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Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins
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Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,237 ratings  ·  105 reviews
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 stor...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 13th 2011 by Modern Library (first published 1893)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shannon
Though I love Huck and Jim, Roxana of Twain’s “Puddn’head Wilson” is far more complexly rendered. It is through her that Twain's most explicit indictment of slavery is made. Her choice to allow her wretch of a son to sell her down the river and deeper into slavery after she has spent the last twenty years as a free woman touches the very corners of human sympathy. My only complaint is that I wanted to see more of her. She sweeps into the narrative briefly and then disappears for twenty pages at...more
Lainie
A book group selection, otherwise I can't imagine I would have chosen to read this. But I'm so glad I did. It was fun! Mark Twain's writing is famous for many reasons, but in this book I especially noticed how timeless his humor is. He conveys the irony of human foibles like no one else.

In this edition, you get Pudd'nhead Wilson in the first half of the book, and it's great. Then, the second half reproduces Those Extraordinary Twins, which he starts off by telling you that it's an earlier idea t...more
Rick Diehl
An unsteady attempt by Clemens to explore race in the old South. Well written, witty and smart, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson is an enjoyable read in many ways, however despite the best efforts of the great writer, in the end, the story, to be blunt about it, fails.

Clemons is trying to be sympathetic toward African-Americans, however because of how his story is structured, Tom Driscoll, the 1/32 negro slave child, switched as an infant by his mother with a rich white child, is a complete bas...more
Ryan
This book falls into the "small town on the Mississippi" category of Twain's novels. The story seems a little scattered and has some characters and scenes that don't really serve any purpose. There are a few great characters - Roxana and Pudd'nhead - and the best bits of the novel are of course the entries from Pudd'nhead's calendar at the beginning of every chapter. I actually enjoyed the farce (Those Extraordinary Twins) better than the tragedy it turned into (Pudd'nhead Wilson).
Avery
I never realized how awesome a writer Twain was until I finished this novel.
Josh Karaczewski
With biting satire of slavery, Twain's signature humor, Twain's best female character (the ex-slave Roxanna: 1/16th black, wonderfully colloquial, resourceful and clever) and even some of the earliest courtroom drama I’ve encountered, “Puddin’Head Wilson” has a lot to love. Hard to read because every page had some line or passage that I wanted to collect - in fact every chapter begins with a hilarious, insightful, and/or ironic entry from main character David "Puddin'head" Wilson. Every chapter!...more
Haaze
It was interesting to read Twain's comments about how the novel shifted over time. I had no idea that the twins had the main role initially to then be replaced by the side characters that steadily grew in magnitude. I must admit that I preferred the dram of Pudd'nhead Wilson over the farcical account of the twins. Stil, an unusual origin. Twain has a very bitting account of a doctor's remedy in the twin section that made me crack up. I have not been reading too much Twain, but this turns out to...more
Garren
Mark Twain: great writer, terrible novelist.

When I say someone is great at writing, I mean the business of picking words, laying sentences together, and turning out perfect paragraphs. If I accuse someone of being a great storyteller, well that's a different skill. Storytelling is about creating satisfying plot or characters either along the way or from an appraising distance after the whole thing is over.

Pudd'nhead Wilson kicks off with absolute top shelf writing. I gave it five preemptive star...more
Brittany Noble
I have always been a big fan of Mark Twain and would definitely say he is one of my favorite authors. When I picked up The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson I expected to enjoy it, but was surprised by the degree to which I did. Pudd'nhead Wilson goes down as my absolute favorite Twain book for many reasons. The first being its light and funny, I laughed and enjoyed myself throughout the entire thing. Amazingly though, the second reason I love this book is for its significant race themes (something t...more
Kristine
Jul 01, 2012 Kristine rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kristine by: Classics of American Literature and library book groups
I prefer Pudd'nhead Wilson to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The idea of the slaveowner's son and the slave's son switched as babies is rich ground. However, I think that Pudd'nhead Wilson feels incomplete, that the story had only just begun when it abruptly ended. Rather than have it end on its ironic and tragic endnote, I think Mark Twain could have written a much more intriguing story by either fleshing out the characters who are virtually ignored--for ex...more
Dorothy Mazzarella
This book was very interesting because per the usual Mark Twain this was a story about racism and how cruel and ridiculous it was, but it is also just a good story. It is a little bit of a mystery and a tale about an unlikely, off beat lawyer and his fingerprinting technique. I like Twain because he never comes out and directly says "this is what was wrong with the Antebellum South and it's ethics", rather he creates these situations, these stories about people, in such a way that it is nearly i...more
J
Pudd’nhead Wilson is Twain’s indictment against racism. While it retains the bouncy charm of many Twain stories, it imparts a sense of heaviness and dread. The idea that two children, one white and one 31/32 white (the other 1/32 black), could be switched at birth and not be discovered, highlights the hypocrisy of racism as it existed in the United States in the 1830’s.

