybody who watched the OJ Simpson Trial saw enough objections to fill a houseboat. You can't bring in that undisclosed evidence and you can't solve the murder yourself, nor can you reveal the switch, at least today, but your husband knows more about that type of thing than I do.

    What IS that called, not voir dire, but you have to show the opposing side your evidence, ask Bruce?


    March 26, 2004 - 10:07 am
    Evidence has to be presented, each side to the other, during voir dire. I should have been a lawyer; I just love courtrooms and courtroom drama (when good). And the acting factor (thinking of dream of becoming a courtroom attorney) would be/is very similar to teaching.

    March 26, 2004 - 10:48 am
    No I don't think it's voir dire, Maryal, I know voir dire ("to see, to say") because the first time I was on a jury and they hauled me up in front of the courtroom like a slab of meat for the attorneys to fight over, I nearly fainted, I did not understand what was going on, and actually did write the court to warn prospective jurors. Of course you probably would not HAVE any if they knew about that. It scared me half to death, now of course having seen Court TV I do know more than I did.

    I think it's called Discovery.

    Like the TV Show.


    March 26, 2004 - 10:57 am
    Yep, Ginny, I do think you are right. Voir dire is the process that jurors go through. Discovery is the term you are looking for. Maybe it's just as well I didn't become an attorney.

    Joan Pearson
    March 26, 2004 - 04:18 pm
    Briefly (lawyer term"?) Bruce says that
    A lawyer could enter evidence - fingerprints - that prove his client did NOT commit the murder. THe prosecutor would jump up and object, request time to examine the evidence, where the prints were taken, by whom, under what circumstances. The judge would agree and procedings would come to a halt. Pembroke Howard was silent in this case, (maybe because he knew all about who had made the prints) and so Wilson was free to continue.

    Today, Wilson would be allowed to testify, but NOT while representing Luigi. Couldn't be the defense attorney and a witness in the same trial.<.blockquote>
    Really thought there would be some reaction to the Fingerprints by Frances Galton information...you didn't find it interesting? Ho, hum??? I was dumbfounded when I read it - this was the SOURCE of Clemens information on fingerprints that he used for this book! Galton (Charles Darwin's cousin) had wanted to prove that fingerprints could indicate racial differences...he failed, but did you read the rest of the article? Let me requote the paragraph from the link.
    Francis Galton. - a British scientist and a cousin of Charles Darwin whose main interest was in heredity. He coined the term "eugenics." At several points in Finger Prints he discusses his subject in the context of race and class, although he acknowledges that the data will not support his "great expectations" -- that fingerprints would display racial differences. After reading Galton's book, MT enthusiastically decided to feature fingerprints in the story."

    "Pudd'nhead Wilson is MT's most direct and sustained imaginative engagement with the issues of slavery and race, but although it has never been controversial in the way Huck Finn is, there is no critical consensus about whether the novel is racist or anti-racist, about what the novel is saying or implying about race."

    Pudd'nhead Wilson is MT's most direct and sustained imaginative engagement with the issues of slavery and race. there is no critical consensus about whether the novel is racist or anti-racist, about what the novel is saying or implying about race."

    March 26, 2004 - 05:54 pm
    I just stole some time and read the material about fingerprints by Frances Galton and find it most fascinating. Isn't it interesting that as soon as some new way to show that every individual is indeed an individual, someone will come along to use the information to "prove" that you can conclude other things on the basis of the new information.

    I also did not know that Galton coined the term "eugenics." What nightmares that theory caused. It was very good to read at the end of the Galton excerpt that Galton reached the conclusion that no conclusions could be drawn about social class from fingerprints.


    Joan Pearson
    March 27, 2004 - 05:53 am
    mm-hmm...social class and racial differences. It just shows the mindset of the 1890's, doesn't it? "The idea that there was such a thing as "black blood" and that a drop of it could determine character was even more prevalent in the 1890s, when MT was writing, than in the ante bellum society he is writing about." Galton expected to find so much in the fingerprints...class, racial characteristics, temperament - and character - but had to admit later that his expectations were not met.
    "In the twelth chapter we come to a branch of the subject of which I had great expectations, that have been falsified, namely, their use in indicating Race and Temperament. I thought that any hereditary peculiarities would almost of necessity vary in different races, and that so fundamental and enduring a feature as the finger markings must in some way be correlated with temperament." Link within Finger Prints
    Sam Clemens was quite taken with Galton's study and incorporated fingerprints into his revision of Extraordinary Twins - "When Wilson uses fingerprint evidence in the courtroom to prove Tom and Chambers' "true" identities, however, he is in a sense using them to establish race." Finger Prints - Francis Galton

    Joan Pearson
    March 27, 2004 - 05:55 am
    Here's something else that you might find of interest. I did - why did MT omit this passage?

