The Regionalism in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Mark Twain was successful in his own story “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was written in November 18th, 1865. This story can be said as a “first step” in his big career, helps him be famous not only in America but also in the world until now. Twain is skillful when he send a precious lesson about the human manner through a picture about Easterner’s life, and with character Jime Smiley, Twain also known as “a master of regionalism” and this movement best fit the story.
The Life of the Author
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by other name is Mark Twain (after, Mark Twain is the name used as his original name), he was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, the sixth of seven children born to Jane (his mother; 1803–1890), a native of Kentucky, and John Marshall Clemens (his father; 1798–1847), a native of Virginia. But because of some reasons, he has been grown up with three more of his survived siblings during his childhood: Orion (1825–1897), Henry (1838–1858), and Pamela (1827–1904). When he was four, Twain’s family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, and he was raised in a port town on the Mississippi River that inspired the fictional town of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He served an apprenticeship with a printer and then worked as a typesetter, contributing articles to the newspaper of his older brother Orion Clemens. In 1851 he began working as a typesetter, contributing articles and humorous sketches to the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper that Orion owned. Slavery was popular and legal at that time, so it was the theme of most of his writings. His father was an attorney and judge, who died of pneumonia in 1847, when Twain was 11. One year after, Twain left school when finishing the fifth grade to become a printer’s apprentice. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, the printers trade union invited him joining the newly formed International Typographical Union. Because he left his school too early, he has to educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, by himself finding wider information than at a conventional school. Twain (1883) described his boyhood in “Life on the Mississippi”, stating that ‘there was but one permanent ambition’ among his comrades: to be a steamboatman: ” Pilot was the grandest position of all. The pilot, even in those days of trivial wages, had a princely salary – from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty dollars a month, and no board to pay.”(16). Twain (1883) also described, the pilot’s prestige exceeded that of the captain. The pilot had to: “get up a warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and one-limbed cottonwood and every obscure wood pile that ornaments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and more than that, must… actually know where these things are in the dark.”(44). He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River teached by steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby. He took Twain on as a cub pilot to teach him the river between New Orleans and St. Louis for $500 (equivalent to $14,000 in 2018), payable out of Twain’s first wages after graduating. Two years before he received his licence, a piloting gave him his second is ‘Mark Twain’,this name symbolize for a measured river depth of two fathoms (12 feet), which was safe water for a steamboat. He then left for Nevada to work for Orion, who was Secretary of the Nevada Territory. He officially ended his life on April 21, 1910 in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth. Twain was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach in 1835; he had a prediction about his own last days in 1909: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’. When Twain died, President at that time William Howard Taft said: ” Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come … His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature.” Twain’s funeral was at the Brick Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue, New York. He is buried in his wife’s family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York. He left his estate was estimated at $471,000 ( $13,000,000 today).
He failed as a miner on Comstock Lode, then he had to work at the Virginia City newspaper Territorial Enterprise, working under a friend, the writer Dan DeQuille. And in here, he used his second name the first time on February 3, 1863; signed “Mark Twain” on a humorous travel account entitled “Letter From Carson – re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson’s; music”. In Angels Camp (in Calaveras County, California), by is observation about the daily life of the local, he wrote a short story ” The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865). HIs humorous tall tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was his first success as a writer, and it was published in November 18, 1865, in the New York weekly The Saturday Press, made his reputation is known widely in the world. Not only having love with literature, but also science is a happiness of his. He invented two important things for the present life, these are ” Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments” (to replace suspenders) and a history trivia game. Twain was an early proponent of fingerprinting as a forensic technique, featuring it in a tall tale in Life on the Mississippi (1883) and as a central plot element in the novel Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894).
Realism, Regionalism and Naturalism
All three movements are the art in literature in the past. Realism is a movement in art, which started in the mid nineteenth century in France, and later spread to the entire world. Realism is used as a device to find which is called fantastic and romantic then insert the real in. The tone, worlds, or mood of realism is simple, the writers usually use realism without figurative meaning like simile and metaphor to describe story elements, such as setting, characters, themes, etc… By using realism, writers can explain things without decorative language or sugar-coating the events. Realism can be said something opposite to romanticism and idealism. Regionalism is another movement in literature, which is described complex characters who are ordinary people, depict true-to-life dialogue, detached observation, detailed description, or relate to social themes such as: class conflicts, urbanization, family life; accurately represents: speech, manners, habits, history, folklore and belief,.. of people in a specific geographical region. The writers use regionalism to shape the characteristic of the character they are writing about. This movement cans reveal to the reader some of historical background of the story. The last one is naturalism, a movement started in late XIX century in literature, film, and art. With naturalism, the writers can portrays ordinary settings, detached observation, detailed description, emphasize instinct and environmental affects of human behaviour, believed that the fate of human is determined by forces beyond an individual’s control. In fact, naturalism took its cue from Darwin’s theory of evolution, which holds that life is like a struggle and only the fittest survive.
Regionalism in the Short Story
The story is started by a “big story” of Mark Twain and the picture about the culture, also the life of easterner. His friend request him to go the East, looking for the story about “my friend’s friend” is Leonidas W. Smiley. And when he comes, he is welcomed by an old “garrulous” Simon Wheeler. Simon Wheeler is described by Twain: ” I found Simon Wheeler dozing comfortably by the barroom stove of the dilapidated tavern in the decayed mining camp of Angel’s, and I noticed that he was fat and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance.” (Mark Twain, 1865, 686). Through Twain’s description about Simon, the readers can figure out the class of most of people in middle and last XIX. They are very average people, although they are different in many ways. This middle – class people as the main character in literary work is a characteristic of the genre of regionalism. The life and living standard of easterner are not quite good, moreover, their characteristic is kind, honest, and friendly, however, sometimes because of their kindness, with some people, it will become “garrulous” like Twain feels Simon.
