Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"King"+"Duke"= Outrageous Dastardly Duo

We all know that Twain loves the problem of mistaken identity and impostures.  We have seen impostures in The Prince and The Pauper, with the switched identities of the royal prince and the poor pauper.  We have also seen many instances of deceptive identities in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  One of the most recent occurances of deceptive identities is the episode where the "king" and the "duke" pretend to be Mary Jane's uncles and brothers of the deceased (Chapters 25-27).  This case of deceptive identities is probably the most horrid occurance of impostures I have seen in Huck Finn.  Just to remind yall what happened in these chapters, Mary Jane's father passes away, and the king and the duke come in to town pretending to be her uncles- Harvey and William.  The king and the duke get the "familial" hospitality one would expect from family members and they end up with "three thousand dollars in gold" (178) minus"four hundred and fifteen dollars" (179).  The two "uncles" put on an extravagent show that they will give the money to the orphaned Mary Jane and her sisters.  However, that is not really what the "uncles" plan to do.  they plan to try and find the missing money, sell the family's slaves, and the family's land property to get the most out of this poor family.  TERRIBLE!

However, the duke didn't really want to "rob a lot of orphans of everything they had"(190) but, the king wanted everything- what a GREEDY sorry excuse of a "man".  The king explains,
     "We shan't rob 'em of nothing at all but jes the money.  The people that buys the property is the suff'rers; because as soon's it's found out 'at we didn't own it-which won't be long after we've slid-the sale won't be valid, and it'll all go back to the estate. These yer orphans'll git their house back agin, and that's enough for them; they're young and spry, and k'n easy earn a livin'. " (190)
Even if the slaves and the land property ownership will be given back to Mary Jane and her siblings, the king is horrid.  the king, duke, and Huck pulls off an elaborate hoax of deceitful identities and trickery that, for now, leave Huck with situations that question his morality- however, this is a totally different topic.

Maybe Twain is trying to say that we should be aware of strangers and not trust anyone fully.  This is the cycnical side of me but, even family members can even be untrstworthy.  When people are decieving others, they are lying (obviously), but also faking their way through life.  Through all this faking and dishonesty-acting, maybe one loses oneself and does not truly know who they are.  Or is Twain saying that in reality, we all have different identities that we try out, through the process of growing up and maturing, to figure out who we are?  Is Twain commenting on the fact that we- you, me, everyone, immitate others, whether real or fiction to try out who we want to be?

Strangers Role in Huck Finn

The role of the stranger in Huckleberry Finn is interesting to me because you get to see how Mark Twain feels about strangers and how they act through the eyes of Huckleberry Finn who is most of the time a stranger to other in the book.  Huck Finn meets many stranger throughout the book and to all of them he lies.  Many times Huck lies to people to protect Jim from prosecution like when he ran into men looking for run away slaves on the Mississippi when hes trying to get to shore and ask his where abouts.  "Is your man white or black? ...'He's white.' 'I reckon we'll go and see for ourselves.' ...'Pap'll be mighty much obleeged to you, i can tell you. Everybody goes away when i want them to help me tow the raft.'"  Huck lets the men decide and come to their own conclusions from there.  The men ask Huck if his father has contracted smallpox and Huck says that he has.  Huck must lie in order to keep Jim safe from the clutches of slavery.  Huck does not lie because he is trying to swindle people he is lieing because he wishes to keep Jim safe. Huck also lies about who he is to keep himself safe from being returned to his abusive father. " Who done it? We've considerable about these goings on, down in Hookerville, but we don't know who 'twas that killed Huck Finn.' ' Well i reckon there's a right smart chance of people here that'd like to know who killed him. Some thinks old Finn done it himself." No-is that so?"  This shows that Huck made the right decision in lieing and that from now on Huck will never tell any stranger along the Mississippi who he truely is because it will mean they will turn him in since there is a two hundred dollar reward out for him. Huck is also not a very good liar because when the old lady sees him thread a needle she knows that he is not who he says he is, which is a girl since he has dressed up in girls cloths.  She figures it out and he tells yet another lie which she accepts.  Huck also gets caught in a lie when he is talking to the Hare lipped girl that the Duke and the King are stealing the inheritance from.  He talks of England and the King and how he regularly attends church but he forgets where he was suppose to live and she calls him out on it.  She asks how the king goes to church in Sheffield every day if he lives in London.  He makes up some cockamame story and she also believes it.  While Huck is a stranger and does a considerable amount of lieing he does'nt do it because he is trying to get money and cheat others he does it to protect himself and Jim.  This makes it interesting when you compare it to how strangers in Twains other stories are always self interested and lie because they want to cheat the other.  I wonder if Huck is actually going to turn out to be as self interested a liar in the end as the other stranger in Twains stories.

