Helynne's Reviews > Pudd'nhead Wilson
by Mark Twain
by Mark Twain
Jun 30, 09
Read in March, 1986
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 slavery in the town of Dawson's Landing, Missouri in the years just before the Civil War. Part of the plot revolves around two baby boys, born at the same time, one white, and one part black, but so white that one would never know it. The mother of the black boy, who is herself only one-thirty-second black, doesn't want her son to grow up a slave, so she switches the babies, and what results is years of deception and farce. Twain weaves into his story the new-fangled idea of fingerprints that are unique to each individual, as well as some courtroom drama, which I always appreciate. The supreme irony of the story is saved for the end, and serves as a damning testimony to the absurdity of slavery as an institution and racist policy.
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