Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pudd'nhead Wilson Concluding Discussion

Step One: Please post your best question.
Step Two: Please respond to another's question.
Step Three: Discuss amongst yourselves.

Items that could be interesting to consider:

  • Ideas about motifs and themes. 
  • Your reaction to the ending.
  • Your final insights about Nature vs. Nurture; black and white; twinning; the question of race.
  • Reactions to this fact: Twain set his novel in pre-Civil War Missouri but wrote it post-Civil War.  Why does he choose such a setting since the war against slavery has been won?
  • Do you see any connections between small-town Dawson's Landing and small-town Littleton, CO?

106 comments:

  1. Do you think that there is a “Pudd’nhead” Wilson in every generation to produce new ideas and social norms? And if so, do you think things could end in a similar way to how this story ended?

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    1. Every generation has innovators that others believe are fools. It makes me think of Emerson's "Self Reliance" where he argues that society is usually wrong about geniuses and the future demonstrates society's ignorance.

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    2. Yes, I think there is. I think that Pudd'nhead was a jab at people who criticized new movements in technology. I thought it was really odd that the citizens said after the trial was finished, "Yes, but [the name Pudd'nhead] isn't vacant-- we're elected." Twain is saying that you shouldn't be quick to assume what is right and wrong because of your limited previous knowledge. Tom carelessly leave his fingerprints on the glass slide showed that you really shouldn't underestimate the power of something that you have limited knowledge of. Many of the world's greatest inventors and scientists were shunned in their communities because they didn't think exactly along the lines of how society was taught to think.

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    3. @Beth There has to be a "Pudd'nhead" in each generation in order to move society forward. If there is no Pudd'nhead, then the society goes nowhere, and accomplishes nothing. Pudd'nhead is a free thinker, and those types of people are essential in any society. You can not have a society without free thinkers, there will always eventually be one. However, in the modern world, the outcome of free thinkers is significantly different. In the book, Pudd'nhead uses his free thinking abilities to bring down the other free thinkers, Roxy included. In the modern world, as in my ALIS texts, the free thinkers more often are criticized, ostracized, and stopped by close minded people. It is very rare that free thinkers gain ground, but it is becoming a norm.

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  2. Does privilege lead to dissatisfaction?

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    1. Yes. "Tom" grows up in privilege, but he is dissatisfied with the money he has. That's why he gets addicted to gambling and is willing to do anything to get the judge's inheritance. Some people are very hard to satisfy.

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    2. @Eliana2017 I believe that no matter who we are, privileged or unprivileged, black or white, whatever, we will always be dissatisfied in some respect. Nothing is going to fulfill us to the way we want, human nature is constantly searching for more.

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    3. @Elianal2017 I think privilege does lead to dissatisfaction because the more we want the more we get and we fill our lives with meaningless things items instead of surrounding ourselves with people, family, and activities that make us happy and give us true enjoyment.

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    4. I believe that everyone has some sort of privilege in life and it does not lead to dissatisfaction necessarily, but to taking for granted to privileges, and only needing them when they are gone; both Tom, Roxy, and the Twins were this way; Roxy needing a place to stay and people to depend on, Tom needing his money flow to fuel what he was raised to have, and the twin's need for attention that they didn't appreciate, but expect.

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    5. (Absent) Yes, privilege does lead to dissatisfaction. This is seen simply through "Chambers" and "Tom" , for he has nothing and he is happy and Tom has many more privileges and isn’t happy. I believe this is due to the fact that you can be content with whatever you have if it’s all you know. That explains the quotes “Money can’t buy happiness” because even if you have more money, doesn't mean you are going to be happier. Having an abundant amount of sources means that you have more to be unhappy with. Like Beth said, privilege allows for us to have more meaningless material things and forget about what truly makes us happy, such as family and friends.

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  3. Is there a correlation between how Roxy acts and how "Tom" acts? Does this show Twain's belief on nature vs. nurture?

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    1. I think that Twain is trying to point out the nurture side vs. the nature side. I think that Tom acts so disrespectfully because as a kid he was given everything, creating a disrespect for authority. With Roxy, I think that she was mistreated and freedoms were taken, creating anger within her so when she was given the chance to disrespect "authority" later in life, she took that chance.

