Monday, February 14, 2011

Mark Twain - "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County"

Mark Twain always did a wonderful job of writing humor into his stories. "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County" is disappointing to the point of tears, but Twain creates a sense of humor that distracts the reader from the main plot. Still, Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County" continued along the same path as the definition of Realism, but, more specificly, Twain was very good at writing Regionalism pieces, such as this short story and his ever-lasting classic novel, Tom Sawyer, which tells of a boy, Tom, and his friends who travel through life encountering numerous wonderous tales that are full of strife and danger. In this story, though, Twain depicts Calaveras County, another small town full of complicated and confounding situations. Naturalism should certainly not be used to describe "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County" because, even though a reference to animals, frogs, is listed in the title, the human characters are not truly compared to them (Twain, 498-502). The frogs' and human beings' lives are led completely differently, and there cannot really be too many connections between the two as it is (Twain, 498-502). Yet, that does not detract from the overall description of Regionalism because dialect is hugely important in all of Twain's works. Once again, the natural vernacular is only the beginning of describing the dialogue the characters have in most, if not all, of his works. The Southern accent is enormously prominent in "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Cavaleras County." For instance, Twain writes, "And Smiley says, sorter indifferent like, 'It might be a parrot, or it might be a canary, may be, but it ain't - it's only just a frog.' And the feller took it, and looked at it careful, and turned it round this way and that, and says, 'H'm - so 'tis. Well, what's he good for?'" (Twain, 501). Society is also an important role in Twain's work. His characters try and try their very best to keep a steady form of income, but sometimes it just feels too difficult. Smiley, however, musst have had some trouble finding work because he makes his money in only one fashion, by gambling. Luckily, though, Smiley has "practiced" so much that he wins most of the time, so, for him, this "work" really pays off (Twain, 498-502). Wheeler, another character in "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Cavaleras County," talks about Smiley's success at horse racing, dog fights, cat fights, cock fights, bird fights, and finally bug fights, listing them in descending order by size, and how Smiley also bets on Parson Walker's preaching and his ill wife's chances of recovering (Twain, 498-502). Clearly, religion is part of this story because he is even able to make bets against God himself. But, other than the mention of God, religion is not important in this story's main plot. Still, government is not useful in this short story, either, and a Hero is never really established. But, human nature and the chase of the American Dream are both important because Smiley reaches the shared goal of gaining riches by doing what he knows best. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, or a talent for gambling, make lemonade, or go out and beat the system. He accomplishes the American Dream by using his talent to make himself happy (Twain, 498-502).

Works Cited

Twain, Mark. "The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County." Glencoe Literature. Ed. Jeffrey Wilhelm. American Literature ed. Colombus: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 498-502. Print.

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