The book, Puddnhead Wilson, seems like a modern day soap opera.
It has onemain theme with other stories and subplots that revolve around it. With allthese stories, Mark Twain must of had many influences to help him write thiswonderful book. Before we begin to discuss that, let me give you a littlebackground on his book. Contrary to the title Puddnhead Wilson, the maincharacter, to me, seems to be Roxanas son Valet de Chambers/Tom Driscoll. Whythe reason for the two names? Well, let me explain. Roxy is 1/16 part black, butthat still makes here black and a slave.
She belonged to Percy Driscoll, who hadson named Tom. Tom was born around the same time that Roxys son, Chambers,was. Both boys looked remarkably alike, since Chambers is only 1/32 part black,he too looked like white boy. So, in order to save her baby boy from gettingsent down the river, she switches the two babies. It seems almost like thetwinned, but unrelated story of the Prince and the Pauper (http://etext.lib.
Most of the story revolves around Roxys son, Tom/Chambers, but there are someother subplots mixed in with their tale. Another plot that you would read, wouldbe about the extraordinary twins. These Italian twins, Luigi and Angelo Capello,come to Dawsons Landing to rent a room from old Widow Cooper. The whole townquickly becomes infatuated with their stories of royalty and far away places.While reading, one cant help to wonder if these twins are lying about theirlavish lives to the naive towns people. The actual story of Puddnhead Wilsonhimself is and interesting one.
His real name before the dubbed him PuddnheadWilson is David Wilson. Hes a young lawyer, who just moved into the smalltown. On his first day there, he made a comment to a couple of the locals thathe would regret for many, many years to come. This is the same time when hedbecome known as Puddnhead Wilson.
Later in the story it shows how he finallyover comes that nickname after many years of living with it by using his unusualfinger print collection hes been keeping. In the book you will also readabout a murder, a trial, and a prophecy. One may wonder where Mark Twainsinfluences came from. Well, it all starts in his home town of Hannibal,Mississippi (http://etext.
lib.virginia.edu/railton/wilson/pwhompg.html). In manyof his books he models the town off of where he grew up and this is also truefor the village of Dawsons Landing in Puddnhead Wilson.
Even though hemoved the village a couple hundred miles down the Mississippi, you still seeinfluences from his childhood. Before Twain ever thought of writing PuddnheadWilson, he first wrote Those Extraordinary Twins. After he finished writingThose Extraordinary Twins, he wrote a letter to Fred Hall, in which he said,”I begin, today, to entirely re-cast and re-write the first two-thirds — newplan, with two minor characters, made very prominent, one major charactercropped out, and the Twins subordinated to a minor but not insignificant place.The minor character will now become the chiefest, and I will name the storyafter him — Puddnhead Wilson (http://marktwain.miningco.com/library/letters.bl_letter921212).
“At first, Puddnhead Wilson, was going to be a farce about Siamese twins (mttwins).Instead, it turned out to be a story of irony of two almost identical babiesswitched at birth. One was white and the other was only 1/32 part black.
Thatsmall fraction made Chambers a slave and doomed to a life of poverty, abuse, andfear of being sent down the river, even though he look exactly like a whiteperson. Mark Twain originally had the book published under the name The Tragedyof Puddnhead Wilson and The Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins (pwhompg). Itwas first published in America on November 28, 1894 (pwhompg).Now, you can seethe book as just Puddnhead Wilson. Its funny how Mr. Twain calls it thetragedy of Puddnhead Wilson, when in the end he redeems himself and is seenas popular and prestigious.
Wouldnt you consider that more of a success andnot a tragedy?