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    2. My theory is that Twain is actually proving the nature side because Roxy and "Tom" use almost the same methods such as; "Tom" selling Roxy down the river, then Roxy selling "Tom" down the river, Roxy blackmailing "Tom" and then "Tom" setting up traps to take down Roxy. These characters act so similar that I think Twain is proving that "Tom" is how he is because he comes from Roxy.

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    3. I think that Twain was trying to point out nurture vs. nature, however I believe that he does this in a way for the reader to look at both ideas; "Tom" could have acted disrespectful, and awful towards Roxy, because of his nature. On the other hand "Tom" was handed everything in life and allowed to have everything he pleased or wanted which could make him into the person he was. I agree with Josie about Roxy, but the counterargument to that is "Chambers". He was white, but treated bad, and unloved on top of everything, but he still turned out humble and good, portraying nature over nurture.

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  4. I thought that the ending was really American. By that I mean it was a little bit like an underdog story. Puddn'head, who was supposed to be an idiot comes up in the end and proves everyone wrong. I think Twain is making a claim about what the underdogs in society have the potential to do.

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    1. I'm not sure that he is focusing on underdogs but focusing on what truth is. Wilson, I think, represents the validity of concrete evidence. Up until now there has been no real evidence, just assumptions and pseudo-science. Wilson was the only one to have real proof of everyone. I think Twain is actually making a claim about how facts are the only forms of truth.

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    2. @josiel2017 I think, for Twain, he hopes to be Puddn'head in some respect. He hopes to abolish false evidence and give truth, changing people’s opinions, and that is his point in writing the satire. To abolish lies with sarcasm and irony. But, then again, I think that Twain’s point could also be that ‘things can never be righted until prejudice, pride, and power are done for’. Because this can all happen again. Wilson now has pride and power, as does Chambers. Just because there is supposed justice doesn't mean that prejudice, power, and pride and the things that come of that are going to stop.

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    3. @josiel2017 I agree. I think the ending was very predictable in the way that the underdog succeeds, and everything is set right. I was expecting more of a twist from Twain.

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  6. Why is the book named after Pudd'nhead Wilson as he is such an insignificant character?

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    1. He may not be the most significant character, but he undergoes the most change during the story. He starts out with a reputation as a pudd'nhead, but then he solves the whole mystery.

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    2. Josie said in her comment that maybe Twain was making a claim about what the underdogs in society have the potential to do. This could be why Twain named the book after Pudd'nhead Wilson. Also, most of the main characters in this text are dynamic while Wilson remains Static.

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    3. I think that the book is called Pudd'nhead Wilson because he was the one who found out that Tom and Chambers were switched and was the reason why the village did not kill or jail the Italians. He also was a dynamic character because he is seen as the town fool for his metaphors and new science but in the end people see his intellect after his ideas worked in solving a crime.

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    4. I think Pudd'nhead Wilson as a character plays with the idea of prejudice. On his first day in the town, he is labelled as a fool, and that is what sticks with him. Being a "Pudd'nhead" is his most distinguishing feature, which could parallel to skin color being a black person's most distinguishing feature. Both get their reputation, and every knows them and defines them by that. However, Pudd'head ended up serving justice and proving his intelligence, the exact opposite of what everyone thought he was at first. Maybe black people can do that same thing, overcome the prejudice and end up being much more civilized than their skin color would lead people to believe.

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  7. What is the importance of Puddn'head’s calendar
    In the beginning of the book, aphorisms that relate to stories everyone knows- Adam and Eve. Bat starting in the middle of the book they speak to what Puddn'head is going through. What is Twain trying to signify with this? Where is the climax?

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    1. On some level, I think it's Twain showing his wit. On another hand, he is creating some metafiction--a story within the story.

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    2. I think that the calender is definitely used to point out satire within the novel. I also believe that in the beginning of the book, the quotes relate to stories we all know so that we will easily understand them. As the book goes on it has more to do with the characters so that we are drawn more to the story and pay more attention to the satirical comments. I believe the climax is where Tom learns that he is part "negro". I believe that is the climax because that is the point in the book where Twain's ridicule of this slavery idea reaches a maximum point, where the reader really begins to feel uncomfortable with what is going on

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    3. I thought his calendar held a major significance in the story. I think they paralleled with underlying themes of the book, and I found all of them very interesting. I also thought it was funny that it was Wilson's calender, almost as a reminder that a different way of thinking is not necessarily bad.

