American Literature

   Reading Journals for Mark Twain 

Pick the question that you feel that you can answer the most completely.
There is no one question that is "better" than the other one

  1. Is Twain playing into simple stereotypes and prejudices by having the villain of the character really be African-American, even though he was raised as a white man? If he is, how can we defend Twain's reputation as a writer sympathetic to blacks? If not, then what is he saying by having Tom be the bad person even though he was raised with all the advantages that a slave wouldn't have?  answer this journal 
  2. Compare Roxie's experience of slavery with Douglass's. Roxie's situation is being written by a Southern white author 30 years after the Civil War. How much of a difference does that make, if any, and why? (or why not?) answer this journal

  3. Twain uses science and progress in this novel, primarily with Wilson's fingerprints. But what is he saying about that progress? Remember, we've already had the Age of Reason give over to the Age of Romanticism. Here we have Twain writing and using elements of both emotion and logic. Which one "wins?" Which is Twain showing as having more power and impact on people's lives? Explain your answer as completely as you can.  answer this journal

  4. Twain is often used as an indicator of American literature's shift from romanticism to "realism." At the same time, he's a humorist who uses exaggeration. Indicate how we see realism at work in this novel -- what is more realistic than a romantic would portray it? answer this journal

  5. Explain, as best as you can, why the novel is named Pudd'nhead Wilson, and not something else. The name of a novel is supposed to identify a central theme or character in a work, but does this title?    answer this journal

  6.  Twain is well known for his humor, and humor is an important component of American literature (even though most textbooks and teachers try to hide it). Indicate how Twain uses humor in this novel, and whether you think the novel is stronger or weaker because of the use of humor.  answer this journal