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Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  4,299 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
A slave of mixed blood substitutes her son with her master's son and comedy ensues.
Hardcover, Norton Critical Edition, 384 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by W.W. Norton & Company Ltd. (first published 1893)
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Jun 29, 2007 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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
Barnaby Hazen
May 26, 2016 Barnaby Hazen rated it it was amazing
Terrific classic. Genesis of CSI, if you think about it--early courtroom drama. I'd really be interested to know when the concept of the fingerprint being used as evidence came about, because Twain did a great job presenting it as if for the first time in this little historical town.

So there's this other item of personal note, meant especially for authors currently alive and writing. Twain's use of colloquial, phonetic language on behalf of African American slaves is beyond reproach given what
Jan 03, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2012 Lainie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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).
Nathan Jerpe
Feb 05, 2016 Nathan Jerpe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detective, humor, 1890s
I went for the Oxford Mark Twain edition. Highly recommended. If you're going to spend time with the master, do it right. The edition is in hardback and it's a facsimile of the original 1893 printing, so you get all the illustrations and orthographic oddities.

This is my second OMT out of twenty-nine total. I've been thinking it'd be a nice life project to sit down and read them all.
P.S. Winn
Aug 14, 2016 P.S. Winn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark Twain is amazing and anything by this author is a great read grand adventure, humor and extraordinary writing make this and all the author's books great for readers of all ages,
Mar 29, 2008 Avery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never realized how awesome a writer Twain was until I finished this novel.
Susan Marcus
Mar 16, 2017 Susan Marcus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read almost every novel Sam Clemens wrote, but saved this one for its timeliness. Why timely? Mark Twain's biting insights into the frailities and hypocrisy of American common culture pertain to current U.S. cultural and political phenomena. Endemic racism, demogoguery and the embrace of gossip and misinformation supporting unshakeable core values are a few American characteristics he satirizes. I cringed as I read it but couldn't resist nodding, yes, Mark Twain, you are a creature of your ...more
Pudd'nhead Wilson is an extraordinary novel wherein Mark Twain explores the human condition through the lenses of humor, suffering, irony, and race, et al. Twain's dexterous use of these lenses allows the reader a waterfall of new insights into what it means to be alive.

Twain's exploration of how race affects what it means to be alive is stunning & edifying on every plane of understanding & existence I am capable of experiencing -- it may even be stronger than Huckleberry Finn in this as
Ayu Palar
Feb 15, 2009 Ayu Palar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marty Reeder
Jan 15, 2016 Marty Reeder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve revisited a few of my favorite Mark Twain reads over the past year, something that a newborn son--who has become the namesake of my childhood, literary hero, Mr. Twain himself--has helped to accelerate. But it has been a while since I have read a new piece from the great legend. I believe Roughing It was the last one I perused, and that one underwhelmed me. Well, it was high time that I turned my attention to a novel of his that I had long intended to read but hadn’t yet gotten around to: T ...more
I mostly read this for Pudd'nhead Wilson. Which was ok, but not that great.
The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson is one of the more obscure works of Mark Twain, which is a shame. Twain wrote this novel toward the end of the 19th Century, but it was set in the Missouri of the 1830s to 1850s. This is the setting for many of Twain's most beloved novels, such as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Like those two novels, Pudd'nhead Wilson is a humorous work full of social criticism, particularly attacking the evils of the antebellum South, slavery, race relations and the class system.

Ray Ziemer
Sep 09, 2015 Ray Ziemer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A couple years ago I found this nice illustrated and boxed collector’s copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson at the excellent book store in Virginia City, NV. It’s a classy-looking illustrated volume with some color prints, a foreword from Mark Twain, and the Pudd’nhead Wilson’s “calendar” of sayings as an appendix. Finally got around to reading it, and I’ve got to say, I’m disappointed.

First of all, the binding was so dried out that it cracked when I opened it. Oh, well. Books are for reading, not for look
Rick Diehl
Feb 12, 2014 Rick Diehl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 19, 2014 M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pudd'nhead Wilson is an excellent book. Twain has many powerful points to make about the arbitrariness of race and the way it's socially constructed nature often interacted with slavery in very strange ways. The characters are generally all fascinating, even if they aren't very likeable. Roxy is a really great character who has to deal with the strange paradox of being considered black and a slave even though she appears white. Her actions throughout are not always full upstanding, but they are ...more
Russell Sanders
Aug 25, 2016 Russell Sanders rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a longtime literature teacher, I admit I had never read any other novels by Mark Twain than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a novel I’ve read countless times. On a visit to the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut—which I heartily recommend—I bought a copy of Pudd’nead Wilson. What a delight! The book is laugh out loud funny, moves along quickly, and paints its African-American characters as quite human indeed. Yes, because it was written in a time when the word was widely used, the ...more
East Bay J
Oct 02, 2010 East Bay J rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
Mar 07, 2016 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 01, 2012 Kristine rated it liked it  ·  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
Apr 26, 2013 Garren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
Kyle Wright
Apr 11, 2011 Kyle Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 "
May 11, 2009 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 30, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book demonstrates what an amazing storyteller Mark Twain. What an imagination, a story where nothing is as it seems. Pudd"nhead Wilson is thought a fool though he is really a brilliant observer of human life. Children switched at birth must follow their destiny. The rich nephew is really 1/32 black while the slave son is "100%" white. The "white" child is evil while the "black" child is talented and good. Roxana the slave mother must live with the choice she made to save her son. All truth ...more
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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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