    [In the manuscript of Pudd'nhead Wilson, in what is now Chapter 10, MT included five paragraphs in which Tom, having just learned from Roxy that he is "black" and a slave, tries to understand his self on the basis of his racial ancestry. MT deleted the passage when he was making his last revisions of the manuscript. It reflects Tom's own thoughts, confused and inconclusive, not the narrator's, but if MT had included it in the novel he would have strengthed any case the novel might be making against the idea that "blackness" was an inferior racial heredity. (The manuscript is in The Morgan Library.)] In his broodings in the solitudes, he searched himself for the reasons of certain things, & in toil & pain he worked out the answers:
    Why was he a coward? It was the "nigger" in him. The nigger blood? Yes, the nigger blood degraded from original courage to cowardice by decades & generations of insult & outrage inflicted in circumstances which forbade reprisals, & made mute & meek endurance the only refuge & defence.
    Whence came that in him which was high, & whence that which was base? That which was high came from either blood, & was the monopoly of neither color; but that which was base was the white blood in him debased by the brutalizing effects of a long-drawn heredity of slave-owning, with the habit of abuse which the possession of irresponsible power always creates & perpetuates, by a law of human nature. So he argued. Passage Twain Deleted from Chapter 10 of PUdd'nhead Wilson"
    But I digress - shall we go back to the courtroom? One of my questions that was never answered satisfactorily - why does Aunt Patsy Cooper remain so solidly in the twins' corner? Where is Rowena? Does the presence of one and the absence of the other convey a message?

    March 27, 2004 - 06:26 am
    Oh wow on the left out passage, Joan, and this "but that which was base was the white blood in him debased by the brutalizing effects of a long-drawn heredity of slave-owning, with the habit of abuse which the possession of irresponsible power always creates & perpetuates," seems to say what we've struggled to articulate all along: the effects of slavery in America, and the habit and attitudes the practice of slavery gave, the prejudices it spawned (note the references to "power" over another), persisted long after slavery was over, and THOSE are, I believe, what Twain was trying to parody here. I wish he had left it in.

    We all know the ancients had slaves, the custom is thousands of years old, the Romans particularly had Greek slaves, who were the same "color" as they were and who were vastly superior to them in learning, so that they became their teachers. So it's not "slavery," an evil in itself, which is the worst thing, it's the irony of what happens to the owners, and how power corrupts: the assumptions based on race which came from slavery which continued long after it was over in the form of racial prejudice.

    Maybe Prejudice is the Protagonist of the story.

    Thank you (and "briefly," Bruce hahaha) for that information on the discovery thing, I wish I had known that when I read the Simpson books and the Prosecution's list of evidence that came up they were not allowed to use, thank you!

    Boy we have really learned something in this short discussion, haven't we? I have really enjoyed it and the heading is still full of stunning questions (hard ones, too!)

    Joan on the Galton link and information, thank you for pointing it out again, I had not had time to go look at it and was stunned! Holy cow, the Tocci Twins! No wonder he was taken with the phenomenon it's hard to get out of your mind and then the Galton premise, which gave him the idea of using fingerprints in his own story.

    Galton hoped to prove that fingerprints showed race, but they didn't. But I found this an intriguing statement in that link:

    In Chapter Two MT's narrator says Roxy's race is "a fiction of law and custom." When Wilson uses fingerprint evidence in the courtroom to prove Tom and Chambers' "true" identities, however, he is in a sense using them to establish race.

    THAT is quite a statement, and the juxtaposition of ideas there is kind of stunning, did you notice that? What do you think about that?

    As for Aunt Patsy, I had taken that, as some of the other things, as the…hold over from the Twins being excised from the story? But even IN this story Aunt Patsy got a thrill from having …what she thought was nobility in her house, so she'd support that, after all the only evidence we have (or did I miss something) for Luigi's assassination theme was Tom's lie? I might be wrong in that assumption, but I thought it was a lie originally, not?

    Love the questions in the heading: 1. "Wilson's long fight against hard luck and prejudice has ended." Did you have the impression he had been "fighting" all these years? What did he have to overcome?

    Another super question. It makes you wonder about prejudice in general, to prejudge people, as the townspeople did him on the basis of one remark about half a dog as a Pudd'nhead, so he quietly kept on with his fingerprint study, doggedly for years and years carefully assembling his evidence and never apparently? We don't really see him longing to practice law, he's not an activist in the sense WE know them, but he's there when called upon, and his non puddleheaded logic saves the day, by dint of his having kept ON all those years with the fingerprints. It surprised him, too, but it was his patience and way of approaching things plus the evidence I guess that carried that day. Do we see him as a Warrior for Overcoming Hard Luck and Prejudice? In 2004 we may have a different idea of how such a Warrior might act, maybe?

    Super question!

    And here's another one:

    3. Did you notice how Tom transfers the knife from right to left hand before flinging it away? Twain has involved the reader in the plot to the extent that we often know more than the characters do. Has this complicity heightened your enjoyment of the story or no?

    Yes I noticed it because of this question which I read before I read the text, but I'm not sure what it means. Were the children, Chambers and Tom left and right handed? What does it mean? Twain here is including US....what sort of irony is it when the reader or audience knows and the characters don't? There's a term for it? I need to go back and check that? And thus we should have caught that? And so Twain is not just slapping down something here, he's very carefully planned it? Until I saw the question I would have passed right over that, and I bet 90 percent of all readers do, too, aren't we lucky we can discuss this together, nothing will escape us! (once somebody explains to me what it means! hahaha)

    I really do have to say however, I did not miss The Discovery in the Calendar entry for the Conclusion and because of the other elements carefully put in the story, I like that cheerful jab from Twain at the reader.

