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
Open Preview

The Tragedy Of Pudd'nhead Wilson

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  20,351 ratings  ·  1,190 reviews
"The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson" begins with the act of a young slave girl exchanging her light-skinned child, fearing for its safety, for that of her master's. From this reversal of identities evolves a suspenseful murder mystery and courtroom drama. "The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson" is everything one would expect from a novel by Mark Twain. On the surface it is a witt ...more
Published January 1st 2005 by (first published May 10th 1893)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Tragedy Of Pudd'nhead Wilson, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Tragedy Of Pudd'nhead Wilson

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,351 ratings  ·  1,190 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Tragedy Of Pudd'nhead Wilson
Henry Avila
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, but when ...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 irony and p ...more
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 Wilson r ...more
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 a
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 nu/>The
B. P. Rinehart
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 y"If"There
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 Twain’s fiction stem from theargue—The
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 l
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.
Jul 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kevin Lake
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
David Sarkies
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Wilson
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Well let me start of by saying I bought six of Mark Twain's books for twelve dollars. SAY WHAT? Library sale, that is what. I bought them because I know he wrote many classics and I HAD TO HAVE THEM! Wasn't sure if I would be interested in his stories because in high school all I heard was negative things. Pushing those thoughts aside I read this novel, which is the shortest of the six I have.

Needless to say it was great. I really enjoyed it. Predictable, but fun to read. This story
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.
4 stars for Pudd'nhead Wilson, 2 stars for Those Extraordinary Twins.
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
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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
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 t
Katie Bananas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I have no idea how this book escaped my notice for so long!
This was really really interesting: part social satire with all of Twain' s trademark social realism, part debate on nature vs. nurture, part thrilling courtroom drama; this really has a bit of everything.
Excellent story, and easily my favorite Twain book yet.
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

"Tom" is a fucking asshole, Roxy is a horrible woman/mother and Twain's writing style is obnoxious as fuck. only giving it 2 stars rather than 1 because it wasn't as horrible as huck finn at least
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 the highest ...more
Barnaby Hazen
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
First Switched at Birth type book?? 12 36 Sep 20, 2014 04:12AM  
St. Anne's Readin...: Pudd'nhead Wilson Part 1 4 6 Apr 07, 2013 08:57AM  
Significance of the Italian twins? 3 68 Aug 29, 2011 05:19AM  
Switching the babies (for those who read the book) 5 45 Jun 16, 2011 07:16AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Marrow of Tradition
  • El Nuevo Houdini
  • Iola Leroy: Shadows Uplifted
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham
  • Intruder in the Dust
  • Middle Passage
  • Benito Cereno
  • Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
  • Life in the Iron Mills
  • Babbitt
  • Of One Blood: Or, the Hidden Self: The Givens Collection
  • Daisy Miller
  • Ragged Dick (Ragged Dick, #1)
  • The Red Badge of Courage & The Veteran
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs
  • The Best of Robert Silverberg
  • Outlaw Tales of Utah: True Stories of Utah's Most Famous Rustlers, Robbers, and Bandits
  • Wingin' It with the Wright Brothers (Tall Tails #1)
See similar books…
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 worked as a typesetter and
“April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.” 1408 likes
“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.” 943 likes
More quotes…