The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County | My Paper Hub
American writers of the nineteenth-century such as...
American writers of the nineteenth-century such as Charles
Chesnutt, Sarah Orne, Henry James, Jack London and Mark Twain among others have
been widely celebrated and renowned because of their incredible literature work
that depicted the life of Americans during their era. Whether the plot was
about slavery, women, men, expatriates in the western frontier, or even the
post civil war south and Europe, they have been able to deliver nothing but the
best. When America was experiencing a major transformation from the agrarian
economy to an industrial powerhouse, American literature was also witnessing a
huge transition from the influence of romanticism to embracing realism.
Romanticism was used initially to celebrate freedom, the spirit of
individualism and the pursuit of worldly ideals. Realism would now focus on the
daily life struggles of people. William Dean Howells began the movement of
literary realism in the 1870s which reached its climax in the 1890s and 1900s
before a new generation of American writers sought to focus on writing about a
life they knew in a truthful and accurate manner. Realism is not just a
movement to individual American writers but also a literary form that is
realized in the use of language of the writer, the kind of characters they
choose to create as well as their choice of setting ("The Celebrated
Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County Summary - Enotes.Com")
One of the literary works during this historical period is
“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” This book was written by the
legendary Mark Twain and was originally published in 1865 after which it brought
him national attention and great access as a writer. Literary elements that are
central to Twain’s dexterity include shrewd symbolism, plot, writing style,
allegory, imagery, setting, point of view and tone among others. In the book,
the narrator (Mark Twain) retells a story that he heard from a bartender named
Simon Wheeler at the Angels Hotel located in Angels Camp, California, a gambler
called Jim Smiley. Old Simon Wheeler tells the narrator an amusing story Smiley
who has a trained frog. Being the
notorious gambler he was, Jim was swindled one fateful day when a stranger fed
his dog buckshot thus making smiley lose a bet. At an urging by a friend, the
narrator visits a chatty old man named Simon Wheeler who lives in a mining
settlement known as Angel’s camp. From him, the narrator hears the story of a
man, Jim Smiley, and his famous jumping frog. Smiley perpetrated several
betting schemes before training his frog. One of these betting schemes includes
one that involves a bull-pup named Andrew Jackson, who usually won dog fights
through latching onto one of the hind legs of his opponents. Elsewhere, a
stranger bets Jim $40 that Jim’s celebrated frog cannot jump any better than an
average frog. While the back of Jim is turned, the stranger manages to fill
Jim’s frog with buckshot. Jim doesn’t realize this until when he loses the bet,
and he has no means to win the money back.
This story is told in a frame narrative with a writing style
that is clever and colloquial. The narrator makes use of educated diction by
explaining how absurd Simon Wheeler is. Simon Wheeler narrates the inside story
and his tall tales about Dan’l Webster, and Smiley are told by using an
uneducated vernacular. To begin with the title, the story was published as “The
celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County.” It was published as “Jim Smiley
and his Jumping Frog and also “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
All these three are typical “tall tale” titles that suggest a myth about an
amazing frog. All the three titles do not hint at the political undertones in
the story, which can be found in the name of the amazing frog called Dan’l
Webster and a feisty dog Andrew Jackson. Also, the narrator describes his
character Smiley in an intriguing way where he describes him: "If he even
seen a straddle bug start to go anywhere, he would bet you how long it would
take him to get to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would
foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was
bound for and how long he was on the road." It was this sense of style
that made Twain a famous writer during this time and paved the way for more of
his literary works.
Most good stories make good use of a fundamental list of
ingredients such as conflict, suspense, climax, the initial situation,
denouement, complication, and conclusion. Great writers like Mark Twain shake
up the recipe and add some spice. A conflict is clearly seen when Smiley makes
bets with both an old dog and an old horse. Right from the start, we learn that
Smiley loves to gamble, but he also likes to bet on animals that do not seem
like they have a good chance of winning. On one hand, he has an old asthmatic
mare that does not look like it can win races but always manages to top in the
last few seconds of the race. “..and he used to win money on that horse, for
all she was so slow and always had the asthma,.. but always at the fag-end of
the race she'd get excited and desperate- like, and come cavorting and
straddling up, and scattering her legs around limber, sometimes in the air, and
sometimes out to one side amongst the fences, and kicking up m-o-r-e-dust, and
raising m-o-r-e racket with her coughing and sneezing and blowing her nose and
always fetch up at the stand just about a neck ahead, as near as you could
cipher it down.” ("The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Competition Quotes") This is the mare that never seems to win, yet it
does. On the other hand, “he has a dog named Andrew Jackson that does not also
look like he can win a fight, in fact, he loses fights until there’s money put
on the table.” There’s also denouement where Wheeler gets interrupted from his
story-telling. When he’s interrupted from finishing the story, he urges the
narrator to wait. When he returns, he tries to continue his tall tale but then
the narrator interrupts and says, “Not quite good-naturedly, I need to go.”
There are other good ingredients, but at the conclusion, the narrator leaves
the saloon while thinking his quest was fruitless.
Andrew Jackson and Dan’l Webster have been used by the writer
in a symbolic manner. Symbolism is an artistic style or movement that uses
indirect suggestion and symbolic images to express mystical emotions, ideas,
and states of mind ("Symbolism - Examples And Definition Of Symbolism").
These symbols are used to signify qualities and ideas that are different from
their literal sense. The names for the “educated” frog and the dog hint at some
possible political undertones. The dog that did not look like he amounted to
match but was feisty when it came to fighting was named after Andrew Jackson,
the seventh president of the United States who happened to be a westerner. He
believed in democracy for all and was a man of the people. Daniel Webster was
once an attorney who became one of the leading American statesmen who served as
a senator and secretary of state. He was known for being an excellent narrator
who ran thrice for president but fell short. In our short story, a common frog
without a name beats the educated frog (which is Dan’l Webster). The moral of
the story is that the uneducated, common frog managed to beat the educated frog
through cheating. Alternatively, given
the politics of Webster, it might be possible to read further into this and
suggest that the tale is subversively advocating for equality for all
Realism is all about recreating life in literature and is a
form of literature that believes in fidelity to actuality in its
representation. Just as Mark Twain uses it, it seeks a one-to-one relationship
between representation and the subject. It also aims to interpret the
actualities of whichever aspect of life, free from idealism, subjective
prejudice or romantic color. It is directly opposite to the basis of
romanticism. It puts an emphasis on the real over the fantastic. It uses the
characters from everyday life to treat the commonplace truthfully
("Romanticism, Realism And Naturalism").
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