    My book's introduction talks about

    "the irony of fatalistic tragedy, in which Tom becomes himself a victim of his situation, " and "a comedy of moral chaos," and an "infallible, post-Darwinian determinism." that finally locates Tom, a species of knowledge that comes not out of the world of the book but from the late-nineteenth-century fatalism of vision that Twain develops in the course of telling his story. It is environment that makes man, and because of this he has a final identity the one that Pudd'nhead makes public and meaningful in the courtroom scene at the end."

    It also speaks of Twain's sense of

    irony in the human condition so great that none of the characters can be fully aware of it. Fate overshadows character, and itself works by paradox.

    So the irony here for his reader is it's difficult to rise to the heights necessary that Twain wants the reader TO rise to in order to understand the story: one thing for sure, it's not just a little slapped out pastiche.

    Maryal, I keep forgetting to say you are 100 percent correct in the Baltimore Catechism, and one of the questions was Who Made You? Because THAT forms the basis of the joke, I now recall, thank you for that!


    Ella Gibbons
    March 27, 2004 - 08:11 am
    SCRAWLER,that was such an interesting bit of history you told us about this fellow, Sickles, who was declared insane in a Court of Law, but later awarded a Medal of Honor – talk about irony!

    I have so enjoyed reading all the thoughtful posts! And the disagreement over who is the protagonist in the story – I can see both sides of that argument – isn’t it fascinating. I cannot make up my mind so that will remain a mystery.

    Perhaps Joan can tell me why Sam Clemens wanted or needed the pseudonym of Mark Twain. Inquiring minds need to know.

    The ending of the story seemed very abrupt to me; modern writers would have stretched that dramatic ending out – a long ways out! But it was a grand story, a detective story and I loved it and I love to be able to say I’ve read a Mark Twain book and, further, with the help of all of you understand it far better than I would have alone.

    One note that I don’t think has been remarked on in the story is that this time when Tom disguised himself as a lady, he blackened his face – I don’t believe the reader had been told that he had done that prior to the last time when he went into the Judge’s study. Was he attempting to place the blame, if anyone saw him, on a black person?

    Was this a happy ending? No, emphatically NO! Roxy’s heart was broken and her hurts too deep to ever heal and even though she found solace in her church, what would her fellow church members think of her? Wouldn’t it have been considered a sin to change the babies’ identification?

    And Tom was sold down the river!!!

    What an ending! I would say he got his just desserts, he was a despicable character and a murderer and he has the rest of his life as a slave to regret it and repent!

    Thank you, JOAN, and MARYAL, for this interesting discussion, I have enjoyed it immensely. Shall we do Huckleberry Finn someday?

    Ella Gibbons
    March 27, 2004 - 08:15 am
    Here is Huck Finn online:

    Huckleberry Finn

    March 27, 2004 - 08:21 am
    Ginny--When the reader/audience knows more than the characters, you have dramatic irony. Think of Oedipus Rex and any number of other Greek plays. Not only did the audience know that Oedipus in fact killed his own father at the crossroads, but they knew the whole story before they went to the play. Oedipus is clueless as to his origins until the end of the play.

    Joan--If Pudd'nhead were published for the first time today, some editor would have restored those paragraphs deleted by Twain, I think.

    The one that strikes me as especially important for American Literature is this one:

    "Whence came that in him which was high, & whence that which was base? That which was high came from either blood, & was the monopoly of neither color; but that which was base was the white blood in him debased by the brutalizing effects of a long-drawn heredity of slave-owning, with the habit of abuse which the possession of irresponsible power always creates & perpetuates, by a law of human nature. So he argued."

    It is crucial to understand exactly what Twain is saying here, and I think it is TWAIN's voice and not Tom's since Tom has shown a virtual inability to THINK especially about such difficult matters.

    OK, so what we have is Nobility, that which is good and high, comes from BOTH races whereas Ignobility, that which is bad, low, and base, comes from neither race but from the system of slave-owning with its habits of Abuse and irresponsible power.

    America was a brand new country, a second chance at "getting it right," a new Garden of Eden, the possibility of getting rid of all the old systems such as the aristocracy and abuse of those who were commoners. And what happened? The system of importing Africans and selling them was SIN entering the Garden. It was an evil system, affecting both the North and the South. And it became entrenched and malignant. Eventually there was a great Civil War that put an end to the system but which did not cure the injustices which the system had produced.

    I think that Twain saw all of this, saw the evil that resulted from the system. In the omitted paragraphs, his own understanding is filtered through Tom's mind. But given that Tom has virtually no conscience, these thoughts had to be omitted because they were inconsistent with his already established character.


    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 27, 2004 - 09:14 am
    I can not get past my feelings upon finishing the story - I wonder if all tragedy is the story of Fate...I rail against the concept of FATE and yet, that is a distinctly American concept that we can do what ever we set out to do and if we are not a success it is our own doing.