Common hoaxes in Twain's stories vs. hoax in Huck Finn

Twain uses a number of hoaxes in quite a few of his stories. We have discussed this in class, but I have recently noticed that many of the people who are playing the hoax on whoever, tend to get away in Twain’s stories. In the short story The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, we see Jim Smiley get conned out of money when a stranger came into town and Smiley bet the stranger that his frog could out jump any frog, so the stranger told Smiley, “I ain’t got no frog; but if I had a frog, I’d bet you” (CSS 5). This caused Smiley to go into the swamps and get the stranger a frog; the stranger took this opportunity to fill the frog with quail-shot so that the frog would be too heavy to jump. Once the challenge began and Smiley’s frog, Daniel, didn’t jump he was very confused because he had trained this frog for a while. Well, Smiley that meant that Smiley lost the bet, and the stranger got away with the hoax, “the feller took the money and started away” (6). Also, in Twain’s short story The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg, the stranger that plays a trick on the town gets away with it once again, with no consequences. Through an elaborate series of letters and a large lump sum of cash waiting to be collected by the person who could give the correct answer, a man was able to corrupt “the most honest and upright town in all the region around about” (419); “Hadleyburg in reality was an incorruptible town” (420). The stranger showed that this town was, in fact, corruptible and that the people weren’t as honest as they were made out to be. The man, once again, played out his hoax and did it with no consequence to himself. This seems to be a common theme in Twain’s works, the person playing the hoax doesn’t get punished, but the people who are being tricked seem to be the ones that do get punished.

I bring these two stories up because it is important to note that in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when Huck tries to play a hoax on Jim it backfires. In chapter 15, Huck tries to convince Jim that he has been in the raft with him the whole time. He tells Jim “I hain’t seen no fog, nor no islands, nor no troubles, nor nothing. I been setting here talking with you all night till you went to sleep about ten minutes ago, and I reckon I done the same” (Huckleberry Finn 97). Jim doesn’t seem convinced that what they had just endured was only a dream, but once he realized that Huck was trying to trick him, Jim was very upset. He made sure to let Huck know how he really felt:

when I wake up en fine you back agin’, all safe en soun’, de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss’ yo’ foot I’s so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin ‘bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ‘em ashamed (98),

which made Huck feel guilty about his actions. After a while Hick apologizes to Jim and explains “I didn’t do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way” (98). This hoax doesn’t seem to be like the majority of the hoaxes played in Twain’s other stories; this time the person who plays the trick, Huck, is punished for his actions by Jim, who was having the trick played on him. It makes me wonder why Twain choses this particular hoax to have a different outcome than the majority of his other hoaxes in stories? Is it because Huck is a young boy instead of a man? Or is it because he is playing a trick on a friend instead of a stranger?

Why did Huck have a change of heart?

Do you think that Huck is a moral person?  This is an extremely difficult question to answer, simply because every person can have a different perspective of what being "moral" means.  This would mean that we can have tons of different answers or statements over Huck's morality.  In class, my group talked about why, after the funeral, did Huck suddenly have a change of heart.  Although we all agreed that generally Huck did the right thing, and was always pretty moral. He still stole things (or 'borrowed') just to survive.  We all chose the same passage, "Well, if ever I struck anything like it, I'm a nigger.  It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race."  I thought that this passage was showing that Huck suddenly realized that they were going to con a group of people, who hadn't done anything wrong.  It wasn't as if they were conning people because they needed the money to survive.  Early, Huck had borrowed a chicken, because Jim and him had needed it to survive.  This was different.  Huck was in a gang, led by the king and the duke, who were using these people's emotions, to gain a profit.  It really is a terrible situation, and Huck finally realizes this.  Before I had read the three most recent chapters, I wasn't sure how Huck was going to act.  If he was going to tell the town what they were doing, and that the king and duke were frauds, or if he was just going to let the con happen.  