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  8. I think what Twain is trying to say is that even though things are technically “righted” why do we feel so wronged? Twain knows that the societal norm doesn’t apply to actual life. There is no closure in revenge or payback. For example, the death penalty. Many believe it has it’s purposes, however once the life has been taken from this world does that make us feel any better about the wrongs they committed (maybe temporarily but not long term). Somehow Chambers ended up still being the slave even though he was freed. He didn’t have the freedom to chose how he was to live his life. Twain is trying to convey that we are all slaves to the ones who tell us information about life/ourselves (even if their evidence is skewed). This was shown by the Barriger passage that we read. Anyone can create made up information. Through all of it the real struggle that Twain is wrestling with is truth. How can something be truly verified or valid?

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    1. @Abbey This is so true, and I think it really relates to what Dickinson says about truth. All truth, real or not, defines us and who we say we are. Maybe we can't handle the full truth, and maybe we can, but any truth, slanted or not, defines us to a point where we can't get over that truth that has been hammered into us. Somehow, when we see the full truth, the untrue truth still reigns true to us in some respect. Does that make sense?

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  9. Considering the fact that Twain consistently makes fools out of characters and shows their gullibility-think Roxy being sold down the river- is he truly satirizing these characters? If so, in what way, and what is he trying to change with this form of satire? If not, then why is he making fools out of these characters?

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  11. My reaction to the end of the book was one of confusion probably like everyone else in this class. I was seriously baffled at the way that Roxy was able to get away with everything that she had done without getting in trouble. Also, I thought it was extremely strange how the twins just kind of disappear back to Europe. If they had stayed they probably would have been adored like they were before they were accused. They really didn't have a life to go back to in Europe. Finally, it was very ironic how Tom was sold down the river just like his mom, again highlighting the idea that social Darwinism is flawed.

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    1. I think the ending with the twins is an interesting one as well. Throughout the story I've been suspicious of the twins being frauds and lying about doing what they've said they've down and I wanted more of a conclusion to there story. At the end of the book, they just go back to Europe and I'm left wondering if the twins really are who they say they are.

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  12. Did the twins mean to cause such an uprising in this town? They mention several times that they have lived in different cities several times and the fact that they were only renting a room suggests they maybe didn’t mean to stay too terribly long. So is their “goal” to create chaos every time they move somewhere new? If so, why did they chose to stay for so long if they had a very good chance of being executed?

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    1. They always remind me of the Duke and Dauphin in "Huck Finn." Twain likes a pair of hooligans who trick others for personal gain. L and A aren't that devious or aren't clearly so, but there are similarities.

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    2. In this respect, the twins have a really Romantic lifestyle - that is to say, live fast, die young, and experience everything you can in between. I'm not sure they purposely go around trying to cause trouble (that seems more like Tom's job in this story) but it definitely seems that their moving towns so often may come from all these sticky situations (i.e. murdering guys)

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  13. I actually thought that The Crucible was more realistic than this book. Overall, it has a happy ending. Justice is served, everything gets back to normal. In The Crucible, it was brutal, but the ending was unanticipated, because people always expect a happy ending. Why do you think Twain ended the story happily?

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    1. I think that is a really interesting point. Throughout the book he pokes fun at social norms, but then he decides to do something that seems very social norm-like and cliche.

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    2. On paper, Twain ended the book hapily. But in reality, nothing is the way it should. The judge is dead, and Chamber's (the real Tom) life is ruined due to his life in slavery. Twain is saying that although things may seem normal, a return to normalcy can never be achieved.

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    3. Sometimes I wonder if Twain got cold feet and backed out of the ending? Then, other times, I'm more convinced of Jessie's point.

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    4. I don't think the book was a "happy ending" - small picture, it definitely seemed like it, but big picture, nothing was righted.
      Take “Chambers” (the real Tom) for example; he was robbed of his life of luxury as a child, then robbed of the life he knew as a 20-something year old. He’ll be ostracized as a white person because of his black habits, but can’t continue to associate with the slaves, because he’s still technically white.
      On the flip-side, “Tom” is being sold down the river, but he’s also white-passing and trained as a gentleman, meaning that his life as a slave may be potentially easier than most (i.e. he’s too well-trained and beautiful to work too hard in the fields) - does he deserve that “good” treatment?
      I wouldn't say this ending is a "happy" one so much as a cliffhanger.

