Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, by Mark Twain, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Written during Mark Twain’s so-called pessimistic period, Pudd’nhead Wilson is a darkly comic masterpiece that exposes the wounds of racism in America and the absurdity of judging character based upon class or skin color.

Set in a small Mississippi River town in the state of Missouri before the Civil War, the novel begins when Roxana, a beautiful slave who can pass for white, switches the child of her master with her own infant son, now called Tom, who grows into a cruel and cowardly man. When Tom’s uncle, Judge Driscoll, is found murdered after a botched robbery attempt, suspicion is cast upon two former sideshow performers, Luigi and Angelo Capello, a pair of good-looking and charming identical twins from Italy. Meanwhile, David “Pudd’nhead” Wilson is a wise but unorthodox lawyer who collects fingerprints as a hobby. Shunned as an eccentric, he ultimately wins the respect of the townspeople when he solves the murder mystery and reveals the true identity of the killer.

Often hilarious, sometimes appalling, and always fast-paced, Pudd’nhead Wilson is ultimately a fierce condemnation of a racially prejudiced society that was predicated upon the institution of slavery.

This edition also includes Twain’s related short story, “Those Extraordinary Twins.”

Darryl Pinckney is the author of High Cotton, a novel, and, in the Alain Locke Lecture Series, Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593082550
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 7/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 248,820
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Darryl Pinckney is the author of High Cotton, a novel, and, in the Alain Locke Lecture Series, Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature.

Biography

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri; his family moved to the port town of Hannibal four years later. His father, an unsuccessful farmer, died when Twain was eleven. Soon afterward the boy began working as an apprentice printer, and by age sixteen he was writing newspaper sketches. He left Hannibal at eighteen to work as an itinerant printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. From 1857 to 1861 he worked on Mississippi steamboats, advancing from cub pilot to licensed pilot.

After river shipping was interrupted by the Civil War, Twain headed west with his brother Orion, who had been appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory. Settling in Carson City, he tried his luck at prospecting and wrote humorous pieces for a range of newspapers. Around this time he first began using the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from a riverboat term. Relocating to San Francisco, he became a regular newspaper correspondent and a contributor to the literary magazine the Golden Era. He made a five-month journey to Hawaii in 1866 and the following year traveled to Europe to report on the first organized tourist cruise. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (1867) consolidated his growing reputation as humorist and lecturer.

After his marriage to Livy Langdon, Twain settled first in Buffalo, New York, and then for two decades in Hartford, Connecticut. His European sketches were expanded into The Innocents Abroad (1869), followed by Roughing It (1872), an account of his Western adventures; both were enormously successful. Twain's literary triumphs were offset by often ill-advised business dealings (he sank thousands of dollars, for instance, in a failed attempt to develop a new kind of typesetting machine, and thousands more into his own ultimately unsuccessful publishing house) and unrestrained spending that left him in frequent financial difficulty, a pattern that was to persist throughout his life.

Following The Gilded Age (1873), written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner, Twain began a literary exploration of his childhood memories of the Mississippi, resulting in a trio of masterpieces --The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and finally The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), on which he had been working for nearly a decade. Another vein, of historical romance, found expression in The Prince and the Pauper (1882), the satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), while he continued to draw on his travel experiences in A Tramp Abroad (1880) and Following the Equator (1897). His close associates in these years included William Dean Howells, Bret Harte, and George Washington Cable, as well as the dying Ulysses S. Grant, whom Twain encouraged to complete his memoirs, published by Twain's publishing company in 1885.

For most of the 1890s Twain lived in Europe, as his life took a darker turn with the death of his daughter Susy in 1896 and the worsening illness of his daughter Jean. The tone of Twain's writing also turned progressively more bitter. The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894), a detective story hinging on the consequences of slavery, was followed by powerful anti-imperialist and anticolonial statements such as 'To the Person Sitting in Darkness' (1901), 'The War Prayer' (1905), and 'King Leopold's Soliloquy' (1905), and by the pessimistic sketches collected in the privately published What Is Man? (1906). The unfinished novel The Mysterious Stranger was perhaps the most uncompromisingly dark of all Twain's later works. In his last years, his financial troubles finally resolved, Twain settled near Redding, Connecticut, and died in his mansion, Stormfield, on April 21, 1910.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Samuel Langhorne Clemens (real name); Sieur Louis de Conte
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1835
    2. Place of Birth:
      Florida, Missouri
    1. Date of Death:
      April 21, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Redding, Connecticut

Read an Excerpt

From Darryl Pinckney’s Introduction to Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Pudd’nhead Wilson is mercilessly ironic in tone, so that Twain’s exasperation at received attitudes about race isn’t obvious right away. His burlesque is disarming, a sort of screen under the cover of which are stark assertions about the miseries of slavery and the unfairness of power based on race. Yet Pudd’nhead Wilson also feels like a sketch, as if to have filled in more, to have told his tale as anything more than a romp, would have been impossible for the kind of writer Twain was by temperament. Prefaces of sly humor were his custom, and Pudd’nhead Wilson begins with “A Whisper to the Reader,” in which his dislike of Italy percolates again. A mild discontent, something of that Florentine weariness, enters into the narrative voice at this early point and never really goes away. Twain has no real interest in characterization or extended description of place in Pudd’nhead Wilson. His omniscient narrator scatters clues and barrels through his yarn at a great clip, but this modern fable differs considerably from his historical romances. The twins of Pudd’nhead Wilson do not relate to the Tudor look-alikes of The Prince and the Pauper, and Pudd’nhead Wilson is not a reprise of King Arthur’s Yankee problem solver.

