Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pudd'nhead Wilson

In class while discussing honor and identity it got me thinking about how since Luigi is an dishonorable man, so Judge Driscoll would not have a gun fight and that "Tom" would dress up as a woman to hide his identity when he went raiding. I do not think I am going anywhere specific with these observations.

Talking about honor today it makes sense to me that the Judge would not have a showdown with Luigi because being an assassin is dishonorable. What I have a problem with though is that the Judge basically said that he was going to shoot him on the street, or something to that effect, when he would see him on the street once the election was further in the past. I find this to be highly dishonorable to go out and shoot someone in the street. Luigi would be looking for the same retribution, but to me if he would have shot the Judge in the street is justifiable because he would not give Luigi the chance to defend his honor. I feel as though since the Judge would not grant Luigi another duel that he did not have the right to shoot him on the street.

When talking about identity today I am surprised that we did not touch on the fact that "Tom" was a cross-dressing thief. Of course this does not have anything to do with racial identity, but gender identity instead. I am definitely not sure if Twain is attempting to make a social commentary about how women are just as strong and independent as men, which is seen with Roxy's character and how a "woman" can be a thief. Maybe it says more about "Tom's" identity crisis with his internal struggle of being the child of a slave. After kind of working it out here, I suppose it makes the most sense that he would dress as a black woman when going on his raids on the town because presumably he obtained this from his mother's "blood", and then to fully emulate a thief he had to dress as a black woman. There are probably more practical explanations such as the majority of the slaves that would work in the home are female, as most male slaves worked the fields.


  1. Tom's disguise may have been motivated by the idea that women were less likely to be suspected of thievery. Also, you really can't get much further from a rich young white male than an old black female. The disparity between the two physiques would, and did, stymie most observers.

    Twain's motivations are a mystery, but I do think you're right that Roxy is one of the strongest characters.

  2. Good points, Ken. We should have talked more about gender identity, since Tom's cross-dressing--and Roxy's, for that matter--are an important part of the plot.

    About the duel: the thinking was that if a man was a scoundrel instead of a gentleman, a gentleman could horsewhip him or otherwise injure him if the two met on the street.