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Pudd'nhead Wilson

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  11,528 ratings  ·  713 reviews
Set in a town on the Mississippi during the pre-Civil War era, "Pudd'nhead Wilson" centers its plot around a deception of switched identities involving a child born free and a child born slave. It is a novel of biting social commentary and enduring relevance. It is also a melodrama and a murder mystery, and it introduces one of the author's most delightful characters: Pudd ...more
school binding, 176 pages
Published January 1st 1964 by Turtleback Books (first published May 10th 1893)
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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'hea ...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
Ken Moten
"There are three infallible ways of pleasing an author, and
the three form a rising scale of compliment: 1—to tell him
you have read one of his books; 2—to tell him you have read
all of his books; 3—to ask him to let you read the
manuscript of his forthcoming book. No. 1 admits you to his
respect; No. 2 admits you to his admiration; No. 3 carries
you clear into his heart.
" —Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the prin
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Pudd'nhead Wilson is a brisk, strange concoction of adventure, mystery and social commentary. It is also a disjointed combination of the astute and the naive; Twain shows biting commentary on the wickedness of slave laws, but appears to condone the 'honor' of the barbaric custom of dueling; he cleverly explains the forensic power of fingerprints (before they were used commonly in criminal investigation) but also ascribes scientific power to the flim-flammery of palmistry. Even the title feels od ...more
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
Brandy Wilcox
Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors. This is why I read the book. David "Pudd’nhead" Wilson, a lawyer who collects fingerprints as a hobby, makes a regrettable remark that causes people to call him Pudd'nhead. He later meets a slave woman by the name of Roxy and takes both her child and her master’s child’s fingerprints. Time moves on and Roxy decides to switch her son with her master’s to shield him from becoming a slave. It is funny. Her master could not even recognize his own son. Will W ...more
Mark Twain can certainly spin a story. Despite his remarks at the end that told how Pudd'nhead Wilson changed radically from a short amusing tale of the twins to what it became, this is a must read!

The tale is beautifully told. You just know that Pudd'nhead Wilson's recreation of collecting fingerprints was going to be important. Frankly, the tale lay wide open for the reader, yet that did not diminish the beauty of it one iota.

I bet some will miss the storytelling wonders in order to scold a ce
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.
Mark Twain never fails to weave an extraordinary tale! Chapters start out with thought-provoking and humorous aphorisms from Puddin’head Wilson’s calendar to the delight of the reader. This story takes one through many layers of issues dealing with anti-slavery, relationships between father figures and son, and mother and son, scientific discovery, deception, mystery and suspense. The characters are fascinating and speak in the vernacular of their station in life, which is part of the genius in ...more
Omnipotent Dystopian Now
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
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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
First Switched at Birth type book?? 12 34 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 41 Aug 29, 2011 05:19AM  
Switching the babies (for those who read the book) 5 42 Jun 16, 2011 07:16AM  
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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 about Mark Twain...

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“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.” 846 likes
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” 341 likes
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