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Puddn'head Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – December 16, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Mark Twain, in his presentation of Negroes as human beings, stands head and shoulders above the other Southern writers of his times.”—Langston Hughes --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Featuring the brilliantly drawn Roxanna, a mulatto slave who suffers dire consequences after switching her infant son with her master's baby, and the clever Pudd'nhead Wilson, an ostracized small-town lawyer, Twain's darkly comic masterpiece is a provocative exploration of slavery and miscegenation. Leslie A. Fiedler described the novel as "half melodramatic detective story, half bleak tragedy," noting that "morally, it is one of the most honest books in our literature." Those Extraordinary Twins, the slapstick story that evolved into Pudd'nhead Wilson, provides a fascinating view of the author's process.

The text for this Modern Library Paperback Classic was set from the 1894 first American edition. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2nd edition (December 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393925358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393925357
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was an American humorist, satirist, social critic, lecturer and novelist. He is mostly remembered for his classic novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

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Customer Reviews

Puddnhead Wilson is a very short book that can bear repeated reading.
jumpy1
Also, I strongly recommend the Modern Library edition of this book, because, unlike some other editions, it includes "Those Extraordinary Twins."
Fitzgerald Fan
The side characters of Tom and Roxy developed into main characters in an entirely different story.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
It seems like hardly anybody reads Mark Twain anymore, which is a shame, because he has so much to say about American society and human nature. "Pudd'nhead Wilson" is unquestionably one of his greatest books, maybe even his best. It's at least the equal of "Huckleberry Finn," which I had the good fortune to read with a superb high school English teacher in 1975, a year before her department banned it from the school's curriculum because of its supposedly racist portrayal of Jim.
"Pudd'nhead Wilson" manages to be a social satire, a murder mystery, a compelling commentary on race and racism, a brief against slavery, a courtroom drama, and a lifelike portrait of a particular time and place in American history, all packed into a short novel of some 170 pages. The story moves along quickly, hilarious in places and appalling in others. It's hard to understand why this easy-to-follow, entertaining and instructive novel isn't more widely read and appreciated, especially given the importance of race as a topic for thought, discussion and historical inquiry in the United States.
"Pudd'nhead Wilson" is set in a small Mississippi River town in the slave state of Missouri in 1830-1853. The critical event of the story occurs early on, when Roxy, a slave woman caring for two infant boys of exactly the same age, one her son and the other the son of one of the leading citizens of the town, secretly switches their identities. This deception is possible because her son is only 1/32 African-American and appears white (his father is in fact another leading citizen), yet by custom if not by law, the boy is a slave.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paul Miller on June 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Twain was interested in twins and the problem of identity. His pen name "Twain" is an archaic word meaning two. In this enertaining novel he starts out to write about siamese twins who are opposites in taste and temperment, a humorous farce. As he gets on with the story other themes and characters develop and he decides to pull the twins apart, making them ordinary twins, and develop the story into a comedic tragedy. Twain leaves, for whatever reason, plenty of evidence in the story that the twins were siamese. The twins speak of themselves as an only child, are always together even in bed, and are exhibited in Europe for two years when they were children. One twin when explaining why he risked himself to save his brother from murder says "If I had let the man kill him, wouldn't he have killed me, too?. I saved my own life you see." The larger part of the story fixes on Puddnhead Wilson, a local unemployed lawyer, and focuses on the pattern of a folktale of switched infants: the slave child becoming master and the master's child a slave. Roxy, an almost pure white slave, switches her baby for her masters baby so that her boy will escape slavery. Early in the story Tom Driscoll learns that he is really Valet de Chambers a slave and not the son of the leading citizen York Driscoll. Twain uses this novel to slam the stupidity and evil of slavery as well as throw some light and mockery on other foolery of society. Wilson sorts things out due to his passion for finger printing over the years. Sayings from Puddnhead Wilson's calender preface every chapter and are highly enertaining. At the conclusion of this superb novel Puddnhead Wilson comes out on top, but he is about the only one. Possibly Twain's most honest book, a masterpiece!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By jumpy1 on April 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Puddnhead Wilson is a very short book that can bear repeated reading. Not because it is a great literary work (it is) or because it is so important (which it is), but because in it Mark Twain exposes himself -- his nostalgia, his bitterness, his resignation, and his hope for his own life and for post-Civil War America with brutal frankness, and yet humorous approachability.
The novel may be called "Puddnhead Wilson" but the most memorable character is a highly intelligent slave woman named Roxana. Through Roxana and the rest of the townspeople living in a pre-Civil War Missouri, we find some of Mark Twain's most oft-quoted statements among biting characterizations of the American mentality.
I cannot recommend this little book enough. It has its weaknesses (so many critical essays have been written about them that it's unnecessary to discuss them here) but they are really minor and certainly do not detract from the sheer enjoyment and contemplation that it gives the reader. Not to mention that the apologetic forwards to both Puddnhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins are brilliant short letters from Twain on writing.
I cannot speak about Those Extraordinary Twins because I've never been able to get into it, or read past the first chapter. It's extremely odd, being about a circus freak -- siamese twins joined at the hip -- with each side having the complete opposite philosophy and constitution than the other. That is, one side drinks alcohol and doesn't feel affected while the other side gets drunk; each side has different taste in clothing; etc.
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