Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson” as Want to Read:
The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  10,524 ratings  ·  648 reviews
David Wilson has earned the unfortunate nickname Pudd nhead from his fellow townspeople, who fail to understand his combination of wisdom and eccentricity. However, he is eventually able to redeem himself by simultaneously solving a murder mystery and a case of transposed identities.

Two children, a white boy and a mulatto, are born on the same day. Roxy, mother of the mula
Audio CD, Library Edition, 6 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published May 10th 1893)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Kressel Housman
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 liked to see more inside the slaves' lives other than from the character of Roxy, but Mark Twain's point was mainly to criticize the spoiled slaveowners. In any case, the courtroom drama in which Puddin'head ...more
P.V. LeForge
Although I enjoyed reading Pudd’nhead Wilson, I enjoyed it more because Twain is generally enjoyable rather than because of anything remarkable about the book. In fact, I found the book to be more than a bit ragged. Hindsight is always easy, I know, but the knowledge of how the book came to be written and published points out the book’s flaws in a way that is hard to ignore.

The book was to have been called “Those Extraordinary Twins,” and was to have been a farcical love story between a lightw
Karen Chung
I've been on a Mark Twain kick, having just finished listening to (Librivox readings of) The Innocents Abroad, which I loved; Tom Sawyer, which I enjoyed a lot; and Huckleberry Finn, which I enjoyed less; and thought I'd find out what this lesser-known book was like. I guess I was at a point of diminishing returns. I happened to listen to the author's notes at the end before starting the book, in the process learning that the two Italian twins in the story started out as conjoined twins, but the ...more
Mark Twain wrote this novel when he was pretty old, pretty crabby, and living in Europe to avoid creditors and the other people who made him feel old and crabby. Really, it's a simple story: A light-skinned slave woman swaps her baby with her master's baby, hoping to ensure the former a happier life without the risk of being "sold down the river," and the rest of the book builds suspense for the "big moment" when true identities are revealed.

I've read a few reviews that allege that Pudd'nhead W
This is definitely a well-kept secret. There are a lot of unknown Twain novels that are quite good, but this is sometimes referred to by critics as the third of his truly American novels. I like this book, and considering I had to write a whole research paper on it that's saying something. As a story its good, with a murder mystery, daggers, children switched at birth, etc... But on a deeper level it deals with slavery and miscegenation, humanity and the nature v. nurture concept. Very interesti ...more
Kevin Lake
Found myself laughing out loud as I read this one. Mark Twain's style of implementing his dry, cynical wit into his writings was magnificent. If you happen to pick up the version with the forward by T.S. Elliot, skip the forward. All he does is talk of why Twain sucked as well as all other American authors except his beloved Henry James. The book is hilarious and has some great, down home wisdom in it.
A+ for Mark Twain! This is my first book that I have read by him, and I found it absolutely amazing. For one, I am not usually a fan of classic books (or maybe I just haven't really given myself a chance at them), but I found myself engaged and ready to finish this book as fast as I could.

Surprisingly, this was one of our books for English III that we had to read. I just finished it, and I just can't stop saying just how great it was. I am shocked by how Mark Twain was able to create such an ama
Pudd'nhead Wilson tells the story of two babies, one white, one a slave, switched by the slave's mother. The story follows those boys as they grow up, and even includes a good old fashioned murder mystery. It is a fantastic read. My favorite parts of the book were the short calendar entries that begin each chapter, a few examples:

July 4 - Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than in all the other days of the year put together. This proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fou
The trouble with studying literature is that close examination of a book can drain the enjoyment from reading it. As the feller said, if you take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you'll discover is a non-working cat.

Every now and then you strike lucky, and your deep study of a book only increases your enjoyment of it. Puddn'head Wilson blends a fairly standard baby-swap plot device with a proto-crime-novel thing in the second half, but as usual with Twain, it's the dessicated pr
The note of the author at the very end of the book made me laugh more than any of the rest of the book did. Twain wrote at the end there in his candid non-fiction way that is so charmingly witty.

The rest of the book was a delight to read as well. It was a great carrier (as most of his books are) of his opinion and beliefs regarding slavery, albeit put forth in a very creative manner (murder mystery, switched babies, oriental daggers, and all that jazz).

I was almost afraid of the book not havin
I had just told someone I had somewhat of a photographic memory for the books I have read, so imagine my horror when I found my own writing inside this book!
Yes, it had been 20 years and during college, which is so crazy, but still, I took it pretty hard.

