At the beginning of Pudd'nhead Wilson a young slave woman, fearing for her infant's son's life, exchanges her light-skinned child with her master's. From this rather simple premise Mark Twain fashioned one of his most entertaining, funny, yet biting novels. On its surface, Pudd'nhead Wilson possesses all the elements of an engrossing nineteenth-century mystery: reversed identities, a horrible crime, an eccentric detective, a suspenseful courtroom drama, and a surprising, unusual solution. Yet it is not a mystery novel. Seething with the undercurrents of antebellum southern culture, the book is a savage indictment in which the real criminal is society, and racial prejudice and slavery are the crimes. Written in 1894, Pudd'nhead Wilson glistens with characteristic Twain humor, with suspense, and with pointed irony: a gem among the author's later works.
About the Author
Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was an American humorist and writer, who is best known for his enduring novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has been called "the Great American Novel." Raised in Hannibal, Missouri, Twain held a variety of jobs including typesetter, riverboat pilot, and miner before achieving nationwide attention for his work as a journalist with "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." He earned critical and popular praise for his wit and enjoyed a successful career as a public speaker in addition to his writing. Twain's works were remarkable for his ability to capture colloquial speech, although his adherence to the vernacular of the time has resulted in the suppression of his works by schools in modern times. Twain's birth in 1835 coincided with a visit by Halley's Comet, and Twain predicted, accurately, that he would "go out with it" as well, dying the day following the comet's return in 1910.
Evelyn Louise Crawford and MaryLouise Patterson(a San Francisco art consultant and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Cornell) are the daughters of some of Langston Hughes's closest black friends and political comrades. They remained cherished friends and confidantes of his for over forty years. Their parents, Louise Thompson Patterson (1901 1999), William L. Patterson (1891 1980), Matt N. Crawford (1903 1996), and Evelyn Graces Crawford (1899 1972), were black Communist civil rights activists. Langston Hughes often stayed with them, and they all traveled together, corresponded about key issues of the day, and took a joint trip to the Soviet Union. Langston Hughes wrote poems to celebrate both girls' births.