One thing that struck me is the use of the phrase, “sold down the river.” Turns out this phrase, meaning to be betrayed or cheat...more
Ayu Palar
And why is this awful difference made between white and black? - Tom Driscoll

Sewaktu ditugaskan untuk membaca Huckleberry Finn, saya tidak sanggup untuk menyelesaikannya. Bukan karena masalah dialek, tapi lebih karena penuturannya yang menurut saya agak sedikit bertele-tele. Meskipun begitu, saya tetap menyukai karya-karya Twain yang lain, yaitu The Diary of Adam and Eve dan yang baru saja saya baca, Pudd’nhead Wilson. Novel versi Barnes and Noble Classics ini merupakan gabungan dari dua cerita...more
Alex
For Pudd'nhead Wilson:

This is an easy and entertaining read and almost not at all about the title characters. Instead this is more a social commentary and indictment of society and it's fickleness, it's rules and it's judgements of others.

It is easy to mistake this novel as racist, particularly with the use of the word N*****. But please, read it as farce and not as Twain trying to relate truths according to someone's race.

Roxie is 1/16 black. Valet is 1/32 black and the real Tom is of course "...more
Michael
Twain commented in the novel's historical note that he didn't plan out this novel. Thus, as he was writing it, he ended up with two stories, and the novel wasn't big enough for the both of them. So he removed one of the stories. Good call, but the resulting novel isn't as tight and clean as one would like.

I wish Twain would have stuck with the farcical, ironical story instead of the tragedy. Twain's a master of satire and irony, and I would have like to have had more of the story revolve around...more
Kyle Wright
Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson is another excellent work and captures the spirit of the little town of Dawson's Landing. It's full of interesting characters, excellent dialog, and various surprises. While it was an entertaining read, I felt that it fell short of Twain's other works. The ending felt very rushed, as if Twain suddenly realized that he only had one chapter left in which to finish.

What I found particularly interesting, however, was the inclusion of the original story -Those Extraordi...more
Kenny
I read the Twain story, Pudd'nhead Wilson, and immediately fell in love with the straight-shooting language, except for the attempted Ebonics. I also find the story of two boys switched at 8 months, and the second doubling of Italian traveling twins, and the ongoing mystery of how the slave turned rich heir battling personal faults extremely interpretatively fascinating. The title character, a doting lawyer, who transforms into the unlikely rousing courtroom hero, is also fun and is a strong lit...more
Jen
Why have I never heard of this book before?
It was much better than any of the other Mark Twain stories I have read. It also made me think of things I had never even considered before:
Like Chambers, who is 1/32nd negro, but still a slave, because his mother was a slave. Or his mother Roxy, who is 1/16th negro, looks white, but is a slave because HER mother was a slave.

Or that at one time, fingerprinting was considered a silly thing to think about or care about.
Or all of the other prejudices that...more
Caroline
What a remarkable, gripping book -- prescient and ahead of its time, and also of its time. Written with incisive insight and an ability to step outside his own world and look at cultural values objectively. The story of the black slave raised white is astonishing, albeit melodramatic, but the story of the white child raised as a black slave and then thrust back into the white race is even more biting: "We cannot follow his fate further -- that would be a long story."

