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.
Born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902, the O Henry of Harlem, moved all over the country and settled eventually in New York City. He was a prolific writer, best known for his novels, plays and columns and one of the earliest innovators of jazz poetry.