So far, Huck has decided to take the plan into his own hands, and has taken the money from the king and duke and hidden it in the coffin.  He plans to write a letter to Mary Jane and let her know where the money is in a few weeks. I believe Huck's actions now, prove that our originally theory about this particular situation made Huck somehow feel uncomfortable.  My question to you, is why?  Why was this situation different for Huck?  Why did his guilty conscience suddenly spark, and make him realize that what he was doing was wrong?  Was it because the people they were stealing from didn't deserve it?  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Roxy as the Sambo?

Roxy is a complicated character  to say the least.  She appears to be white physically but is a slave.  She buys into and believes the white aristocratic ideals yet, those very ideals keep her enslaved. She played the part of a sambo slave, which in itself is a very contradictory stereotype.  She physically acted submissive and content, yet mentally thought the opposite.  Roxy has so many different clashing characteristics, which lead me to believe in some way, she is playing the part of the Sambo slave.  In the first blog, I briefly mentioned what a sambo slave is like.  This stereotypical slave appears to be submissive, childlike, ignorant, happy, and content, with their station in life- slavery.  However, underneath the act, the sambo is cunning, smart, and manipulative, like Roxy.

On the surface, Roxy appears to be content and plays the part of the submissive sambo perfectly- "she began to long to see him.  She would fawn upon him, slave-like-for this would have to be her attitude of course-..." (page 101)  She knew how to get by with the white folk, to be undetected of her intelligence and manipulation.  She had to act the part of the sambo type of slave to get what she wanted, which is what most other cases of sambo slaves did, they played the part of contentment and submissiveness to achieve their goals, whether it be ultimate freedom, white masters' trust, or less severe physical labor/ punishment.  Roxy manipulated the imposter Tom, her son, to get money and survive.  She threatened him with his exposure of the one thirty-first drop of "nigger" blood (Chapter 8,15); thus showing her intelligence and cunning.

However, in the end, Roxy is too complex for just one stereotype, she goes beyond the bounds of just the sambo.  She is a strong- willed and intelligent woman.  She is a product of her atmosphere.  Roxy defies the ideal of a 19th century woman, her character breaks some of those stereotypical social norms.  She is as independent as she can be in a slave society, she plays a hoax on everyone in Dawson's Landing, and she is openly intelligent. 


I am writing this blog report on Roxy and the confusing nature of her personality and views on slavery.  Roxy was a house slave for the Driscolls in the story Pudd'n Head Wilson,  her complexion is white and she is only one sixteen black, she switched her baby for the child of Master Driscoll when they were babies.  "Tom" and "Valet" are the two boys and Tom is her true son.  "Tom" grows up as her master and their relation is interesting because although he is her son he is also her master. "Tom" is mean and cruel to her and "Valet" eventually the elder, Percy Driscoll dies and in his will sets Roxy free.  She spends a couple years on a boat that sails up and down the Mississippi as a chambermaid.  She chooses to remember "Tom" as nice and kind and overlooks his cruelty in her memories.  She returns broke because a bank went bankrupt and lost her money.  She at first begs "Tom" to help her and give her a few dollars.  He remains cruel and mean and says no until she holds over his head knowledge of what he thinks is his gambling debt. She reveals to him the truth, that he is actually her son and a nigger.  From then on he struggles and gives her large amounts of money every week.  This is interesting because Roxy seems to only care about the money that she can get from her son.  She cares naught about him and has no problem black mailing her own son.  After a while she asserts her control and begins dictating what "Tom" needs to do so he can keep him inheritance from the Judge who was Percy Driscolls brother and caretaker of "Tom".  The way that Roxy treats the inheritance is almost as if it is far more important than "Tom" to her.  She is very self interested and only cares about her own well being, and seems to only care for "Tom" because he is the fulcrum that her well being swings on.  Although when things turn for the worse again and "Tom" once again gets himself into gambling debt.  She offers to sell herself into slavery again so he can pay off his debt and keep his inheritance.  He betrays her and sells her down river and into chattel slavery.  She catches a bit of luck when she runs away from her new master and finds that the boat that she served as a chambermaid on for years is close to port.  She hops on and returns to her son to make him guilty.  She then demands that he go and steal the money needed to pay for her freedom from Judge Driscoll.  "Tom" has no choice but to obey his mother for she is still black mailing him.  He does and ends up killing his "Uncle".  Throughout the book Roxy was a powerful and influential character.  Although she did not play the role of loving mother very well, most of her decisions revolved around self interests and money.