    The last two chapters really make me feel uncomfortable. You know that Wilson is going to spill the beans and yet there is this long protracted step by step process that reminds me of when I was little and there was this game played that scared the pants off us - I do not remember the details but a scarey story of someone who was going to get you - was it 'Johnny' - "Johnny is on the first step" said with a slow and low forbeoding voice that became more foreboding with each step till with a great scare-like loud voice with hands and fingers wiggling under your neck - and he 'got you.'

    And then it angers me that the greater sin, the sin of dehumanizing, is ignored that put Tom into the situation he found himself -

    The last bit to me was like a circus - another so called bit of entertainment that I hated as a kid, I also hated zoos - it was like putting on display with a garishness and cageing which I see as man controlling to show how much better he is than those in either the circus or the zoo and selling (with tickets) the creatures (human or animal) as examples of a downfall from the accepted, their differences that are unwanted by the ticket holders -

    We all eat but we are 'set one above' because of our theatre for tablemanners and savoring our food - as a metephor - the circus and the zoo sells tickets for us to observe those who are not 'set one above' - look how they eat, how they look, how they are on display, isolated and not savoring life - the zoo and the circus to me sell the opportuntiy for us to feel our terror - we become voyeurists when we, with societies permisssion, watch the outrageous, the subhuman, the obscene.

    Twain's ending showed how Tom was dehumanized further - as a package, a tool, being sold down river is the luck of the draw - but to me the whole story showed that once someone, or a group of people, are dehumanized, as Tom/Chambers was at birth, there is no returning to a state of innocence - once treated as a package to be sold; a monster as a circus freak, clown or contortionist; or a caged animal whose danger is highlighted; your value is to stimulate our one up-menship, justifying our use of power to control the inconsequential and the grotesque so that we can escape the terror that we too, except for fate, could become inconsequetial or grotesque.

    Hmmm maybe that is what bothered me - that lost innocence was rampant as the so called lawless nature of those who were dehumanized was a thread throughout the story with Tom's stealing, like the proverb 'the slippery slope,' led to murder - where as the killing of another is glorified, honorable, with rules of engagement, if you are among those who buy tickets to the circus where differences are dehumanized, on display in isolation, sold by a Barker who titillates the shadows of our own life.

    March 27, 2004 - 10:04 am
    Slavery and the way this system could make you risk your humanity is, I think, the most important theme of Pudd'nHead Wilson. It seems to me that Roxana and Tom and Chambers lived to face a tragic ending. There is Roxana, the mother, who witnesses the fact that her son is a murderer. No mother wants to see a son or daughter become so depraved that they would take a life in such a bloody manner.

    Then, there is the son, Tom, who is not punished as any other man would be punished for such a crime. Since he is a slave, he is an expensive piece of property. He is sold down the river. His sentence is one that says he is less than a man.

    All of these events stemmed from Roxana's desire to save her son from being sold down the river. She wanted to save him from the hands of men who were more than cruel, and she, also, did not want to live a life apart from her son. So, she made up a dishonest scheme. A scheme that made the lives of others fall like dominoes.

    The twins almost got caught up in this tragedy. Because of Tom's murderous nature one of the twins almost took the wrap for a crime he did not commit.

    I say that if Roxana had never been a slave none of the tragic events would have taken place. A system that calls one man inferior and another superior can only lead to unhappy and miserable lives.

    March 27, 2004 - 10:10 am
    I am trying to write what Barbara wrote so well.

    "Twain's ending showed how Tom was dehumanized further - as a package, a tool, being sold down river is the luck of the draw - but to me the whole story showed that once someone, or a group of people, are dehumanized, as Tom/Chambers was at birth, there is no returning to a state of innocence - once treated as a package to be sold; a monster as a circus freak, clown or contortionist; or a caged animal whose danger is highlighted; your value is to stimulate our one up-menship, justifying our use of power to control the inconsequential and the grotesque so that we can escape the terror that we too, except for fate, could become inconsequetial or grotesque."

    March 27, 2004 - 10:17 am
    Actually Tom gets off easy since murder is a capital crime, and his murder of the judge merits hanging. But, deep irony here, since Tom is "black" and therefore a slave, he is too valuable a commodity to be hanged. Instead he is sold down the river, a threat that has been hanging over this whole book.

    Also, it was Roxy's fear that her baby son might be sold down the river that prompted her baby-exchange manuever. So we get irony there as well--what Roxy feared most has happened. Her son is sold down the river.

    March 27, 2004 - 10:21 am
    "Actually Tom gets off easy since murder is a capital crime, and his murder of the judge merits hanging."

    Maryal, I might be wrong, but I don't think we can say Tom got off easy for his crime. Some people chose death rather than live a day in slavery.

    March 27, 2004 - 10:27 am
    Hats--I agree with you--that's part of Twain's irony--that death might indeed be better than slavery. I don't think I made the point well.

    March 27, 2004 - 10:32 am
    Maryal, I see what you are saying. We are making the same point.Your post is easier to understand.

