Twain’s Twins Meet Puddn’head (Mark Twain Week)
Puddn’head Wilson by Mark Twain is the story of a young misunderstood lawyer who has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. The story begins with Dave Wilson, arriving in Dawson’s Landing, Missouri in 1830. We discover his background and his struggles to become a respected attorney in the small town. One off-handed remark, however, dooms him and the town’s people quickly think of him as a fool, dubbing him “Puddn’head.” Then, Wilson’s story fades out while the book sheds light on another tale of a slave called Roxy. Roxy has a very light skinned baby, who happens to be the same age as her master’s son. There’s a shakeup at the house where slaves are caught stealing and threatened to be sent down South. Worried, Roxy decides to switch her son with the master’s, protecting him from harm. The slaves are not sent south after all. Her son now thought to be Tom Driscoll the master’s son, grows up in a life of privilege and later turns out to be a heartless cad. After the master dies, Roxy is freed and goes away to live on riverboats. Unfortunately, she loses her money when her bank fails. She returns to her rightful son, “Tom,” and asks him for money. He’s not so giving, though. About that time some extraordinary Italian twins come to town. A murder occurs and Puddn’head Wilson steps back into the story to solve the crime. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to the master’s real son, what happens to Roxy and the Capello twins, and how all stories tangle together. It’s a funny tale entwined in crime story.
Before Puddn’head Wilson, Twain wrote Those Extraordinary Twins - A novella about twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. In Those Extraordinary Twins; however, the men are conjoined. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. The story is short and silly, but still worth reading. Look for editions where both stories are presented together.
Partial List of Mark Twain Works
(In order of publishing year. Click on title in blue to read review)
**The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories – Book of humorous short stories including a frog race in Calaveras County. 1865
Innocents Abroad – Non-fiction travel book about Samuel Clemen’s journey through Europe on a chartered vessel. 1869
**Roughing It – Non-fiction, autobiographical account of Mark Twain’s six years he spent in the West (Nevada, California, and even Hawaii) in the 1860s. 1872
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Story of a cunning boy’s adventures in small river town. 1876
A Tramp Abroad – Non-fiction travel book. 1880
The Prince and the Pauper – Story of a poor boy who resembles the prince so much, the prince decides to switch places with him to experience life outside the palace. 1882
**Life on the Mississippi- Non-fiction musings of Samuel Clemen’s life as a riverboat pilot and what it took to navigate those precarious waters. This book is filled with not only Clemen’s personal exploits, it is also aimed to be more educational, with a few facts and figures of the Mississippi and towns around it. Mainly though, Twain drew me in and kept me there with his signature clever storytelling and amusing way with words. 1883
“…as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie, and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 443.
“I managed to get around this question without committing myself.”
“I crept under that one.”
“I climbed over this one.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (H.O. Houghton & Company, 1874; reprint, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, unknown), 200.
**The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – The story of a boy raised by a drunk father who runs away and rafts down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. 1885
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court - An American engineer is transported back to the time of the early Middle Ages in King Arthur’s court where he captivates the locals with his modern technology. 1889
**Those Extraordinary Twins - A novella about conjoined twins who also appear in Puddn’head Wilson. They are accused of assault in a small town and end up in court with Puddn’head Wilson defending the twins. 1892
The £1,000,000 Bank Note and Other New Stories – More short stories, essays and reflections by Mark Twain. 1893
Tom Sawyer Abroad – The last of Tom’s adventures, this short novel takes Tom, Huck, and former slave Jim, cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon; destination, Africa. There they encounter new sights like the Great Pyramids and engage in wild escapades. 1894
**Pudd'nhead Wilson - A young misunderstood lawyer has a hobby of collecting fingerprints, which he later uses to solve a crime. 1894
Tom Sawyer, Detective – Tom solves a mysterious murder involving his uncle. 1896
A Double Barrelled Detective Story – Novella about Sherlock Holmes in California. 1902
The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories – A collection of short stories. The $30,000 Bequest is the tale of a couple who are to receive a large inheritance and start thinking of ways spend the money. Also includes A Dog's Tale – Told from the perspective of a dog, this short story relays how a dog saves a child from a burning house but is misunderstood and beaten. 1904
**The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider - Published posthumously in 1917 Sam Clemens chronicled his life from childhood to adulthood. In the preface of this book, he notes that he is speaking from the grave as he knew this would be published after his death. He declares that what is written is a true an honest account of his life. “It has seemed to me that I could be as frank and free and unembarrassed as a love letter if I knew what I was writing would be exposed to no eye until I was dead, and unaware and indifferent.” Twain tells of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, the inspiration for St. Petersburg, the fictional setting in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A life that spanned 75 years, we learn of his time as a printer’s apprentice, a typesetter, a riverboat apprentice and later riverboat pilot, a silver miner, publisher, world traveler, lecturer, and of course, author. We get to know his wife, Olivia, and their children, and learn about the devastating death of their daughter, Susy, and later another daughter, Jean. We are also told of his financial troubles forcing him to return to the lecture circuit. This book is a thorough glimpse into highs and lows of an author, entertainer, husband, father and beloved American icon.
** Denotes books I have read
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