Then, too, it is a conflation of story ideas: one about a white baby and black baby switched in the cradle; and another about Italian twins with musical gifts of the higher freak show order. At times Twain’s novel reads as though the two stories, one melodramatic, the other farcical, had met up, unexpectedly, uneasily, in the same town. Most of Pudd’nhead Wilson’s twenty-two chapters are headed by two aphorisms, selections from an almanac, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar. “There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless,” begins the first saying attributed to Pudd’nhead Wilson. “Tell the truth or trump—but get the trick,” goes the second. The two sayings not only foreshadow the story of the man, Pudd’nhead Wilson, they also suggest the rueful spirit that rules the novel.

In 1830 Dawson’s Landing, Missouri, is a sleepy, pretty town. St. Louis is to the north, half a day’s journey by steamboat. Dawson’s Landing is “a slaveholding town, with a rich, slave-worked grain and pork country back of it.” York Leicester Driscoll is the county judge and Dawson’s Landing’s “chief citizen.” He and his wife are childless. It is a hierarchical town, full of names that echo the England of Twain’s historical romances. Judge Driscoll, like his brother, Percy Northumberland Driscoll, or Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, or Pembroke Howard, takes his descent from the First Families of Virginia, or “F.F.V.s,” very seriously.

The children of Percy Northumberland Driscoll have died in infancy. When the novel opens, Percy’s wife dies a week after giving birth to a boy, and one of his slave girls, Roxana, who gave birth to a son the same day the Driscoll baby was born, is put in charge of both babies. Around the same time, Dawson’s Landing gains another new citizen, Mr. David Wilson, a “college-bred” twenty-five-year-old of “Scotch parentage” who is seeking his fortune. Homely, but with intelligent blue eyes, he would have been successful at once in Dawson’s Landing, “but he made his fatal remark the first day he spent in the village, and it ‘gaged’ him.” While Wilson is talking to a group of townspeople, a dog somewhere begins to howl. “I wish I owned half of that dog,” Wilson says. When someone asks why, he replies, “Because I would kill my half.”

The townspeople talk among themselves: “’Pears to be a fool.” “What did he reckon would become of the other half if he killed his half?” “He would be responsible for that half just the same as if he had killed that half instead of his own. Don’t it look that way to you, gents?” “Yes, it does . . . , because if you kill one half of a general dog there ain’t any man that can tell whose half it was.” They decide that Wilson is not in his right mind, that he “hain’t got any mind,” that he is a “pudd’nhead.” Though he will become well liked and his nickname will lose any unfriendly feeling it ever had, nevertheless it will take more than twenty years for him to overturn the town’s verdict about him. Wilson buys a small house next to Judge Driscoll’s property, but his reputation has left him no chance at practicing law. However, he does get work as a land surveyor and accountant. In his free time Wilson devotes himself to his hobbies of “palmistry” and “one which dealt with people’s finger-marks.” In his coat pocket Wilson carries shallow boxes containing strips of glass that he uses to record people’s thumbprints. He calls this fascination “an amusement,” because he finds that his “fads” only add to his image as a “pudd’nhead.”

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  • Posted August 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Gem of a Read

    Pudd'nhead Wilson is one of Twain's finest and most under-rated novels. It shows all of Twain's disdain for slavery and racial inequality in his beloved South.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2006

    Twain at his best

    This book was so great. At certain moments it made you sad and at others you laughed. And the ending was practically perfect. The characters fit the book well and represented the setting perfectly. STRONLY RECOMEND YOU READ THIS BOOK!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2005

    Underrated Classic

    While clearly not up to the standards of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, people have overlooked this Twain book for too many years. It has some excellent elements in it. I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether it's about nature vs. nurture or not. Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar is a gem you'll want to retain some of those quotations forever.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Unexplored Classic

    Pudd'nhead Wilson is a very interesting read that shows the reader the impact of slavery and rank in society. The characters in this story are structured well and give the story a realistic 19th century feel, including Twain's common "Jim" talk. One of the many things I enjoyed in this book was that every character seems to be as important as the rest; specific chapters are devoted to different characters and their perspective of the story. This story is hilarious and also very serious at times, and is to the par of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. It saddens me to see that only 3 others have reviewed this book because it is such a great book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2014

    Puddinhead it aint

    This is from some of Twain's autobiographical writings.

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