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    5. I would compare Pudd’nhead Wilson to Radbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (while not perfect, things have a chance of betterment) and conversely, The Crucible to the end of Orwell’s 1984 (far less satisfying, but gut wrenchingly realistic). Often times, stories become untangled in the end. That’s how a basic plot structure works, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. If you consider the period he’s writing in, and the cutting satire throughout, romanticism is an easy target for him, especially romanticization of certain things (IE the twins, small town life, the houses, owning slaves). He’s still making fun of small towns, like how at the beginning everything is perfect and it must circle back, if that makes any sense. Like how everyone in the town wishes to continue convincing himself of things that aren’t true because it makes life easier. One thing we know about towns like this is that they’re conservative, and he could be making fun of their inherent dislike of change.

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  14. Who is the hero of Pudd’nhead Wilson? Does it have a hero at all? Or is it more a case of anti-heroes (someone who lacks typical heroic qualities, think Deadpool or Illyana Rasputin). If there is a hero, what qualities make them so?

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    1. I think perhaps Wilson is the hero - he uncovered the truth and gave justice to where it was needed, essentially righting the wrongs committed by the community. The town celebrates him as such for those actions, and perhaps Twain was trying to get the reader too as well.

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    3. I thought that this was really interesting because in one of my responses I mentioned that Tom, the main character, was the (or at least one of the) antagonists. It struck me that Twain used the main character as the one who is doing morally wrong things, yet still gives us a view into his emotions and thoughts. Twain did that a lot during the book. Most of the characters were given complex emotions that struggled with the good for themselves vs. for the community. At the end of the book when Tom was handcuffed, Roxy again was given an emotion that could manipulate the reader's feelings because she again shows that motherly trait that began everything. Maybe Twain is trying to say that there are many sides to a story, and something that seems correct may be changed by the knowledge of the inner workings of a character’s mind.

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  15. I believe that a symbol of the book for power is the knife, not only does the one hold is have the power, but the knife itself is symbolic, it is beautifully crusted in jewels. The jewels show the facade and beauty that power can seem to show, but the pain and harm it will cause when given to someone, because someone else is always trying to take it, and power can tear people apart. I think the end showed that nature will always overtake nurture, because of "Tom's" and who he was he was destined to be/become a slave and that's why his actions led to that. Nurture, on the other hand is still shown, because of how "Chambers" cannot be happy in this expensive "white-man" property, because he did not grow up with these ideals. Twain uses these two characters to juxtapose each other.

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  16. I think it's interesting that "Chambers" isn't really happy when he is freed from slavery. He's gotten so used to slavery that he can't assimilate with white people. What is Twain's point here?

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    1. I think its to show that sometimes when we think about something that we want so much we over glamorize it and we think that it'll be perfect and everything that we imagined it would be, but in actuality it really isn't. He's showing that by freeing "Chambers" that often times things to meet up to our expectations and we are let down.

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    2. I feel like Twain is trying to point out the difficulty of change. I feel like this adds to Twain's argument about nature verses nurture and Twain is trying to say that nurture is stronger or else "Chambers" Would've been contented.

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    3. I think that Twain is using this to still satirize, even to the very end, people who don't even think/it doesn't even come to mind that black and white might not really matter, we should be who we are. Now, no one accepts Chambers, they don't believe he is the same person he always was just because he isn't a little bit black.

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    4. And this was a real problem for ex-slaves. I think that's one important point of Twain's timeline--when he set it vs when he wrote it. Freed slaves had very few options.

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    5. I found this very interesting also, and I think it has to do with a matter of human nature. We don't like to go out of out comfort zone, so when he was freed and suddenly living a completely opposite life, he was extremely uncomfortable. Also things are never what they are built up to be, and everyone glamorizes the life of a white man, but no one imagines how difficult it would be to switch lives from a slave to a white man.

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    6. Its all about how used to his surroundings. It's become a home to him, and he doesn't feel comfortable leaving the only life he's known until this point. He feels secure in slavery, has gotten used to it. When a drastic change is made to the environment on such a scale, it can be hard to accept.

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    7. This can also be seen in modern day. This reminds me of the movie Shawshank Redemption, when you have lived one life for so long, you forget any other way to live.