Would Twain Be as Influential in Modern Times?

The few short stories and full length Twain stories we've read have had very similar themes.  Most deal with slavery, racism, titles, birthrights, and peoples roles in society.  In most of the stories, Twain has two characters switch places; sometimes on purpose, and sometimes without either characters knowledge.  The Prince and The Pauper is the first novel that we read that dealt with Tom and Edward switching places, and really learning the lesson that the grass isn't greener on the other side.  The book brings up the fact that relatively no loved ones or family members can tell the difference between either boy.  (Eventually Tom Canty's mother realizes that Edward is not her son, but it does take a while).

"Pudd'N Head Wilson"is the story of two boys and how they deal with growing up, not knowing that they are living lies.  The real Chamber's mother, Roxy, switched the babies at birth so that her son could grow up as a white man and be saved from being sold down the river.  This story is also able to succeed because once again, the father of Tom (the white slaver owner), cannot tell the difference between the two boys.

But as I read these books, and listened to the discussions in class, I was wondering whether Twain would be as effective now-a-days, as he was when these books were released.  He constantly used the twins or people switching places ploy/hoax, to bring about questions of whether a birthright exists, or if people will grow up differently, if they are given different opportunities.  Although he pokes fun at America, and it being the land of opportunity, I feel that most people in modern times have about the same chance as being successful as their neighbor.  This doesn't mean that every person in America has the same chances, but I feel as though the playing field has definitely evened out over the last 50 years or so.

Most of Twain's writing deals with huge themes like slavery and racism, which I mentioned before, and was able to use some very cool plot devices to help readers see things from other angles.  We still have problems within society, but I still don't think that Twain would be as influential if he lived in todays world.  Now, I'm sure that Twain would use different types of story telling to poke fun at the American lifestyle or politics, but I do think that the level of opportunity most Americans have, they can succeed without having to be born into money or status.

Some of the counter arguments to this would be that people who are born into money/higher class status gives them a leg up on other, less fortunate, people.  This is true, but if you look at some of the biggest success stories in recent times, like Bill Gates, JK Rowling, or even Barack Obama, you can see the trend of a person with a huge drive to succeed, struggling with either being poor, or having less opportunity that other, and in these cases, Gates, Rowling and Obama, were able to succeed.

Do you think that in modern times, there is a better chance for people to be successful in their lives. Or do you think that you're born into it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Power Struggle in Pudd'nhead Wilson

While reading Pudd'nhead Wilson, I have noticed that there is a huge power struggle between Roxy and Tom (who is actually her biological son). This also brings up the gender and position that these two characters are in and who really holds the power in their relationship. One of the first times that we see Roxy take control and really show how much power she has in on page 108-109, when she makes Tom get down on his knees and beg after she tells him about his true heritage and threatens to go to Judge Driscoll about the matter. This particular scene is important to understanding the struggle between the two characters because, for the first time, we see Roxy, an enslaved woman, take the upper-hand and almost switch the master-slave role with her son Tom.

Throughout the novel, we continue to see Roxy struggle for power over her masters. After Tom sells her in the slave-trade, she is put on a plantation where she works out in the cotton fields. Once Roxy sees her master beat a little girl for trying to share her food, Roxy becomes infuriated and explains to Tom, "All de hell-fire dat 'uz ever in my heart flame' up, en I snatch de stick outen his han' en laid him flat" (183). Again, we see Roxy take the upper-hand with her master and attempt to gain control.
I find it very interesting that Twain uses an enslaved woman for this role. She doesn't carry the docile role that many slaves in narrative embody, she is fighting to gain power and it seems as though she is trying to move up in societal classes. It makes me wonder if Twain himself struggled with issues of power, which compelled him to use a character that wasn't seen as a human being at the time to challenge this role within society? It also makes me wonder if he almost felt as though he was an enslaved person, almost trapped if you will, at the time?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Prince and The Pauper

"Once, when his royal "sister," the grimly, holy Lady Mary, set herself to reason with him against the wisdom of of his course in pardoning so many people who would otherwise be jailed, or hanged or burned, and reminded him that their august late father's prisons had sometimes contained as high as sixty thousand convicts at one time, and that during his admirable reign he had delivered seventy-two thousand thieves and robbers over to death by the executioner, the boy was filled with generous indignation, and commanded her to go to her closet, and beseech God to take away the stone that was in her breast, and give her a human heart"

"The Prince And The Pauper" page 158. 

