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The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

Mark Twain

Book Overview: 

In one of his later novels, the master storyteller spins a tale of two children switched at infancy. A slave takes on the identity of master and heir while the rightful heir is condemned to live the life of a slave. Twain uses this vehicle to explore themes of nature vs. nurture, racial bigotry and moral relativism. The case of mistaken identity is a theme that Twain explored also in THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER; in THE TRAGEDY OF PUDD’NHEAD WILSON he turns the theme into a well-crafted detective story. It is unfortunate that this is one of Twain’s lesser known works as it is one of his most enjoyable reads.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .So, during the next two years, his visits to the city grew in frequency and his tarryings there grew steadily longer in duration.

He was getting into deep waters. He was taking chances, privately, which might get him into trouble some day—in fact, did.

Judge Driscoll had retired from the bench and from all business activities in 1850, and had now been comfortably idle three years. He was president of the Freethinkers' Society, and Pudd'nhead Wilson was the other member. The society's weekly discussions were now the old lawyer's main interest in life. Pudd'nhead was still toiling in obscurity at the bottom of the ladder, under the blight of that unlucky remark which he had let fall twenty-three years before about the dog.

Judge Driscoll was his friend, and claimed that he had a mind above the average, but that was regarded as one of the judge's whims, and it failed to modify the public opinion. Or rather, that was one of the reasons w. . . Read More

Community Reviews

“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?” ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson

It is ironic that this book was first banned by institutions that thought Twain was promoting southern racist tenets, and then later ba

I read this as a teen, so probably 45 years ago. I thought I remembered fairly well. Nope! Oh, I remembered the main points, but it was almost like a new book & really worth reading. This is Twain's answer to nature versus nurture while satirizing race, religion, 'honor', & small town life. While th

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
has 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 like

I read this book in a Southern Literature class about 10 years ago. I remember liking the book very much it is short and was a book that I was unaware that Twain had written.

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 stor

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 by more than a dozen tributaries, they continuously went up and down those waters and e

If you consider a man's “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

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