Mark Twain's darkest novel--about a master and slave switched at birth--combines a courtroom drama with a provocative fable about race and identity. Twain's plot is set in motion when a slave named Roxy exchanges her light-skinned son Chambers with her master's baby, Tom. Roxy's child, now known as Tom, grows up as a spoiled, privileged white man, who is horrified when Roxy tells him the truth. He nearly gets away with a vicious crime, but his downfall comes in the form of a clever, eccentric lawyer, nicknamed "Puddn'head" Wilson. Twain's novel was the first to use fingerprinting to solve a crime, but its significance goes much further as an investigation into the nature of identity. When the two young men are forced to change places again, the former slave finds himself exiled to a white world where he will never feel at ease, while Roxy's child discovers that his newfound value as human property outweighs his guilt as a murderer. Despite its ironic humor and the symmetrical neatness of its denouement, "Pudd'nhead Wilson "is a tragedy that refuses easy answers.
About the Author
Shelley Fisher Fishkin is Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities, Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Stanford University. She is the author of "Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture "(1997); "Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices "(1993), selected as an Outstanding Academic Book by "Choice; "and "From Fact to Fiction: Journalism and Imaginative Writing in America "(2000), winner of a Frank Luther Mott/Kappa Tau Alpha Award for outstanding research in journalism history. She is also the editor of the 29-volume "Oxford Mark Twain "and the "Oxford Historical Guide to Mark Twain. "Barry Moser is one of the foremost wood engravers in the United States and is the proprietor of the Pennyroyal Press. Among other books, he illustrated "Huckleberry Finn "(California, 1985), "Moby Dick "(California, 1981), "Dante's Inferno "(California 1980), "Purgatorio "(California, 1981), and "Paradiso "(California, 1984), and the "Holy Bible "(1999). The Mark Twain Project is housed within the Mark Twain Papers, the world's largest archive of primary materials by this major American writer. Under the direction of General Editor Robert H. Hirst, the Project's five editors are producing the first comprehensive edition of all Mark Twain's writings, more than thirty volumes of which have so far been published by the University of California Press.