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    8. It connects back to the nature v nurture. Chambers has been nurtured as a black person, and that's who he is, who everyone accepts him to be. The fact that he is ostracized and uncomfortable as a white person really demonstrates the nurture side. His nature only makes him white physically. He doesn't connect with them at all on a emotional level.

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    9. Warning: this is probably going to seem extremely morbid, but it could be compared to the people who were freed from concentration camps at the end of World War II. Alot of them got out and ate a ton because they were so hungry, but their stomachs had shrunk in their time at the camp. Thus, the leading cause of death among survivors was their stomachs bursting when they were given food. It’s like that with Chambers, he doesn’t want to be where he was but he can’t let himself “eat” because he knows what will happen. He will always be caught in between two worlds, too black to be white, too white to be black.

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  17. I think why Twain used such a secluded community was to set up a perfect testing ground. Since everyone knows each other it gives that much more power to each individual. What other reasons would Twain use such a community?

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    1. The small town mentality is always made fun of, the way everyone agrees on everything, how they are so set in their ways. I think Twain is almost comparing America to a goofy small town, kind of pointing out how everyone makes fun of small towns, but isn't racism in the entire nation the same thing? Everyone just accepts slavery. It's not questioned, not many people rise against. Slavery is the way it always has been, and therefore the only way for it to be, which is a very small-town way of thinking.

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  19. Chambers grew up a slave who was neglected by his mother. Only to find out that his real mom had died. Even though he was freed in the end, he remained unhappy. Why did Twain leave this unresolved?

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    1. Twain left this unresolved because if this were to actually have happened, it would have remained unresolved. "Chambers" was unhappy because he had built up expectations of what it might be like if he were ever freed and it wasn't what he thought it was going to be. He had grown up as a slave and thats all he ever known, he wasn't quite sure how to function in a proper white society simply because thats not the reality that he had known.

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    2. I feel that the reason that Twain left this unresolved was to show that even in the end, "Chamber's" was going to be unable to return to society. Up until this point he did not truly understand why Roxy "his mother" never really payed much attention or cared for him until he discovered who his parents really were and who he was. After he was freed and returned to life to live as a white man, he was unable to fit anywhere into society because he was raised as a black boy and therefore talks/acts like one even though he is originally white. This goes back to the concept of his own personality and the nature vs. nurture concept of that he was raised in an entirely different lifestyle that highly prevents him from being able to easily just go back to the original life he was meant to lead if the babies had not been switched. Twain makes sure to point this out and that he is unhappy because no matter what race you are, the majority of who you become is as a result of how you were raised. I feel that Twain did this to show that the whole concept of slavery and racism has no real bearing in society as that "Tom" was accepted in society even being black and no one could tell the difference. However, "Chambers" being originally white was not as accepted into society as Tom because of the differing way he has been raised and was unable to entirely change his basic idea's he had been taught since he was very young.

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    3. "Chambers" grew up as a slave and was mistreated and did not deserve it. When he was finally set free he probably was thinking that he was lied to his whole life and was mistreated for no reason. He also realized that it was almost to late for him to earn respect because everyone knew him as a slave and will not be able to be more than that.

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  20. How do our expectations of others impact our perspective (and our willingness to change that perspective)?
    The Italian twins were celebrities, but in the end were more or less shamed out of town. On the other hand, Pudd'nhead was regarded as a fool, yet used his "pseudoscience" to win a court case.

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    1. I think Twains point here is that people are constantly changing. By this I mean that we as individuals are always changing, so our judgement on someone can never be definite. I think that Twain is using this to ridicule the idea of slavery- at one point people would decide someone was a slave so they weren't worth anything and that judgement would remain the rest of their lives and Twain is saying that judgements need to always be changing. This is also an example of how Twain can be applied to our daily lives because even with peers our judgement needs to always be changing. Ultimately what we expect of people is never really what we receive, unless we taint our own judgement with the illusion vs. reality aspect.

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  21. How prominent is judging someone based on what our parents and society tell us to think, or stereotyping, today versus back in Twain's day? In Dawson's Landing, there was no question that black people were meant to be slaves, and anyone with a single drop of negro blood was a slave, and no one questions that. Do we see that today in any group of people?