The first time I read this, I remember I felt so bad that a son could treat his mother like he did, but I think I get it this time.
Tom (Chambers) is black but when he lives in the white world with all its evils, he becomes wicked and a black-hea
I grabbed this quickly at the library, needing a book on tape to listen to for a car ride, and wanting to hear some Twain. (Kind of a "should read". Yes, Twain is clever and dry and funny. And looks at issues of race. This is the story of 2 young men born on the same day, one white, one black, though they both look very white and are nearly identical. The mother of the black boy who is also the nanny of the white boy, switches them at seven months, to avoid her child being sold down the river. A ...more
I read this book because of a reference to it in Jon Clinch's afterword to Finn. I was startled by how bad it was. Wright Morris, in his engaging introduction to the text, quotes William Dean Howells on Twain's writing style: "Mr. Clemens is the first writer to use in extended writing the fashion we all use in thinking, and to set down the thing that comes into his mind without fear or favor of the thing that went before or the thing that may be about to follow." Morris goes on wryly to note tha ...more
I absolutely love this novel. I had to read it for an American Southern Literature class in undergrad, and I think it's amazing. Twain's somewhat twisted sense of humor comes through in this social satire that questions racism and even the idea of race itself.
Yet another fantastic example of Twain's superb storytelling abilities. The way he incorporates pre-Civil War era American vernacular and captures the slave dialect is inspirational. But the climactic courtroom scene is absolutely ingenious and has been the framework for dozens, if not hundreds of following courtroom thrillers. Over a century after its original publication, Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson eloquently and compellingly attacks the immoral practice of slavery that blemishes American histo ...more
This is the first Mark Twain book I've read since starting Tom Sawyer as a kid and putting it down in favor of the Hardy Boys. God forgive me, I see now what I've been missing! Pudd'nhead Wilson is the kind of novel I'd give the lesser part of my soul to be able to write. It's incredibly witty and entertaining, as well as chock full of dialog authentic enough to put Elmore Leonard to shame. It contains a lot of familiar Twain tropes, though it also blazes new territory as perhaps the first novel ...more
I'm pretty sure I read this when I was in Middle School, since I had an omnibus collection of Mark Twain that I loved and because I remembered long stretches of it. I also know that we watched the American Playhouse version back when I was in High School, so that also could have been why I knew a lot of it. Still, it's a short book and one that holds up to multiple readings. I put it up there with The Prince and the Pauper and Huckleberry Finn.

Like the latter, racism is a central topic. But unli
Twain's writing seems to always produce characters a reader either roots for or against. This short story falls in line with typical Twain characterization. The premise of the story is about two boys, one slave and one master's son, switched by the slave boy's mother to prevent her son from being sold "down the river." She's able to accomplish this by the fact that she is of mixed heritage and her son's father was a white man. Therefore, he looks white and easily doubles as the master's son's do ...more
John Harder
After my third readying of Pudd’nhead Wilson it still holds up. Roxy, a slave, switches her child with those of her master’s so her youngster may be raised free and her master’s child raised a slave. What ensues supports Twain’s long held contention that everything is training, not genetics. I have always been a little shocked by Twain’s strong dislike of slavery – he is downright bigoted against it. Who would not want an unpaid personal servant? Well, there is no reforming him, he is set agains ...more
So let me start by saying I love Mark Twain. He is one of my favorite authors. I was first introduced to Twain in middle school when my grade watched a play performance of the The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Caravelas County. We then read the story in English class and one chapter later I was in love. Now I read anything that has “Twain” on it. I usually don’t read, but when I do I prefer Mark Twain. I randomly pick Twian’s short stories to read and this time I chose Pudd’nheaf Wilson.
The stor
Mary Miller
I would like to give this book 3.5 stars. It is quite interesting to read. It is Twain's only book that deals directly with slavery.
Although it is titled "The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson", it is not a tragedy and Wilson is actually not the main character. Twain set out to write a totally different book with the Italian twins as the main characters (conjoined twins) but he couldn't make it work. The twins end up as minor characters, with the trial of Luigi for murder as the set piece of the las
We all read Tom Sawyer when we were kids, and most of us had read Huckleberry Finn in high school English class. These are both great American classics, and deserve all the attention and various film versions they get. However, I believe that Pudd'nhead Wilson must be one of Mark Twain's most unsung masterpieces. This story, named for a bright, but eccentric young attorney, Tom Wilson, whose community thinks he is a "pudd'nhead," makes some very astute statements about the ironies of racism and ...more
It's hard for me to rate "classics" because the expectations are somehow different. I had only read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, or maybe I never did read them but they are seared into my sub/consciousness. This book is a farce, but also a slice of life in what feels like the years just prior to the civil war. It's set in Missouri and the main characters are two boys, switched in their babyhood, such that the wee master of the house becomes the slave baby and vice versa. The mother of the slave, wh ...more
I'm not sure I've heard a less appealing title for a book - but what can you do? Pudd'nhead IS one of our main characters - an underutilized lawyer living in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi with a penchant for fingerprints and palmistry. At the heart of our story, though, is a case of switched identity - that of an infant light-colored slave and the infant son of his master. What different paths each life is then set upon!