    March 27, 2004 - 12:55 pm
    The fascinating thing about the 1800s was that it was a time of new inventions and new discovery. Most of what we base our science and medicine today found its discovery in the 1800s, but for the most part it was received cautiously by the average person. This new discovery of finger printing is just one of many such discoveries. Twain was fascianted by these new dicoveries and I found it delightful that he included them in many of his stories.

    As far as whether the finger printing would be admissable in a court of law, we have to apply the rules of court of the 1800s rather than those of today. Keep in mind that Dawnson Landing was not a big city, with big city lawyers and judges. Much of what was ruled on in these early days was by trial and error. Also, this is a book of fiction and technically Twain can do just about anything as long it is believed by the reader. And certainly the finger printing is believeable in this case because he starts early on in the story and creates the need for it.

    "Even the clearest and most perfect circumstantial evidence is likely to be at fault, after all, and therefore ought to be received with great caution. Take the case of any pencil, sharpened by any woman: if you have witnesses, you will find she did it with the knife; but if you take simply the aspect of the pencil, you will say she did it with her teeth."

    What a great example of how we look at circumstantial evidence. Humans are quick to judge. We are sometimes blinded by our emotions, but when it comes to a life and death circumstance we have to examine all the evidence that the defense presents us. I've been on several murder juries and I've found that the defense because it has more money that sometimes present evidence that really isn't evidence at all, but rather red herrings to draw you away from the facts on the case. The proscecutor on the other hand doesn't always have the money or the people to investigate the case to the fullest. I can remember one time sitting behind a DA and looking over his shoulder while he read from a blank piece of paper. After the trial he had lost he told us that they really hadn't done a good job of investigating and lost the case as a result. On the other hand the defense had presented over 100 doctors that claimed that his client was unable of committing the crime. One of them said that it was impossible because the man had plastic bottles on the side of his tub. (The victim had been strangled in the man's bath tub and he was the only person in the room at the time.) At any rate many of the jurors looked at each other with raised eyebrows after that evidence was summitted. Needless to say there is some circumstancial evidence that is less believeable than others.

    March 27, 2004 - 01:41 pm
    I surely wish M.T. had left the deleted passage in the manuscript. I do see how he could not justify it as Tom was not a person to think rationally, let alone to contemplate social psychology. I remember reading this when I first got the gift from my fil of his set of Mark Twains Works. At that time I was just 20 and I did not see the deep significance of the nature vs nurture theme in this novel. I only know now that I despised the act Roxanne did that set the whole tragedy in motion.

    I think I spent a lot of time thinking about the Twins and now with this discussion I can see they were another duality such as good vs evil black vs white nature or nurture ...and so on. So twins were a good vehicle to bring into the story. Still it was, to me, Roxanne's story with Puddin' head the stand-in for the author's voice without using the devise of omniscient narrator.

    This has been a wonderful discussion and I feel I have learned a great deal from this old short story and it's effect on all the participants in the discussion. It is relevant to our lives and way of thinking today too. Thanks to every all for a really good time. Faith

    March 27, 2004 - 04:24 pm
    This has been a great discussion. I enjoyed reading Pudd'nHead Wilson along with the group. All of Rachel Rogers' posts gave me a better insight into the book and the author. Also, JoanP and Maryal and all of the other posters helped me better understand the chapters of the book. If I had read the book alone, I would have missed so much.

    March 27, 2004 - 04:42 pm
    Always a sad time, all this saying of goodbyes. Sniff. I have really enjoyed that participation of everyone who has posted as well as the kind folks from the Mark Twain house.



    Joan Pearson
    March 28, 2004 - 09:08 am
    Good morning! Did you take the Memory Test yet? How did you do? In case you didn't, I'll pass along some information on Samuel Clemen's pseudonym which Ella's inquiring mind wanted to know about. I found something that you may find interesting...a letter from himself on the subject. This may help you with the test. Is this called "cheating" at the academy, Prof?

    The Pseudonym

    In 1862 Clemens became a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nev., and in 1863 began signing his articles with the pseudonym "Mark Twain," a Mississippi River phrase meaning two fathoms deep -
    "When the leadsman's line sank to the two--fathom knot, meaning the boat had a safe twelve feet of water beneath it, he called out, "By the mark, twain!"
    We know he was a riverman before he became a reported. The Daily Alta in California published one version of how he settled on the name. Remember the Daily Alta published his travel accounts of Innocents Abroad at this time? (I'm still enjoying this, thanks to Fai's suggestion!)
    The Daily Alta California published a Comstock version:

    "We knew Clemens in the early days and know exactly how he came to be dubbed "Mark Twain." John Piper's saloon on B street used to be the grand rendezvous for all the Virginia City Bohemians. Piper conducted a cash business and refused to keep any books. As a special favor, however, he would occasionally chalk down drinks to the boys, on the wall back of the bar. Sam Clemens, when localizing for the Enterprise, always had an account, with the balance against him, on Piper's wall. Clemens was by no means a Coal Oil Tommy--he drank for the pure and unadulterated love of the ardent. Most of his drinking was conducted in singlehanded contests, but occasionally he would invite Dan De Quille, Charley Parker, Bob Lowery, or Al Doten, never more than one of them, however, at a time, and whenever he did, his invariable parting injunction to Piper was to "Mark Twain," meaning two chalkmarks, of course.
    Twain denied this story and explained the source of the name choice in the following letter in reply to the published letter above. Sam Clemens on "Mark Twain"
    Dear Sir:
    ~Mark Twain was the nom de plume of one Captain Isaiah Sellers, who used to write river news over it for the New Orleans Picayune. He died in 1869 and as he could no longer need that signature, I laid violent hands upon it without asking permission of the proprietor's remains. That is the history of the nom de plume I bear.
    Samuel Clemens

    Ella Gibbons
    March 28, 2004 - 09:23 am
    Thanks Joan. I had heard the story of where the name came from, but did not know WHY HE NEEDED ONE! OR WHY HE THOUGHT HE WANTED ONE!