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    1. I think stereotyping is still just as prominent today as it was back in Twain's time. Stereotyping has changed and started targeting different groups today but it's still very much here. Homosexual people still cant marry one another because we say that they can't. Black people couldn't be actual people and be treated with equality because we said they couldn't. I think this stereotyping comes from fear of new things. We're afraid to change and adapt to the modern day so we dwell in the ideals of parents and grandparents.

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    2. Stereotyping and racism is still prominent today although slavery isn't. Stereotyping is something we use to categorize and make sense of people and for the most part people tend to be more narcissistic towards everything which is why stereotypes are never good things. Like Grant said, unless you fit into the mold that was created a long time ago meaning straight, middle class, white and mostly men, you we're as good as them. We tend to stick with what we know and thats what we have done and since we were infants we have been told what to think. Generations tend to have similar ideas because thats what our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents have thought as that is their role of influence on us.

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    3. Racism is institutionalized in American culture; take, for example, police brutality against black people (Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner). America's prison industrial complex is the new slavery that exploits its disproportionate number of non-white (primarily black) inmates and runs, basically, as a giant money-making corporation.
      Modern racism, stigmas, and stereotyping is present in all peoples - that's why Pudd'nhead Wilson is still relevant today.

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  22. Was anyone else dissatisfied with Twain's execution of his satire? It was far too complex for readers to interpret without help, and I imagine if upper-class women were reading this at the time, I’d imagine they wouldn't understand the satire either. It just seems like it’s this inside joke where Twain is the only one who understands it, and he just laughs in the corner at the human race.

    For example, it seemed like he was attempting to comment on the ideas of nature vs nurture, but his thoughts on it didn't seem concise and often contradicted each other. "“Tom did his humble comrade these various ill turns partly out of native viciousness, and partly because he hated [Chambers] for his superiorities of physique and pluck, and for his manifold clevernesses” (page 21). Twain says “Tom” had a “native viciousness” (insinuating that blacks are innately vicious and harmful), and yet the entire premise of the book is how nature vs nurture doesn't matter because we’re all people and we’re all, in essence, the same, regardless of skin color.

    Twain supports the previous statement by writing this in the conclusion, “[Chambers] could neither read nor write, and his speech was the basest dialect of the negro quarter. His gait, his attitudes, his gestures, his bearing, his laugh—all were vulgar and uncouth; his manners were the manners of a slave. Money and fine clothes could not mend these defects or cover them up; they only made them the more glaring and the more pathetic” (page 139). Since Chambers had grown up as a slave, rather than a slavemaster, he presented the traits of slaves, even though he didn't have any black blood. Thoughts?

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    1. I think Twain purposefully made the book kind of ridiculous in the sense of him constantly contradicting himself. I think he uses these paradox's to make the reader question the validity of nature vs. nurture.

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    2. I think his ideas contradicted each other to force people to think about their view. It gets people who agree with one side to subconsciously understand the other. When they get confused they really have to think about which side is right and understand each in better light. So by broadening the books view people of both sides will accept it.

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  23. If you owned half that dog would you kill your half?

    Tom cut off his friendship with Wilson, rejected and sold his mother, and killed his uncle. Why does Tom continue to cut himself off from the only people supporting him?

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    1. Tom could have been craving attention. Sometimes when people go through a hard time, they don't want people to help them, they just want to sit there and feel bad. Although Tom didn't want people to know about his crimes, if he had just talked about his feelings, as cheesy as that sounds, the judge wouldn't have been murdered.

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    2. If I owned half that dog, I would nurse it to health.
      I love how you brought back this comment Kyle, because I believe Twain uses it to make fun of the townspeople in a way. The townspeople are ready to kill Luigi, half of a set of twins who share one body, and I think that it is interesting how Puddn'head is ridiculed for saying that at the beginning, but then when they want to hang the twins, he ridicules the rest of the people for not seeing the evidence and wins power and popularity.

      I think that Tom wants to be an individual in his own right, and wants to separate himself from his 'bad' past (being 1/32nd black). So he does all these things to be independent, only ending up being completely dependent on them in the end.

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  24. Why is it important that that Twain points out at the end that Chambers, although has returned to society as a “white man” is unable to truly fit in with society’s standards anymore?
    I feel that the way that Chamber's and Tom turned out was affected by their own personalities and the concept of nature vs. nurture.

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  25. What is Twain's ultimate point about nature vs. nurture? What side is he on? That's still bothering me.

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  26. Who do you think has control over the town?

