Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Question of Identity

3195 Words Sep 7th, 2008 13 Pages
Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Question of Identity
1. Introduction
"The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself."
- Thales
The role of identity and is related to various other themes in Mark Twain’s “Pudd’nhead Wilson” and therefore functions as the main focus in this paper. Basically every major theme in the book somewhat emerges from the question of identity. The first part of the paper deals with the switching of identities and can be considered as a starting point for the development of the novel. Secondly, it leads to the question of nature and nurture and tries to examine the impact of values and upbringing as well as skin color in the formation of character. Another aspect dealing with the issue of identity is honor and
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Tom discovers his real identity which changes his life drastically. He is finally aware of the fact that he is not white and it become noticeable in various ways. “It was the ‘nigger’ in him asserting its humility, and he blushed and was abashed. And the ‘nigger’ in him was surprised when the white friend put out his hand for a shake with him” P.56 Tom’s behavior is innate and raises the question of nature and nurture, and racial heritage. Even though Tom is now aware of his origin it does not ultimately change all of his behavior and attitude or as it is described in the book “In several ways his opinions were totally changed,…, but the main structure of his character was not changed and could not be changed”. This condition only lasted for a certain period of time until he “dropped gradually back into his old frivolous and easy-going ways…” p.57 A similar thing happens to Chambers by the end of the story after Tom has gotten convicted to murder and Pudd’nhead Wilson has found out about the real identities of Tom and Chambers. Being a free man, the original Tom does not know how to deal with this situation because “his manners were the manners of a slave”. He did not learn how to write or to read, nor did he spend much time somewhere else but in the kitchen.
In terms of education and manners, it is more likely that Tom has been able to make a step forward than it was for the fake Tom who was supposed to make a step
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