Instead of being listened the story about Leonidas W. Smiley, Twain received a story that the main character is also named Smiley, but he is Jim Smiley. The special here is Twain doesn’t tell this story, Simon is the person who retell it, so it can be understood as ” story in story”. “There was a feller here once by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of ’49 or maybe it was the spring of ’50 I don’t recollect exactly, somehow, though what makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember the big flume wasn’t finished when he first came to the camp; but anyway, he was the curiousest man about always betting on any thing that turned up you ever see, if he could get any body to bet on the other side; and if he couldn’t, he’d change sides. Any way that suited the other man would suit him any way just so’s he got a bet, he was satisfied. But still he was lucky, uncommon lucky; he most always come out winner. He was always ready and laying for a chance; there couldn’t be no solitary thing mentioned but that feller’d offer to bet on it, and -take any side you please, as I was just telling you. If there was a horse-race, you’d find him flush, or you’d find him busted at the end of it; if there was a dog-fight, he’d bet on it; if there was a cat-fight, he’d bet on it; if there was a chicken-fight, he’d bet on it; why, if there was two birds setting on a fence, he would bet you which one would fly first; or if there was a camp-meeting, he would be there reg’lar, to bet on Parson Walker, which he judged to be the best exhorter about here, and so he was, too, and a good man.” ( Twain, 1865, 686). Twain’s intentional use of deliberate bad grammar and misspelled words helps to create the authenticity of the characters and the atmosphere of the California gold mining camp. The theme of Wheeler’s story – a dance competition between two frogs – also illustrates the regional aspect of territory, pre-state, selling California law. By regionalism and some literary device such as metaphor, simile,… Twain brings to the readers a character with competitive personal, that is Jim Smiley. No matter what it is, he bets on everything: Horse race, a dog – fight, or even that is a couple of birds,… this draws a picture about a diapilated society and a low-class uneducated.
The regionalism is shown in the characteristic of Jim Smiley in which he is too honest, and his enemy uses his carelessness to trick him, lead him to lose. Twain (1865) writes: “‘Well,’ Smiley says, easy and careless, ‘He’s good enough for one thing, I should judge he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county.’ The feller took the box again, and took another long, particular look, and give it back to Smiley, and says, very deliberate, ‘Well, I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.’. ‘Maybe you don’t,’ Smiley says. ‘May be you understand frogs, and maybe you don’t understand ’em; maybe you’ve had experience, and may be you an’t only a amature, as it were. Anyways, I’ve got my opinion, and I’ll risk forty dollars that he can outjump any frog in Calaveras county.’ And the feller studied a minute, and then says, kinder sad like, ‘Well, I’m only a stranger here, and I an’t got no frog; but if I had a frog, I’d bet you.’ And then Smiley says, ‘That’s all right that’s all right if you’ll hold my box a minute, I’ll go and get you a frog.’ And so the feller took the box, and put up his forty dollars along with Smiley’s, and set down to wait.” ( 688-689). Smiley is totally careless when leaves his frog next to a stranger and even he knows between them will have a competition about their frog. He still doesn’t feel hesitant and let the stranger keep his frog and then the stranger uses that time to “take the advantages of Smiley’s frog”. This is one of a lot of evidences about the uneducated of most of easterner class and the regionalism can be reflected by this speech.
Last but not least, the regionalism appear in the last scene of the story in which Jim Smiley loses his betting with the stranger: “Now, if you’re ready, set him alongside of Dan’l, with his fore- paws just even with Dan’l, and I’ll give the word.’ Then he says, ‘One two three jump!’ and him and the feller touched up the frogs from behind, and the new frog hopped off, but Dan’l give a heave, and hysted up his shoulders so like a Frenchman, but it wan’s no use he couldn’t budge; he was planted as solid as an anvil, and he couldn’t no more stir than if he was anchored out. Smiley was a good deal surprised, and he was disgusted too, but he didn’t have no idea what the matter was, of course.The feller took the money and started away; and when he was going out at the door, he sorter jerked his thumb over his shoulders this way at Dan’l, and says again, very deliberate, ‘Well, I don’t see no p’ints about that frog that’s any better’n any other frog.’Smiley he stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan’l a long time, and at last he says, ‘I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw’d off for I wonder if there an’t something the matter with him he ‘pears to look mighty baggy, somehow.’ And he ketched Dan’l by the nap of the neck, and lifted him up and says, ‘Why, blame my cats, if he don’t weigh five pound!’ and turned him upside down, and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketchd him. And-“(Twain, 1865,689-690). Until the betting is started, Smiley still doesn’t know that he was trick and in his frog’s stomach is “five pounds weight”. He loses his own betting that he invites the stranger to bet. But then when the stranger go away with $40, he realizes the fact behind, and it’s too late to do anything. Because of low-educated, he has to receive and accept this result even he may have the chance to win. Regionalism in this text opens for the reader one more aspect about the old society in late XIX, when the bad people and the goodness always exist together and appear everywhere in the life, when the idea “win-lose” is still the most important thing in the thinking of the easterner. The story about Jim Smiley is ended when Simon Wheeler hears his name called and he goes outside. Simon wants the author stay a little more, but he decides to go and come back home with a precious lesson he cans receive through the story of Simon Wheeler. Even the main person is not appeared in the story but with the author, the picture about Jim Smiley may be more interesting than Leonidas W. Smiley. And one more time, the regionalism is the movement that best fit the story and together with Mark Twain make this story successes and popular in the world.
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