    I'm not putting this well. In other words, why didn't Sam Clemens want to be known as the author of all of his books?

    Was he afraid of the racial issues that are in many of his books - perhaps afraid of the KKK or adverse reactions?

    Joan Pearson
    March 28, 2004 - 09:39 am
    Ella, I don't believe that was the reason...he was a young man when he chose the pseudonym. Born in 1835, he would have only been in his mid twenties when he chose the name for his travel article accounts. (1863) From the way he snapped at another writer's pseudonym, it sounds as if it was a common practice at the time. He didn't write his "controversial" novels like Huck Finn (1885), Tom Sawyer (1876) Pudd'nhead (1892) until years later. Before these works, he was an established author under the name of Mark Twain.

    If pressed for a reason, I'd say, the name choice started as a lark - so that people who knew him as Sam Clemens, would not know he was their fellow traveller on board the ship in Innocents Abroad. He had married into Eastern gentility - and probably wanted to keep his position in society and his writing career separate...although it was difficult, I gather. He was often stuggling with his alter ego...Mark Twain. A much more outspoken character than he was himself. Kind of like an actor on stage playing a role...

    Joan Pearson
    March 28, 2004 - 09:48 am
    Scrawler - "As far as whether the finger printing would be admissable in a court of law, we have to apply the rules of court of the 1800s rather than those of today" Also, this is a book of fiction and technically Twain can do just about anything as long it is believed by the reader. "

    Ann,such a good point. Twain could (AND DID) do just about anything...not only that - he gave us fair warning beforehand. "Even the clearest and most perfect circumstantial evidence is likely to be at fault."

    Maryal - "When the reader/audience knows more than the characters, you have dramatic irony." Were we the readers supposed to know that the "LAW" scenes might not be as accurate for the times as we did. YEP! He told us so - in his own inimitable fashion. Remember the Whisper to the Reader placed immediately before Chapter I?
    "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

    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".

    hahahahah! He did warn us, didn't he? Ginny - "So the irony here for his reader is it's difficult to rise to the heights necessary that Twain wants the reader TO rise to in order to understand the story: one thing for sure, it's not just a little slapped out pastiche." Isn't that the truth! Just as the readers missed Pudd'nhead Wilson's irony in his Calendar entries, as the Dawson's Landing folk did not get Twain's irony, WE the readers had a difficult time "rising to the "necessary"heights...but we are trying!

    March 28, 2004 - 09:56 am
    Especially in the case where the entire punch line of a story depended solely on the "evidence" presented at a trial, especially a story that takes up so many serious issues, yes I'd say it would really be ironic if it weren't quite rubbed up and correct.

    I was talking about something else, actually, hahah but I won't belabor the point here on the last day, it's been a pleasure to attend this great discussion: thank you Rachel and Chris and Joan and Maryal and Everybody, I agree with Hats, great job.

    Joan Pearson
    March 28, 2004 - 10:05 am
    Barbara, I'm understand your discomfort at the ending... "Twain's ending showed how Tom was dehumanized further." Do you suppose this was Clemens' intent? To make his reader feel just as you felt? Hats - "I say that if Roxana had never been a slave none of the tragic events would have taken place. A system that calls one man inferior and another superior can only lead to unhappy and miserable lives."

    Is this whole story then a comment on slavery...the system that calls one man "inferior" and another "superior" all the while talking about justice and honor?
    Faith -This is "Roxanne's story with Puddin' head the stand-in for the author's voice without using the devise of omniscient narrator."

    Oh, I like that, Fai, but I think I'm going to go one step futher. I don't think she's the central character, nor do I think it is Tom. They are both victims, aren't they? This is more than their own story, but a story of all put in this position. Can you have a story without a central character? I'll nominate "Slavery" as the central theme.

    Do you think that Mark Twain's readers understood his message, or did the irony and the message go right over their heads?

    Joan Pearson
    March 28, 2004 - 10:10 am
    Ginny, we were posting at the same time...we'll keep the door open another day and hope that Rachel can make in on tomorrow.
    I agree, without the participation, this book would not have come alive as it has! Thanks, everyone!

    March 28, 2004 - 10:28 am
    I think that everyone knew--when he was writing and publishing that Mark Twain's real name was Samuel Clemens. It was not a name that concealed his identity.

    Here's my guess as to why he adopted the name. He chose to be Mark Twain the writer for the same reason that Archilbald Alec Leach chose (or had chosen for him) to be Cary Grant.