This quote really stuck out to me when I read it last night.  I thought it was funny and made Tom Canty an even more real character.  Throughout the book, Canty seemed to learn less and care more about the riches and rewards that come with being a King, instead of remembering his own life.  This sentence was the first time in a while that Tom had seemed like his old self, and it seemed like he had a heart again.  As I said before, I felt like it was done in a funny way, but I also think it showed that even though Tom had been subjected to the hardships in his life, he still remembered them while he was impersonating the King.  Did anyone else feel that Tom Canty had forgotten his past, and was simply becoming another monarch that didn't care about the poor, and only how many servants he had?

So Fresh and Soo Clean

I am choosing to write about the role of cloths in The Prince and the Pauper.  Clothing is a very important part of the way people are treated in the book.  In the Prince and the Pauper Tom Canty, the pauper trades cloths with the prince of England, Edward.  The two boys features are strickingly similar and the only difference is the cloths that they wore.  After they switched the guards mistake the Prince for Tom because he is wearing rags.  The prince is promptly kicked out of the palace and Tom is now believed to be the true prince.  This theme of the cloths make the man is very common in Mark Twains stories.  Another story where this is a theme is in the million pound bank note.  When the poor man goes to buy things in his rags people laugh and do not treat him kindly but after he has purchased a suit on credit all stores treat him like royalty.  The Prince and the Pauper has a similar theme.  For even though Tom claims many times throughout the story that he is not the Prince they all believe that he has gone mad because he looks so much like the Prince.


I chose the quote from the last page of Chapter 3 in The Prince and the Pauper: "Here the jeering crowd closed around the poor little prince and hustled him far down the road, hooting him, and shouting 'Way for his royal highness! way for the Prince of Wales!'" (Twain, 19).

I chose this quote because I think that it says a lot about what the prince and the pauper both expected to happen when they traded places. The prince thought that he was going to have this wonderful experience being able to do whatever he wanted without having to be royalty anymore but still being recognized as the prince. However, he soon realizes that since the people no longer see him as the prince, the is treated with no respect and pushed out of the way. The pauper thinks that he will be able to live his dream of becoming royalty and that he will enjoy this life more than the life that he had before. But once he is in the position of royalty, it is much different than how he had imagined it. Especially since no one can tell the difference between the two boys.

They both end up in positions that they don't enjoy being in, and I think that this quote sets up the rest of the book in the sense that both boys are no longer in their niches. Neither one of them has been treated the way they are now treated and Twain seems to poke fun at the fact that sometimes when we get what we want, we realize that we don't really want it anymore.

Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows!

"And so I am become a knight of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows!  A most odd and strange position, truly, for one so matter-of-fact as I.  I will not laugh-no, God forbid, for this thing which is so substanceless to me is real to him.  And to me, also, in one way, it is not a falsity, for it reflects with truth the sweet and generous spirit that is in him."  page 65

My quote, as stated above, from The Prince and the Pauper, is said by Miles Hendon, who befriends the young Royal boy, Prince Edward VI.  Miles Hendon does not know that Prince Edward VI is telling the truth, when he talks about his royalty, but Hendon plays along with the young prince's illusions.  Just a moment before the quote of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows, the prince had knighted Hendon and he thus refers to this whole episode of the young prince the "Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows".  Hendon thinks that the young boy is just fantasizing about being the Royal Prince, therefore, calling it a Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows; only in slumber and in fantasy is Edward a prince and Hendon a knight (so Hendon thinks- SURPRISE! Edward is the future king of England!)  Hendon thinks that his knighthood is just a boy's play, but little does he know at this point in the story that he has actually been knighted and is not "substanceless". 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Slavery and the Idea of the "Sambo" slave

Slavery is a prominent topic found in Mark Twain's works. Relations between the colored and the whites occupy many stories authored by Twain, like in "A True Story".  Twain uses "Aunt Rachel" to portray a long known stereotype of the Sambo slave.  The sambo slave is depicted as a person who is submissive, faithful, superstitious, childlike and content; however, this portrayal may be just the outward persona a slave takes on, either to prevent a master's suspicion of any funny business (escape/ rebellion plans- like Nat Turner) or harsher punishment (beatings or labor).  The white masters came up with this idea of the "sambo" slave to provide a justistification for the enslavement of blacks.  The justisitification goes as follows, the blacks can't fend for themselves, therefore, the white masters must be the parent of the childlike slave, by creating a paternalistic relationship between the master and slave.  This ideal of the "sambo" slave, that the white master thought was reality, was in fact, not reality at all but, an illusion put forth by the cunning slaves to mislead their true intentions and character's.