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    1. I think that Pudd'nhead Wilson does, because he ends up getting the last laugh and making sure the town gets justice. He also has everyone's fingerprints, and the fingerprints somewhat resemble hidden power in the way that Wilson is able to prove a murder with an untested method of science.

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    2. That connects to on of Peter's questions. I think that Twain used such a small community because everyone knew one another which gave them all that much more power. I think the point is is that no one has direct power over the community, they all are somewhat like lemmings and just follow everything that one person says, making the the controllers of the community without them even realizing it.

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    3. The power over the town changes hands as the story progresses. In the beginning, Driscoll has control, then Roxy gains power when she switches the babies, then she keeps it through most of the book. The twins also gain some power, but lose it when they are accused of killing Driscoll, so both parties lose control. Ultimately, it is Pudd'nhead. He exposed Roxy at the trial, and brought her down. In the end, he had the most power.

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  27. It was funny that "Tom" made fun of Pudd'nhead Wilson for his fingerprinting, which cause Wilson to look at "Tom"'s fingerprints and found out he was the killer and he was a slave as well.

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    1. Yes, this is very ironic. Tom's arrogance ended up incriminating him. Twain adds this to the story to make the point that you shouldn't ridicule something that you don't know about.

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    2. There was a large time gap between when "Tom" made fun of Pudd'nhead for his fingerprinting and being accused of murder, but maybe "Tom" was scared that he would get caught if he were to do something bad like murder someone, and was trying to cover up that fear by convincing Pudd'nhead that what he was doing was stupid and useless to get him to stop.

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  28. @Abbyd Pudd'nhead Wilson isn't the main character, however I think he is a necessary character for the theme of the story. In a very broad perspective maybe this book isn't even about slavery at all. This book could be about how throughout the book Twain captured our attention on Roxy and Tom and the twins while Pudd'nhead Wilson only was important near the end. Maybe he is saying how easily the humans mind can be distracted or manipulated. He was able to distract our thinking towards a completely irrelevant plot while the real theme he is conveying is how society can easily hold a blind eye to the truth. I think this is why we read that passage about Barringer. He was able to pull facts out of thin air without any sufficient proof and people believed him. We believed Twain when he pulled our attention to the irrelevant characters because we have trust in the common knowledge basic writing styles. However the birth of unproven facts is the concept of common knowledge. It is all the facts that our parents or teachers have told us without us questioning it. Twain named the book Puddn'head Wilson to expose us to the details we are missing.

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  29. Towards the end of the book, I felt like Twain was making a really strong point about TRUTH and credibility. Throughout the book, credibility is thrown around carelessly an at times has very dire consequences ( the twins almost on deathrow). Eventually, it ends up in the right hands, but by hat point plenty have been wronged. What do you think Twain's point is about the function of society?

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    1. I think Twain shows us Truth is very hard to come by. If we follow others in their thoughts and actions we will never be able to question validity, and find things out for yourself. He also shows that it is human nature to avoid the truth if it hurts ourselves in any way. This goes back to Damned Human Race with the idea that we, as humans, are able to justify our actions even if we know they are wrong, because we want to protect our identity. Also, Twain shows that the function of society it very comfortable and when someone or something disrupts the way things are, everyone is confused, for they know no other way life functioning in society.

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    2. I think Twain poses ideas and questions why people follow blindly toward things they do not know much about; everyone would change their opinion on someone instantaneously, because of one word someone spoke about them.

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  30. Why does Roxy essentially go unpunished when she was the one who created all the problems to begin with?

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    1. I think that is really interesting. I see it like a game of hot potato. The blame gets tossed around and essentially everyone touches it, but it only matters who it lands on at the right time.

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  31. Great insights, all. Take a few more minutes to wrap up your insights. Please be sure you've posted at least once in order to get credit for today's Socratic.

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  32. Is justice really served when Tom's punishment is to become a slave when that's what he was going to become anyway?

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    1. He probably wouldn't have become a slave anyway. If Pudd'nhead hadn't looked at the fingerprints, he wouldn't have noticed that Tom was the murderer OR that he was switched as a baby. But yes, I think justice is served. Tom abused his freedom, so he ought to lose it.

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    2. But if he was never switched, then he would have grown up as a slave.