    Samuel Clemens is a singularly uninspired name. It must have sounded way too ordinary when Sam was young. There were lots of Sams and Clemens needs a zippier first name if it is to have a chance of being memorable.

    Clemens was a WRITER, a man who loved words. He found in "MARK TWAIN" a magnificent monosyllabic name that didn't belong to a Just Anyone. Samuel Clemens fell in love with Livy and married her; Clemens had children; Clemens was a Victorian.

    But MARK TWAIN--well, he was always on the move, on the trail, on the river. He chewed tobacco and spat and smoked cigars and had no Livy to tell him not to. He told magnificent stories as well as whoppers. MARK TWAIN was HUCK FINN.

    Hollywood now generally uses given names, but most of us remember when in order to be a star, one had to have a name that looked good on the marquee.

    Archibald Alec Leach-----------Cary Grant
    Marion Michael Morrison -------John Wayne
    Roy Harold Scherer------------Rock Hudson
    Dino Paul Cricetti-----------Dean Martin
    Joseph Levitch--------------Jerry Lewis

    Joan--Yes, we do have "study sheets" at the Academy. They are called "gouge sheets"--what one has to memorize to do well on the exam.

    We don't issue gouge sheets in English, much to the mids' horror.

    March 28, 2004 - 10:36 am

    I think "slavery" is a central theme along with the the theme of "identity." Some of the characters struggled to maintain their identity through maintaining their honor and others strived to gain an identity through dishonesty, and others like Pudd'Head Wilson gained their true identity by just being honest citizens. In the long run, it seemed that "identity" played a part in the life of everyone in the book. The true "Identity" of the characters played a part in the characters downfall or their rise to power.

    March 28, 2004 - 12:13 pm
    "April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."

    Since Twain included himself in the "we" I think he was making a statement that revealed his satire at its best.

    "The murder of your friend and mine - York Driscoll of the generous hand and the kindly spirit - sits in among you. Valet de Chambre, negro and slave - falsely called Thomas a Becket Driscoll - make upon the window the finger-prints that will hang you!"

    Tom turned his ashen face imploring toward the speaker, made some impotent movement with his white lips, then slid limp and lifeless to the floor.

    Wilson broke the awed silence with the words: "There is no need. He has confessed."

    Perry Mason never said it so well. Twain certainly had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read this passage. Even though I knew who the murder was, I was anxious to find out if he would get away with murder. I knew the "finger prints" would come into play but how I wasn't sure. Puting them on the window for all to see was an ingenous scheme.

    "October 12, the Discovery. It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it."

    What do you think of Twain's statement in relation to the ideas of this book "slavery" and "identity"? If America had not been discovered, she would not have gotten into the "slavery" of Negroes in the first place. On the other hand the American Indians practiced "slavery" as well when they took captives in battles. But I think that the south made "slavery" apart of their financial structure a nessessary for the them in that without "slavery" they would not have been able to compete. It is interesting that at the time this book was written even the north was enjoying the benefits of "slavery" by the shipping of slaves to America. By the time the United States went to war in 1861, most of Europe had abolished slavery. Did you know that we almost went to war with England over the Trent Affair and Napoleon wanted to go to war with Mexico so he could infultrate the United States? It took a lot of work from Lincoln and Stanton to resolve these issues otherwise we could have had a world war sooner than we did.

    "Everybody granted that if "Tom" were white and would be no loss to anybody; but to shut up a valuable slave for life - that was quite another matter."

    I can't help but wonder what the southern whites thought about this statement. It does put everything in perspective, doesn't it.

    I really enjoyed this story and especially the discussions we've had over the last month. It was like folks leaning over the back fence discussing what was going on in the neighborhood. I'm not the biggest fan of Twain, but I've learned a lot from all of you. Thanks and I hope I hear from you soon.

    March 28, 2004 - 02:58 pm
    "Whence came that in him which was high, & whence that which was base? That which was high came from either blood, & was the monopoly of neither color; but that which was base was the white blood in him debased by the brutalizing effects of a long-drawn heredity of slave-owning, with the habit of abuse which the possession of irresponsible power always creates & perpetuates, by a law of human nature. So he argued."

    Maryal, I understand the explanation you gave for this paragraph. The paragraph itself was not clear to me. Thank you for making it clearer. What a powerful paragraph!

    Jo Meander
    March 29, 2004 - 01:11 am
    Thank you all for the reflections on this remarkable story. I wish I could have been here more, especially yesterday, but my daughter’s birthday took precedence over everything.
    I have assembled so many of your thought-provoking comments and personal questions that I wanted to respond to! They will have to remain as part of my own ongoing education, though. It’s so late in the game that I’ll confine myself to the briefest possible reaction!
    In a great post, Ginny said that maybe Prejudice is the protagonist, and later JoanP. Said, “This is more than their own story, but a story of all put in this position. Can you have a story without a central character? I'll nominate "Slavery" as the central theme.”
    I think that just about all of us would agree about the reverberations of slavery in a culture (especially our own American culture) as the central theme. Does that make the CULTURE itself and all of its members the collective protagonist? We have suffered so from the effects of what Maryal called the SIN that entered our Garden of Eden all those years ago. Hats said that if Roxana hadn’t been a slave there would have been no tragedy -- a tragedy that scarred her life and the lives of her son and her little charge Tom who became Chambers and every single soul in their lives. Roxana and her son and Tom are the central characters, Pudd’nhead is Twain’s voice and the central intelligence that collects all the necessary information. His solution of the mystery delivers the message about the evil of slavery and its effect upon the protagonist population.