I found that Aunt Rachel in "A True Story" illustates the characteristics of the sambo slave, when she was"sitting respectfully below our level, on the steps" and when she was never heard sigh and always had a laugh in her eye (Twain, 95).  She wasn't planning a huge rebellion or escape, but Aunt Rachel put on a front that she was perfectly content and submissive, albeit this story was set in the post-civil war era.  Maybe "Misto C" held fast to the inherited "sambo" slave figure, when he thought that Aunt Rachel had no trials or tribulations in her lifetime.  Maybe Misto C had thought that Aunt Rachel was just content, submissive, and happy to be serving the white folk, or maybe that's just what Aunt Rachel wanted him to believe and think, like most "sambo" slaves did.  But of course, this is all speculation of Misto C's mindset.  Was Aunt Rachel playing the part of the "sambo" slave?  Or was Misto C just an ignorant idiot who didn't pay attention to details (emotions)?  Or was Misto C oblivious to the fact that Aunt Rachel had deep human emotions- which also begs to the ask if Misto C regarded blacks as fellow human beings? 

We may never know the answers to these questions solely based on "A True Story", but it doesn't help to wonder about what Twain wanted us to contemplate about the slavery era and race relations between coloreds and whites.

Idealism vs. Reality

During class, we have discussed one of the topics that tend to be in many of Twain’s short stories: idealism vs. realism. I think that this is shown at great extents in his short story A Day at Niagara. In this story, the narrator, a white tourist, is visiting Niagara Falls and is expecting to have the perfect experience while there. However, he soon finds out that this is not the experience he will be getting. There is an overall tone of sarcasm is his voice while he talks about the time he spends at Niagara. At one point he says, “It is worth the price of admission to hear the guide tell the story nine times in succession to different parties, and never miss a word or alter a sentence or a gesture” (21); talking about how going on a tour isn’t really worth it because it is scripted. It’s not the authentic experience that everyone is looking for, even though most people buy into the idea that it is an authentic experience.

The narrator also has this idea that he is going to encounter The Noble Red Man, a man that he has great respect for because the narrator has read about this Noble Red Man in books, and is fascinated by the character that he always plays. However, the tourist comes to find that the Noble Red Men of the area aren’t at all kind, like the woman at the store told him, and that they are actually Irish immigrants. When the tourist approaches these “relics” he addresses them in a very racial way by using stereotypical jargon that would generally not be used by an outsider of a group. After the first man he approaches gets angry with him, the tourist tries to find another group of Red Men to talk to so that he can get the response he is looking for. However, by the time he approaches the third group, they beat him up, break his bones, and throw him over the falls.

Even though all of these terrible things keep happening to the narrator, he continues to pursue the experience he expects to have. He continually is unable to attain his expected experience. I think that this is seen all the time in society. We are continually trying to live the “American Dream” and we have such unattainable expectations of what is supposed to happen. Sometimes it is hard to realize that these ideals may never become a reality. But, Twain pokes fun at this idea, through the narrator in this story, that if we continue to strive for the experience we are expecting to have, that it will eventually become our reality. Once again, in A Day at Niagara, Twain shows us that no matter how hard we try to get the authentic experience, and live in the ideal world, that it is simply never going to happen. It is just part of life, and we have to learn to live in reality and let go of our ideal world.