Skip the tacked on pastiche,...more
Larry L
I read this book for a class at Rutgers and it changed my mind about Mark Twain. I was not a fan of his until reading this book. His characters came to life and made me want to read more. It had for me what Huck Finn lacked, a plot and characters that I wanted to get to get to know and learn more about. It was the witty Twain that I have been hearing about but never really saw in Tom or Huck. It is an easy read with a lot of substance. Pick it up and walk in to the world of Twain.
Robin
Typically, you only get Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer as a student, but this book gave me all the reason I need to respect Twain. There are certainly some technical flaws in the writing, but the story is engaging and full of social commentary veiled to various extents. Where else would cross dressing be a metaphor for the fallacy of racial essentialism? As misanthropic as Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court but more focused on the immediate issue of slavery and reconstruction.
Benjamin
As someone has said, this is not the best of Twain's writing nor is it the worst. I enjoyed this short novel (Those Extraordinary Twins is actually a separate novel following two of the major characters in Pudd'nhead Wilson. My commentary refers to the first book.) The witty quotes, attributed to Puddn'nhead Wilson, heading each chapter are one of its gems. Also valuable is its highly ironic social commentary. If you have a taste for Mark Twain, you should enjoy this book.
Lief
As with much of Twain's writing, this book was full of irony and sarcasm (always a plus in my book, no pun intended). In this particular novel, Twain deals primarily with the issue of race as it applies to those who, by appearance, would be white, but under the laws of slavery, were still considered black. This novel very much questions the notions of nurture versus nature, blood (noble, regular or otherwise)and the way society views such things. A fun read.
Mrjeffreymiller
I did not like this edition. I read the back of the book and forward and knew what was going to happen. This really took away the Twain magic (for me). It’s a great story. I think that it does a great job of pointing out the foolishness of prejudice. It doesn’t matter who you were the offspring of, you are not justified in your misdeeds.
Excellent book, awful edition; Barnes & Noble Classics are cheap and informative to a fault.
Mari
Perhaps I am too harsh with Twain for his negative analysis of one of my favorites, Hawthorne. My first impression of Pudd'nhead Wilson is that its primary function is plot-driven to the grave detriment of its characters, who never become more than a device to move forward the plot. I will soon find out how they fare during multiple readings, as this is one of the three texts assigned for a Literary Criticism class.
Ann
I had never read this before, but my son had it assigned for his American Literature class, and I decided to read it for myself. It is very quick to read, and provides a fascinating insight into racial attitudes in the 19th century. It is not the masterpiece that "Huckleberry Finn" is, but Twain's irreverent wit and ability to address complicated moral and social issues with humor and style is always present.
Nathan Isherwood
why are you reading vonnegut but not reading twain? everything satrical you love about fiction, everything witty, everything damning, everything biting, everything uproariously human about modern fiction owes itself to twain. my favorite of his works, with connecticut yankee a close second. marvel at man's foolishness along with an embittered genius. a storyteller? a polemic? don't pick, just read.
Lea
Pudd'nhead Wilson: Interesting story of black and white babies switched just after birth, their growing up, the beginning of fingerprinting as a hobby, and race issue ever present in Twain's Day.
Those Extraordinary Twins: a second story, that was original part of the first story but muddled it too much for Twain, told about the Italian twins in "Pudd'nhead Wilson" as he originally wrote it.
Philipp
Tough time giving this a rating. It feels inconsistent. Has great elements and then stretches of not-so-great.
Also, I read it on a cheap e-Book version which had typos, even in characters' names. And, as much as I want to be above that kind of thing, it's grating.
But then I got this copy from the library and it's lovely, especially because of the illustrations.
TKTE
I enjoyed this more than Howell's _An Imperative Duty_. Both address similar issues, but Twain is always so enjoyable. I'm just not sure how to square the way the story ends. Does Twain side with the racist status quo of his time (arguably to appeal to his readers to increase sales) or is this a radical critique of the racial politics of his day?
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Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel", and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).

Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also work...more
More about Mark Twain...
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn The Adventures of Tom Sawyer The Prince and the Pauper A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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