How does Twain use characterization in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" ?Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Humorists such as Mark Twain capitalize upon the "local color" and regional dialects in order to develop the characters of their narratives.  Taking these elements and exaggerating them generates much of Twain's satire and adds greatly to the personality of the characters. For instance, in describing Simon Wheeler the narrator of "The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County" states,

all through the interminable narrative there ran a vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly that so far from his imagining that there was anything ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse.

Wheeler's calm, but serious tone with no suspicion of humor and drawling dialect contrasts with the absurdity of the exaggerated tale and makes for an apparently ridiculous character who supports Twain's satire.  Further, Wheeler's insistence that the narrator listen to his tale who describes himself "backed into a corner" and "blockaded" also suggests the weak character of the narrator who unrealistically considers himself superior to the Westerner so that, while he ridicules Wheeler he is also portraying himself in a poor light. For, Wheeler is ultimately revealed to be no "rube" at all, but, instead, is an experienced storyteller whose dry delivery is a facade that he uses to fool his purportedly sophisticated listener.



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