Novel – Pudd’nhead Wilson

It’s a common fact that the majority of literary critics state that a “black” line of serious financial problems was the only reason which caused the writing of Twain to become dark and pessimistic. The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson was one of the books written in this so-known period of darkness.
We should also note here that Pudd’nhead Wilson was created in a special period of time when it had become obvious that Reconstruction – the process of reintegration of the confederate states of America to the United States of America and of numerous attempts to create a definite place for freed people, former slaves, in the society – hadn’t been a great success, but vice versa had entirely failed.
The only things that could characterize and define race relations were the Ku Klux Klan gatherings and the laws of Jim Crow. Although Twain continued to write about South, he had not lived there anymore.
What’s curious is that nearly all of his works were set in the years when Twain was a little boy, that’s before the Civil War. I do think that’s because his great desire was to write about everything he brought to the life of the grown-up from his childhood; or probably he set the majority of his works in the past because of his having sought not an exposition of the present but a view at its reasons or alternatives – the eternal question “what could have been”, “had things changed a little”. For instance, Huckleberry Finn suggests a fantasy of what could have been, and Pudd’nhead Wilson states that there was no way out of the situation, no way to escape the current disorder, mess. By its nature the structure of Pudd’nhead Wilson is itself a little bit messy.
In his “Author’s notes to Those Extraordinary Twins” Mark Twain states that from the very beginning the novel was thought to be about the twins Luigi and Angelo, whom he had presented as Siamese twins. He was sure that could make their sideshow past more explicit and clear, and it could also explain the definite awkwardness of the text. As the story went away from its initial course and aim, and on the whole had greatly changed, Mark Twain had to do something to make the new plot work. We shouldn’t pay attention to the fact that many people consider Twain to be a rather sloppy writer, we should note here that the greater part of these so-called “awkward places” really contribute to the whole story, they just bring the breath of life to it.
I do think that Mark Twain might have been doing everything to escape rewriting, usually even leaving some coarse, rough edges, but in spite of all these he was a talented, intelligent and perceptive author.
Now I would like to turn to my thoughts about Pudd’nhead Wilson. This novel is rather unusual for me, it simultaneously presents a mixture of numerous incompatible ingredients: vulgar and high-class, new and old, farcical and serious. On the whole a perfect, known to all of us microcosm of Mark Twain’s works. We also can’t without mentioning about Twain’s nod to tradition and history.
As the title of the novel claims, Pudd'nhead Wilson is to be a serious tragedy, and we all note something essential, important and critical is at stake.
By making a frivolous attempt to dispose himself in an older and larger tradition, Twain states that his novel depicts a set of problems crucial not only for America, but for the whole world.
Pudd’nhead Wilson occupies a remarkable position among the great works of the eighteenth century and these of our times, because of its sharing the characteristic features of both groups. A story told in dramatic episodes by an omniscient author with a special ironic approach to the material.
To all these, mentioned above Pudd’nhead Wilson depicts a bizarre, freakish world, the characters of which are diligently playing their roles in what can only be defined as a severe Joke.
We can trace three main plot lines in this tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson. All of them come together at the end of the novel, in a murder trial.
...The main character is Pudd'nhead Wilson, a Northerner coming to the small town of Dawson's Landing with the only desire to set up a law practice. But he isn’t a success, and nearly all of his time is devoted to such hobbies as fingerprinting and palmistry. Having only one true friend, he devotes himself to science and self-development, writing a calendar full of dark proverbs and clever sayings (by the way these sayings provide epigraphs for every chapter of the novel). Wilson is an outsider, he thinks differently from all the other people. I should say, that’s what I like about him. I don’t think it’s good when all people are alike and similar, it’s a great problem, but the even a greater problem is when other people don’t understand the person who differs from them, differs in all kinds of this word. Such person becomes the odd one out. That’s the most difficult cross the man can carry, misunderstanding is even worse than treachery. A person who overcomes all these becomes stronger several times.
...Roxana, a beautiful slave, she can pass for white. In order to save her little son from being sold away from her, she changes him with the son of her master. The only thing that she gained is that her son grew up a very severe, cruel, immoral person, ready to sell his real mother as a thing.
There have been a lot of disputes about this image. What one critic deplores, another admires. I’ve read Henry Nash Smith’s words: “I do believe that Roxy is the only fully developed character, in the novelistic sense, in the book”, and along with this I would like to refer to the words of Arthur Pettit who said: “Roxy is another example of the “tragic mulatto” type and not a very good example at that for she is really two persons – a black and a white – and is neither black nor white long enough at a stretch to be entirely convincing”.
If to speak about my own attitude to this character, I should say that it is very close to the image of a common woman, though it changes with the flow of the years. Every woman thinks at first about her family which always presents a great part of her soul, and only then about herself. Everything a woman does is for the sake of her child, and it’s not her blame that sometimes everything she does turns not as it has been planned before.
...The third plot line traces the life of Italian twins Luigi and Angelo, the former performers of numerous sideshows. One of the things that interests and intrigues me most of all is the history of creation of these personages. In 1892, being inspired by seeing the Siamese twins in Europe, Mark Twain wrote his “Those Extraordinary Twins”. But in 1893 the author changed this title to “Pudd’nhead Wilson”. As he wrote later he wanted to focus on several characters simultaneously. He wrote: “I finished the story, and there appeared other characters I wanted to focus on. It’s like a string of a skein – noone knows where it can lead you.”

...What I love most of all in this novel is that all the characters are different and each of them brings a certain part of feelings and emotions inside themselves, it doesn’t even matter whether they are positive or negative, together they make an unforgettable impression.

Literature used:
1. Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson: The Development and Design (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green Univesity Popular Press, 1971);
2. Mark Twain, The Development of a Writer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998);
3. The American Novel and Its Tradition (Garden City, New York: Doublday, 1991).

1. “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson.” <> (December 21);
2. “Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain.” <> (January 13);
3. “The Main Characters and Their Features.” <> (January 15);
4. “Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain.” <> (January 22);
5. “A Whisper to The Reader by Mark Twain.” <> (February 12);
6. “Pudd’nhead Wilson.” <> (February 16);
7. “Mark Twain and His Main Works.” <> (February 26);
8. “Mark Twain: His Life and Works.” <> (March 1);
9. “Pudd’nhead Wilson as one of the Best Works of Mark Twain.” <> (March 3);
10. “Mark Twain. His Best Works.” <>(March 13).

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