This ebook includes a biographical introduction, a short, critical analysis of Twain and a brief introduction to this workPublished inby Charles L Webster, Pudd nhead Wilson was Twain s seventh novel and includes an innovative approach with a seemingly false lead in utilising the eponymous character only to have him re emerge in the climax to provide the means for a plot resolution The central plot involves familiar devices such as mistaken or assumed identity revolving around a mother and son relationship that exposes racial discrimination in frontier America during the first half of the nineteenth century If you consider a mans best books to be the ones with the most consistent tone and the fewest flaws, then Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper are Mark Twain s best works of fiction If, however, best means the most interesting, the most resonant, even if the flaws are considerable and the results problematic, then that honor belongs to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur s Court, Huckleberry Finn are I would argue The Tragedy of Puddin head Wilson too.The flaws and the problems of Twai If you consider a mans best books to be the ones with the most consistent tone and the fewest flaws, then Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper are Mark Twain s best works of fiction If, however, best means the most interesting, the most resonant, even if the flaws are considerable and the results problematic, then that honor belongs to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur s Court, Huckleberry Finn are I would argue The Tragedy of Puddin head Wilson too.The flaws and the problems of Twain s fiction stem from the fact that the limited but parochial projects of Twain the humorist are often undermined and thwarted by the comprehensive soul of Twain the writer of fiction In Connecticut Yankee, for example, as much as Twain admired Yankee know how and despised the jejune romanticism of Sir Walter Scott, there was still a part of him that grudgingly admired Southern chivalry and was appalled by how Yankee know how literally blew that chivalry apart on the great battlefields of the Civil War For this reason, an essentially humorous book about a cunning modern inventor who outfoxes King Arthur s finest ends with a bitter picture of modern warfare which considerably alters its tone And the end of Huckleberry Finn exhibits similar problems in the comic but essentially unfunny return of Tom Sawyer to the narrative Puddin head Wilson a smaller but equally resonant work is comparable problematic It began as a novel with the title Those Extraordinary Twins, featuring a pair of conjoined twins based on a well known Italian pair, Giovanni and Giacomo Tocci Twain wished to contrast their relatively happy life with the dark story of two little Missouri boys growing up in the small town of Dawson s Landing in the years before the Civil War The two boys look much alike, but Tom is to be the master of the house, and Chambers is to be his slave The story of how they are made to switch places, together with tale of Puddin head Wilson, a lawyer who eventually resolves the mystery if not the resulting tragedy through the newly emerging science of fingerprinting, is a fascinating one Unfortunately, it completely overwhelmed the story of the Italian twins Twain decided, left them unconjoined to wander with little purpose through the narrative, a baffling vestige of his original comic conception.Still, it is a powerful narrative, particularly in its account of how the institution of slavery molds the characters of both the false master and the false slave Twain s touch is not always sure there are even moments when Twain appears to be saying that even a drop black blood may be enough to taint the human character but at its basis this is a profound tale of the fatal effect of nurture versus nature, and how two boys switched at birth can be changed irrevocably, particularly when is slave and one is free.The novel isn t perfect, but it is also a rattling good mystery, with a lot of good stuff about fingerprints, an exciting courtroom scene, and a wickedly ironic conclusion to the fate of the faux master It s got its problem, sure, but it is well worth a read During the antebellum south on the western shore of the broad, mighty , muddy, Mississippi River, 2,350 miles long, and miles wide, in the golden era of the steamboats, numbering an astounding 1,200, vessels feed bythan a dozen tributaries, they continuously went up and down those waters, and entered other streams too A small , tranquil village named Dawson s Landing , stood, half a days travel by boat below St.Louis, in the state of Missouri, not an important place mind you, but when During the antebellum south on the western shore of the broad, mighty , muddy, Mississippi River, 2,350 miles long, and miles wide, in the golden era of the steamboats, numbering an astounding 1,200, vessels feed bythan a dozen tributaries, they continuously went up and down those waters, and entered other streams too A small , tranquil village named Dawson s Landing , stood, half a days travel by boat below St.Louis, in the state of Missouri, not an important place mind you, but when an intriguing stranger, Mr.David Wilson arrives, from a distant part of the country, seeking to practice law here, things pick up, he hears loud barking from an unseen dog, on his first day, annoyed greatly, the new lawyer tells some curious leading citizens, that if he owned half the animal, he Wilson would kill it Shortly afterwards the influential people in town gather and discuss those quite remarkable, silly words by the newcomer, after a short conversation , come to the unanimous conclusion this Mr.Wilson, is a pudd nhead translation, an idiot the unfortunate man quickly receives that nickname Pudd nhead, his high hopes for being a successful lawyer, collapses , no one will hire this obvious moronAt about the same time, two look alike children are born, both boys, one to Percy Driscoll, Thomas Driscoll, from a prominent family in old Virginia , his poor wife soon expires in the effort, another from a black slave, the beautiful Roxana, no surnames given them her son, she names Valet de Chambers The interesting thing is Roxana is white, in appearance, only one sixteenth black, which makes Chambers one thirty second, he had a white father, but one drop of blood , will change your life Roxy, who takes care of the children, is afraid she and her baby will he sold, and sent down the river, to a fearful fate , by her owner Percy Driscoll , and switches children, Thomas becomes Chambers, and Chambers , Thomas , nobody notices the difference, but one has a fabulous life of wealth and privilege, the fake Tom, doesn t known he s black is a cruel, vindictive, coward, the real Tom, a kind, generous, forgiving , brave