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Pudd'nhead Wilson

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  21,387 ratings  ·  1,282 reviews
At the beginning of Pudd'nhead Wilson a young slave woman, fearing for her infant's son's life, exchanges her light-skinned child with her master's.  From this rather simple premise Mark Twain fashioned one of his most entertaining, funny, yet biting novels.  On its surface, Pudd'nhead Wilson possesses all the elements of an engrossing nineteenth-century mystery:  reversed ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published 1984 by Bantam Classics (first published May 10th 1893)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  21,387 ratings  ·  1,282 reviews


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Henry Avila
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
During the antebellum south on the western shore of the broad, mighty , muddy Mississippi River 2,350 miles long and miles wide, in the golden era of the steamboats ( numbering an astounding 1,200, vessels ) feed by more than a dozen tributaries, they continuously went up and down those waters and entered other streams too. A small , tranquil village named Dawson's Landing stood, half a days travel by boat below St.Louis in the state of Missouri not an important place mind you, yet when an intri ...more
mark monday
Samuel Langhorne Clemens: I shall write a classic novel, full of my customary barbed wit yet leavened with my compassion for humanity. I shall open the tale with a delightfully wry meta-introduction - before "meta" was even a thing! The wryness shall continue throughout what will be an exciting story of bold misdeeds, uncertain justice, and a compelling and surely very surprising trial. We shall end the tale with evil happily circumvented - but it will be an ending that is also dripping with iro ...more
Kressel Housman
Jul 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
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'h ...more
LaDonna
WOW!! Without divulging any spoilers, that was my reaction to the last sentence of Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson. Suffice it to say that the book took several twists and turns that I did not see coming, but each of them definitely kept the story moving.

There was no way I was going to pass on an opportunity to read a book with a premise such a this one: A white man, born free, but switched at 7 months of age to be raised as a slave. A black man, born into slavery, but switched at 7 months of
...more
Sara
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5, rounded up. Not my favorite Twain, but quite worth the reading.

Pudd’nhead Wilson is a tragedy masquerading as a farce, or maybe a farce masquerading as a tragedy. As was always true with Twain, he writes comedy that is so cutting that it can barely mask the underlying seriousness of his subject. The subject is slavery, and the farce is necessary, for the tragedy is real.

In this novel, two babies are switched at birth, one a master the other a slave, and through that prism we are able to vie
...more
Jim
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a teen, so probably 45 years ago. I thought I remembered fairly well. Nope! Oh, I remembered the main points, but it was almost like a new book & really worth reading. This is Twain's answer to nature versus nurture while satirizing race, religion, 'honor', & small town life. While the destination is wonderful, it's the trip that is best.

The story is so well known enough that there will be spoilers in this review.

Tom & Chambers are switched at birth by their nurse who had her bab
...more
Raymond
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book in a Southern Literature class about 10 years ago. I remember liking the book very much it is short and was a book that I was unaware that Twain had written.
Patricia Williams
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Read quite a few years back but never forgot it.
Joe
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Pudd'nhead Wilson is a brisk concoction; mixing adventure, mystery, and social commentary. Mark Twain trains his wit upon the arbitrary nature of 19th-century slave laws and rightfully skewers that wicked institution. But even as Twain's righteous humor often finds the mark, he nearly as often proves his naivete, as when he appears to condone another brutish custom; 'honorable' duels to the death.

Elsewhere, Twain cleverly explains the forensic power of fingerprints (before they were commonly use
...more
B. P. Rinehart
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
...more
P.V. LeForge
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Bill Kerwin

If you consider a mans “best” books to be the ones with the most consistent tone and the fewest flaws, then Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper are Mark Twain’s best works of fiction. If, however, “best” means the most interesting, the most resonant, even if the flaws are considerable and the results problematic, then that honor belongs to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Huckleberry Finn are—I would argue—The Tragedy of Puddin’head Wilson too.

The flaws and the problems of Twai
...more
Amanda NEVER MANDY
The transparent plot earned this read a three star rating. The author’s voice was very unique and distinct but the story itself was so-so. It had a missing piece feel to it like it was part of a continuous storyline and I happened to snag book three. The only memorable part for me was how the character obtained his childishly silly nickname. You know I walked around for at least three days calling everyone in my house a Pudd’nhead.
John
Pudd'nhead Wilson received his nickname because many townspeople considered him a fool. Although Pudd'nhead is not the protagonist, he plays an integral part to the story. I guess a subtitle could be, "How He Got His Name Back."