It's an engaging story. I appreciated the intelligence of Twa
An interesting commentary on prejudice. I found it particularly interesting that the prejudice most emphasized was that against the title character. I thought it interesting that the townspeople were able to recognize that they were wrong about David Wilson's intelligence, but unable to see (indeed, I am not sure that Twain's story really demonstrates) that the prejudice against an entire class of people is wrong.
Both Roxy's and "Tom's" attitudes toward their race seems to agree with those of t
An interesting novel in a number of respects, Pudd’nhead Wilson was one of Twain’s later works. Incorporating common devices from previous literature, such as the exchange of infants that he used in his own The Prince and the Pauper, Twain has created a memorable and unique work that, if not one of his most outstanding, is nevertheless worthy of attention. It seems very much an experimental novel, reaching in creative directions but somehow lacking a smoothness and unity that would elevate it to ...more
Strange to have Twain give serious treatment to any topic, let alone slavery. The story is filled with classic themes from the writer: set in 1830's, babies switched at birth and a copious amount of cross dressing. The novel is filled with the tongue-and-cheek humor for which we have come to love Twain. A mention of dueling with artillery and giving citizens numbers rather than names are a couple of the comic angles Twain utilizes.

The story spotlights the arbitrary nature of the categories soci
An odd mix of Twain’s work, Pudd’nhead Wilson combines the character swapping from The Prince and the Pauper and the race drama in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was not at all what I was expecting. The title character, Pudd’head, is actually the cleverest person in the book.

Roxy is a slave, but is only 1/16th African. Her son is only 1/32nd African and in a moment of desperation she switches her son with her master’s child. The boys are almost identical and after the switch they are ra
If you want Mark Twain's version of a sociopath, this is the book for you. Tom Driscoll may be Twain's most evil villain.

The other reason to read this is that what opens each chapter is a quote or two from "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar," which contain some of Twain's best-known and funniest bitter one-liners.

******************SPOILERS START HERE********************

OK, so everyone talks about how bitter Mr. Twain was in this book. But I think it's not bitter enough. Tom Driscoll should have gotte
One of Twain’s later gems. Wilson is an attorney who, when newly arrived in the Mississippi River town, made a verbal gaffe that led to the locals’ universal use of the pejorative nickname and refusal to turn to him with legal issues for way too many years. A thief has been at work at the village, and there are no good leads to capturing that evildoer. When a dandy pair of foreign twins comes to town, after a most enthusiastic welcome, they come under suspicion for an object of theirs which is r ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
First Switched at Birth type book?? 12 30 Sep 20, 2014 04:12AM  
St. Anne's Readin...: Pudd'nhead Wilson Part 1 4 5 Apr 07, 2013 08:57AM  
Significance of the Italian twins? 3 34 Aug 29, 2011 05:19AM  
Switching the babies (for those who read the book) 5 40 Jun 16, 2011 07:16AM  
  • The Marrow of Tradition
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Short Fiction
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham
  • McTeague
  • The Rise of David Levinsky
  • Clotel: or, The President's Daughter
  • The American
  • Hope Leslie: or, Early Times in the Massachusetts
  • George Washington Gomez: A Mexicotexan Novel
  • The Great Impersonation
  • Dirty Tricks
  • Wieland, or, The Transformation
  • Poetic Justice (A Kate Fansler Mystery #3)
  • Benito Cereno
  • The Beast Must Die (Nigel Strangeways, #4)
  • Live Flesh
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories
  • Iola Leroy: Shadows Uplifted
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 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

Share This Book

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” 812 likes
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” 329 likes
More quotes…