Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pudd'nhead Wilson

Pudd’nhead Wilson was a surprising book and I was unable to sufficiently predict the ending. I could easily see Mark Twain ending it several different ways including with the false Tom getting away with the murder of his surrogate uncle. I imagined an ending comparable to Behind a Mask in which the mask pays off and the wealthy “whites” were forced to pay the price for the injustices of the society. I was very satisfied, however, that Twain chose not to end the story in such a way. I think that, while Jean Muir had a character that lead everyone to almost wish for her success, false Tom’s character was just too pathetic and disappointing for anyone to have wanted such a profitable outcome for him. Along with the extremely happy ending for the twins and for Pudd’nhead himself, I was lead to believe that this novel had more of a romantic quality, but Mark Twain doesn’t make it easy to place his books into any genre and Pudd’nhead Wilson in no exception. The happiness is easy to see with the majority of the characters except for two very important figures. Roxy, it could be assumed, should be very happy with her ultimate fate. She is allowed to live out her live comfortably with a steady pension from the true Tom of $35 a month. Roxy can not live in happiness though because she looses her son in the exact way that she was trying to avoid through the actions she chooses in the beginning. Her story, therefore, could be considered a tragedy. The True Toms fate is similarly a tragedy. He is finally in the position he was born to hold and yet he lacks the education and the mannerisms to hold it. He is uncomfortable in his newly acquired role and will never be able to grow accustomed with his position. Despite the fact that he is no longer a “nigger,” he will live the rest of his live stuck between the identity he now has and the identity he was raised with. In the end I was left with the realization, yet again, that Mark Twain’s literature is a genre of his own.


  1. You're right, Amanda: Twain doesn't grant the reader any kind of unalloyed pleasure in the ending of the novel. It's a troubling piece of work, despite its humor.

  2. Since Roxy portrayed herself as such a strong motherhood figure, I can see why her fate could be considered tragic. Or looking at it through another lens, the fact that she had cared so much for her own son only to be betrayed, and for him to even shudder when she caressed him, is very sad. However, I feel that Roxana had caused many of the events that unraveled with her own hand. I’m not sure whether her actions are justified or not. But the funny part is that the book is called the tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson. Yet it seems that the true Tom has the worst fate of all—and the most deserving of a better ending. I feel like Wilson’s character is easily overlooked, even in his spectacular role in the ending.