Mark Twain's tale involves a slave, 1/16th black, impregnated by the slave owner, Judge Driscoll. She gives birth to twins, now 1/32nd black, one to become the heir to the estate while the other to remain a slave. The mother switches the two at birth; therefore, the fate
...more
Camie
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Mark Twain’s darkest novel about a master and slave switched at birth. When Roxy a “ light skinned” slave swaps her son Chambers with the master’s son Tom ( Twain’s favorite male character name) they grow up in completely different lifestyles, as you might expect. When one of them commits a brutal crime the eccentric town lawyer Puddin’ Head Wilson himself is called in to figure it out. Luckily he has previously fingerprinted all of the townspeople as an odd hobby he happened upon and ma ...more
SheAintGotNoShoes
May 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Glad that is over !
I did not like this book much.
The idea of the infant switching was a good one, but then it got too convoluted and became a chore to continue reading.
The excessive use of the slave dialect was maddening and tiresome and this most certainly is not my favorite work by Twain at all.
Elena
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very uneven read for me. Contemplated abandoning the book two or there times but at the trial time of the plot picked up myself and ended up enjoying the book, especially after it ended - reading the author's notes about the evolution (metamorphosis even) of the story itself. ...more
Kevin Lake
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Monica
Amusing and cautionary tale of deception which doubles as a fable on the evils of slavery. This is perhaps one of the first novels that outlines "white privilege". Written in the late 1800s, this novel is way ahead of its time. Twain was able to see the viability of fingerprints as a form of evidence long before it was adopted in real life. That ability to understand the long term impact of science in ways that change world views is extraordinary. The book is not without it's pitfalls. Slavery i ...more
David Sarkies
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who want something different
Recommended to David by: Nobody in particular.
Shelves: historical
The Show Trial
21 January 2013

I had never heard of this story until I purchased a Samuel Clements (aka Mark Twain) book that contained it with two of the stories of his (Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer) that I wanted to read (and it also contained the Prince and the Pauper). In a way this story is very similar, but very different, to Prince and the Pauper. The similarities involve two boys that take each other's place, but that is pretty much where the similarities end. This story is set in the
...more
Dusty
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
...more
Tom Mathews
This entertaining American version of H.M.S Pinafore is a good book that suffers greatly from having to exist in the shadow of its more adventurous siblings, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Like its English cousin, it uses the old switched-in-the-cradle plot device to explore the subject of class divides, in this case racial. Sadly it also reveals a good deal about what Mark Twain himself thought about the subject which, despite his commendably progressive attitudes, still reflects an acceptanc ...more
David
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mark Twain's fiction has always left me feeling conflicted, and this has not improved with age. His incredible insights into human behavior, and his ability to dissect the (dys)functions of small town society, still pack a punch. He was a talented humorist and pithy philosopher. His portrayal of rural Black folk, on the other hand, has become more noxious with time. It's simply not possible to pass off these usually undignified, vulgar, shifty portrayals as "character studies". It's pretty clear ...more
Sarah
4 stars for Pudd'nhead Wilson, 2 stars for Those Extraordinary Twins. ...more
Emma Rose
Mark Twain is a very interesting author...an author I usually always enjoy. Not to say I didn't enjoy this book at all, it was just...different. I never really fully grasped the whole plot or purpose of the story. And then it ended and left me very perplexed. I did laugh many times throughout it and enjoyed some of the characters, but this is one I probably won't pick up again. ...more
Quo
Jorge Luis Borges once commented that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn in collaboration with that great American river, the Mississippi and the same could most certainly be said of Pudd'nhead Wilson, an imaginative novel representing a bifurcation of an idea into two stories, the 2nd one being Those Extraordinary Twins.



Pudd'nhead Wilson is a tale at once both simple & complex that explores the nature vs. nurture debate when two infants are switched in their cradles by their nanny, Roxana, hers
...more
Yibbie
May 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I liked this one much better than the last Twain work I read, but then I rather like the tongue in cheek type of humor. Twain is certainly a master there.
I shelved it as a mystery even though you, as the reader, are never mystified; instead it's a mystery to the characters. It done well enough. The only week point was Wilson's refusal to consider Tom as a suspect. It made for a more dramatic ending, but seems far fetched.
There is a lot of social commentary woven in. It doesn't take much to figu
...more
Elizabeth
Jun 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elizabeth
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, history
I found this book utterly fascinating. I had no idea what this book was about until I delved into it and I was completely absorbed from page one.

This book deals with prejudice in just about every area that you can think of: intellect, race, gender, social class and there was even some xenophobia thrown in for good measure.

This is a wonderful book for discussion!



Karen Chung
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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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

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