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 was born in Hannibal, Missouri, in 1835. An adventurous young man, Twain traveled around the United States. He worked as a Mississippi riverboat pilot, a miner, and a reporter. When Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1872, most books presented boys as purely good or evil characters. Twain wanted his boy hero, Tom Sawyer, to be a real boy, so he based the book on his own boyhood adventures in Missouri.
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.