The Role of Strangers in Mark Twain's short stories

The role of strangers in Mark Twain's short stories is one of ill repute.  In the story of  The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County the narrator is looking for information on a person name Reverand Leonidas Smiley in a bar.  He begins talking to a stranger by the name of Simon Wheeler who tells the narrator he knows nothing of the Reverand but he did know of a Jim Smiley.  He tells of a Jim Smiley that was obssesed with gambling and who used to train animals to win bets for him.  He trained a frog to jump higher than any other frog and named him Daniel Webster.  One day he found a stranger willing to take his bet that his frog could jump higher than any other.  The stranger says he would take Smileys bet if only he had a competing frog.  Jim offers to go and find him one, and he does but while he is away the stranger fills Daniel Webster with shotgun buckshot.  When the time comes for the competition Jim loses and the stranger gets away before Smiley figures out he was tricked. It would not be a great leap to say that Wheeler told the narrator this story to hint that he himself was tricking him and not telling him the information he desired.  The strangers in the story were both distrustful.

In The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg the stranger leaves a sack of gold for the man in town that once lent him twenty dollars.  The person must recite the statement he told the poor man after giving him the twenty dollars if he is to recieve the gold. The people who are first left with the money are the Richards.  They tell Mr. Cox who owns the newspaper and give him the instructions for how to recieve the money so he may include it in the newspaper.  All the citizens manage to reasonably conclude that it must have been the late Mr. Goodson who gave the poor man some money since he was the only one capable of making such a large donation. The meetings are held in the town hall and for the next three weeks not a soul in Hadleyburg can come up with the comment.Then the noble nineteen citizens of Hadleysburg all recieve a letter from a man named Stephenson who claims that Mr. Goodson only liked their family and would have wanted the money to be theirs.  Stephenson says that he recalls that night and the comment is "You are far from being a bad man. Go, and reform".  Before the next meeting all ninteen households give the religious figure who is running the meeting a note that says they were the ones who gave the poor man the twenty dollars.  The meeting is held and all but the Richards are found to be distrustful and corrupted after the relgious figure read off the same statement eighteen times.  Their uncorruptable town was now proven to be corrupt.  The stranger in this story was not to be trusted and wanted nothing more than the downfall of the town's pride.

This connects well with the story The E1,000,000 Note because the narrator of the story is given a one million pound note from two strangers.  Although the strangers as Ms. Cooper has already summarized were good in nature and rewarded the narrator with a wife. This is interesting because it is the only story where a stranger has been anything but bad.  It is also the only story that has not taken place in America. Perhaps this has some correlation.

What is Money?

Gregory Peck as Henry in Man With a Million

After reading Twain's short story "The 1,000,000 Pound Bank Note," the reader is asked to decide for themselves whether money is simply a symbol of wealth, or if it must be spent to be considered "wealth".  Twain raises an excellent question.  I found myself wondering what would happen to the main character, Henry Adams, who before receiving the money from the two rich brothers, was actually a very poor man.  The story begins with the two brothers arguing over the value and importance of money.  Oliver believes that simply having the note will give the owner anything he wants, without him ever having to cash it.  Rodereick, the other brother believes that since the note is worth so much money (1,000,000 pounds) that no one will be able to cash it or offer change, so it will be rendered useless.

Once the brothers decide to give the money to Henry, his life begins to change dramatically.  Henry tries returning the note at first, but the brothers had left town so that the experiment could commence.  With one million dollars in his pocket, Henry decides to go get some food and then new clothes. But what he starts to realize is that at first, no one will help him, simply because they can tell by his ragged clothes that he's poor, but then they all change when he shows them the note.   He gets his food put on account, and is told that he can spend as much as he likes, and that the owner trusts him to come back and pay.  Henry tells the restaurant owner that he doesn't know when he'll be back in the town, but still, because he's seen the 1 million dollar note, the owner trusts Henry to return with the money.

Check out a trailer for the 1954 film

As Henry begins to "spend" more money, more and more people begin to know who he is, and he soon begins to be written about in the paper. Even though no one can break the 1 million pound note, he is still able to buy and do whatever he wants as soon as he shows people the note.  The best comparison I can make to modern times is that Twain is comparing this 1 million pound note to credit cards.  Just as we buy on credit when we use credit cards, so does Henry.  

By the end of the story, we realize that Oliver is correct when he bet that just simply having the note would make the owner wealthy.  Money was just a symbol.  People treated Henry differently and with much more respect once they saw the note than before.  I think this really relates to the old saying: don't judge a book by its cover.  We are always told this as children, but as we saw through this story, Henry was judged until he showed everyone his one million dollar note.  

After reading the story, did you think that the money affected Henry more, or if the use of the note affected other peoples perceptions of him more?