    What wonderful insights I’ve collected from all of you and from this author! I never realized the importance of this book, having always preferred the more fully developed Huckleberry Finn and even Tom Sawyer, because the characters are more rounded and entertaining. I’m so glad I was here with all of you! Thanks, Joan and Maryal and everyone!

    Jo Meander
    March 29, 2004 - 01:19 am
    P.S.! Here's a link to an a site about Eugenics or "social Darwinism," with specific reference to Franz Boas. There's a wonderful aritcle in a March issue of The New Yorker that I wanted to share with you, but I can't find it on line and I've given the magazine away! It details his life's work in anthropology which enabled him to explode theories of racial superiority or inferiority. You would love reading about Boas's life and discoveries, including his interaction with two of his students at Barnard who went on to lives of personal achievement: Margaret Mead and Zora Neale Hurston. It's a great read. I recommend it if you can find the magazine!


    March 29, 2004 - 06:21 am
    "Pudd’nhead is Twain’s voice and the central intelligence that collects all the necessary information. His solution of the mystery delivers the message about the evil of slavery and its effect upon the protagonist population."

    Jo, I get it now. Pudd'nHead Wilson is Mark Twain's voice. So, Mark Twain used Puddnhead's words to voice his thoughts on slavery. That is so interersting.

    Jo, thank you for the links.

    rachel rogers
    March 29, 2004 - 07:34 am
    Good Morning to anyone who's still hanging around on this board.

    My belief of why Sam used a pseudonym is that it was common. He DID choose a name that harkened back to his origins as a riverboat pilot (which is the most widely accepted origin of the phrase Mark Twain, although there is some credence to the bar tab) and of someone who spent time in the midwest along the Mississippi. It was extraordinarily common for writers, especially journalists and local color authors in the west to take pen names to make their work more memorable. One of Sam's friends used the name Petroleum Vesuvious Nasby!

    Thank you all for making this such a great experience. The only "book groups" I've encountered have met after everyone read the entire book (PHW in fact) and therefore the discussion was derailed by the breadth of the whole work. This works much better. I've enjoyed reading your posts and seeing your unique insights into Mark Twain/Sam Clemens, a man I've spent nearly 10 years studying in depth. I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit more about Sam and some of his motivations.

    Thank you for welcoming Chris and me into your fold. I'm sure Wally Lamb will be interested in some of our discussions as well. If you're ever in Hartford, stop in and see us. We've changed dramatically over the last 6 months and will only be doing more over the coming years. (For that matter, if you're ever in Hannibal or Florida, Missouri or Elmira, NY - stop in and see the Mark Twain sites in those places too. They are all worth a visit. That is, if you still have any interest in Mark Twain.

    Send me an email if you have any further questions. I'll check in here for the rest of this week, but after that I'm still happy to be of assistance to anyone who's interested.

    Thank you, again. Rachel

    Joan Pearson
    March 29, 2004 - 08:31 am
    Oh Rachel, so happy to see you. We've been "hanging around" waiting for you. You're here now, so we will start getting ready for the Archivers to move in. THank YOU so much for spending time with us. I don't think there is a single one of us who would not be interested in reading more of Clemens/Twain after this experience. Jo put it so well. This is Twain as most of us never knew him.

    Please pass along our regards to Chris Barnett as well. We all come to know one another fairly well in these discussions. You and Chris are part of our SN family now. We will surely stay in touch. Thank you for that invitation!

    Thanks EVERYONE for making this discussion as meaningful as it was. I think we caught it all, don't you? Yes, yes, Prejudice - the motivating heart of the story. Ginny picked up on that one. And yes, Pudd'nhead spoke for Sam Clemens, (his voice less caustic and more reasoned than Twain's?) Can we agree on that too?

    We'll be looking for all of you in the next Book Club Online discussion beginning April 1 - check in here:
    "Waiting for Godot" Book Club Online

    "I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can't be any worse." (Mark Twain)
    Or how about this one - (scarey, isn't it?)
    "I am the entire human race compacted together. I have found that there is no ingredient of the race which I do not possess in either a small way or a large way." (Mark Twain

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 29, 2004 - 11:47 am
    Like everyone else I have enjoyed this discussion - for me there is much to ponder as the story reflects on our lives today -

    A last minute treat - found these sites of Mark Twains homes - and the sites are all wonderful

    A home without a cat -- and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat -- may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title? --The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

    Barbara St. Aubrey
    March 29, 2004 - 12:14 pm
    And did you know there was a 1915 silent film adaptation of Pudd'nhead Wilson as well as this TV movie Pudd'nhead Wilson (1984)

    March 29, 2004 - 05:49 pm
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