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    3. I think it kind of shows how Roxy's intentions were destroyed as the book progressed. She was willing to die and kill her son so that he wouldn't become a slave and then went on to exploit him. This ended up with Roxy selling "Tom" down the river. It's complete hypocrisy and is very satirical.

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  33. Is there a real form of truth? Can truth be pure with human intervention? How does Twain prove or disprove these ideas?

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  34. I think nature and nurture have an equally important impact on a person’s life. I think people completely rule out one or the others effectiveness when one starts to overshadow the other, however I think they are always at play with each other. I also think that each person has a different nature and it doesn’t depend on your skin color. It’s kind of just how you were made and that’s all. “Tom” could have been just as cruel without freedom, and who’s to say that “Chambers” wouldn’t have turned out the exact same as “Tom” had the situations been switched, Or Visa Versa. In this case though nurture is overshadowing nature, and I think his situation did push him to become the man who stole for a living and murdered the man who cared for him. For example, one could say that “Tom’s” aggressive and deceptive personality is just how he is, it wouldn’t have mattered had he been a slave or had he been free. However, Twain uses “Tom” and his situation to highlight the connection between power being given and power being abused. Before Roxy switched the children you heard very little about the children’s personalities. Then, when they were switched, and the power was shifted, Twain used “Tom” as an example of the effects of power. I think this is very effective because he is using a child, someone who is completely innocent. By doing this I think he is targeting society, and societies search for power.

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  35. I also wonder about Roxy’s character. We seem to never really be able to trust her to the point where her plead for mercy almost seems pathetic. I am not sure what Twain is trying to tell the readers, but I think it has to do with how unaccepting the readers are of change. We find it really easy to believe the change that she can turn into a bad person but for some reason, as society, we can’t wrap our head around someone one changing drastically for the better. Twain might be saying something about our ethics as opposed to Roxy’s. It is an interesting thought how we can put labels on things. In the early stages of the flower we call it a seed, then we call it a bud, then we call it a flower, then it dies and starts over next season. However when we see a human we see it as an infant a child, a teenager, then an adult for the rest of its life, there is no rebirth of someones identity in ones single lifetime. It is hard to be seen as innocent as an infant while you have the appearance and experience of an adult.

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  36. How can something be truly verified or valid? Where is proof originated from?

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  37. Pudd'nhead Wilson doesn't really tell the Truth slant; various characters are really blunt about the way they tell the Truth (i.e. Roxy telling Tom about his race; Luigi revealing he killed a man; etc.)
    I think I've been focusing too hard on whether or not the Truth was being told slant or not I forgot about the other part of the poem: the straight-up Truth is blinding, which it definitely is to the townsfolk of Dawson's Landing.
    Their opinions are really quick to change based upon...not much. ("tunnel vision", if you will). They are always oblivious to other facts. When Pudd'nhead makes one single ridiculous comment, he gets called "Pudd'nhead" for the next 20+ years. When the Italian Twins arrive, the ENTIRE TOWN is enthralled, simply because they're Italian. Tom starts one rumor that the twins invented their fancy knife, and the entire town then chooses to believe that.
    Twain is pointing out that The truth can’t be made from one single event or perspective, like how the people of Dawson’s Landing are prone to do; rather, we’ve got to be constant observers and form opinions and both learn and observe as events unfold.

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  38. I think it is interesting that Roxy, who seems to be the most untrustworthy character, is trusted by many other characters in the story. Could this be Twain poking fun at how we are unable to find actual TRUTH in people? And society as a whole struggles with finding truth in anything?

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  39. My favorite quote from the book, that I think says a lot about Twain's message:

    "She sent out the sort of whole-hearted peal of laughter which God has vouchsafed in its perfection to none but the happy angels in heaven and the broken and bruised black slave on earth" (Twain, 85)

    What do you think this means? Why does Twain compare Roxy to an angel, when we know of all her sin?

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  40. It's very ironic to me that it ended with Tom being sold down the river. The theme that it made me think of comes from the phrases "What comes around goes around." And "Getting a taste of your own medicine." Although these seem childish and like something your parents would tell you to make you behave, I think it shows a deeper meaning of the gain and loss of honor. Tom used his privilege and honor to do many dastardly things, such as stealing, killing Driscoll, and sending his own mother down the river. In my opinion, the end of the book is satisfying because Tom lost all of his false honor and became a victim to the same horrible acting he committed.

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