man, who suffers misery , humiliation and beatings, frequently by the impostor , yes, treated like a slave Mr Wilson has plenty of time for a hobby, between doing odd jobs in accounting and surveying, to survive, virtually unknown to the public, fingerprinting, a system that can identify anyone by the patterns on the tips of your fingers, he takes the prints of all , on a glass, in the village, the amused citizens think just another eccentricity, of the addle brained man, then a mystery happens, local robberies occur in the quiet, peaceful town More fascinating, the enigmatic Italian twins , Luigi and Angelo Capello, nobles they say, somehow find this tiny community, through a newspaper ad, and rent a room, the entire Dawson s Landing is thrilled, some excitement finally , here, later duels, a murder, and an old woman who keeps being seen and vanishing, at the site of further , unexplained, petty robberies A fine story that starts as a comedy, and then unexpectedly turns serious, telling and showing the tragedy of slavery Mark Twain wrote about this evil institution, and reached the American conscious Samuel Langhorne Clemens I shall write a classic novel, full of my customary barbed wit yet leavened with my compassion for humanity I shall open the tale with a delightfully wry meta introduction before meta was even a thing The wryness shall continue throughout what will be an exciting story of bold misdeeds, uncertain justice, and a compelling and surely very surprising trial We shall end the tale with evil happily circumvented but it will be an ending that is also dripping with iro Samuel Langhorne Clemens I shall write a classic novel, full of my customary barbed wit yet leavened with my compassion for humanity I shall open the tale with a delightfully wry meta introduction before meta was even a thing The wryness shall continue throughout what will be an exciting story of bold misdeeds, uncertain justice, and a compelling and surely very surprising trial We shall end the tale with evil happily circumvented but it will be an ending that is also dripping with irony and pointed critique An important fact as a classic progressive, I have always been morally opposed to slavery and adamantly in favor of emancipation likewise I firmly believe in enhancing the rights of former slaves and their descendants This revolutionary perspective will be present in my tale but it shall be a trifle muted, to allow for brisk sales.Pudd nhead Wilson I am the moral center of this tale and I shall hold that title with much becoming humility I shall charm the reader with my unusual observations, sly comments, humane nature, and my prescient knowledge and use of finger printing all of this despite the derision of my fellows I am perhaps a stand in for the estimable Mark Twain More importantly, I am also what is known as an Underdog Rally behind me The Italian Twins We came from a discarded story, where we were once conjoined But this tale has set us free Pudd nhead Wilson may be the hero of the piece, but our joie de vivre, pluck, style, and the utter fun we bring to this tale of dark deeds shall surely make us a favorite among certain lady readers and certain reviewers like mark monday Valet de Chambre AKA Tom Driscoll I am the villain of the piece but I shall rally against such diminishing, unempathetic designations I am only human, after all I shall enrage the reader with my high handed, bullying ways, my cunning and greedy nature, my cheeky aplomb, my devious misdeeds done in the dark of night I am what is known as a changeling, a cuckoo s offspring, an interloper I am an argument in favor of nurture over nature it is the spoiling, too generous nurture of my uncle and aunt that shall sour my nature and turn me into a braggart, gambler, and vindictive villain Or is this truly the case Even as a babe in arms, I am characterized by my monstrousness surely this is not due to my blackness, if being 1 32 part black even constitutes blackness Unfortunately, the author could have been ratherclear on where my innately bad nature sprung from That lack of clarity certainly muddies the water a bit.Roxie I s sorry for you, honey I s sorry, God knows I is, but what kin I do, what could I do Yo pappy would sell him to somebody, some time, en den he d go down de river, sho , en I couldn t, couldn t, couldn t stan it Tain t no sin white folks has done it It ain t no sin, glory to goodness it ain t no sin Dey s done it yes, en dey was de biggest quality in de whole bilin , too kings mark monday I thought this was an admirable tale in many ways, well written and enjoyable, with a leisurely but exciting narrative However despite its good, progressive intentions the cloudiness at the story s center, its confusion around nature vs nurture , made me increasingly uncomfortable And reading Roxie s dialogue and monologues despite being true to place and time was completely excruciating, at least to these modern eyes.5 of 16 in Sixteen Short Novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnhas biting social commentary, but Puddin head Wilson has all out black humor It s the story of Roxy, a light skinned slave woman who successfully switches her even lighter skinned son with her master s baby, and follows how each one grows up I would have liked to seeinside the slaves lives other than from the character of Roxy, but Mark Twain s point was mainly to criticize the spoiled slaveowners In any case, the courtroom drama in which Puddin hThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finnhas biting social commentary, but Puddin head Wilson has all out black humor It s the story of Roxy, a light skinned slave woman who successfully switches her even lighter skinned son with her master s baby, and follows how each one grows up I would have liked to seeinside the slaves lives other than from the character of Roxy, but Mark Twain s point was mainly to criticize the spoiled slaveowners In any case, the courtroom drama in which Puddin head Wilson reveals the truth will have you riveted An interesting literary tidbit Mark Twain is known to have disliked Jane Austen s work, saying something roughly along these lines, I can t stand Jane Austen Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and beat her with her own shin bone But as the Jane Austen fans love to point out, every time I readimplies that he read herthan once, and Mark Twain s sense of humor was to be negative about everybody and everything But I think his ultimate tribute to JA comes at the beginning of Puddin head Compare this There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless to Darcy s the wisest and the best of men nay, the wisest and best of their actions may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke Perhaps it s just a universal observation by two satirists, but I think the wording is very close