Jim Smiley's bull-pup, Andrew Jackson, was used by Jim in various bets. The dog is described as a good dog that does not look like much, and other dogs often seemed to get the better of him in fights. The narrator notes, however, that Andrew Jackson never seemed to be bothered by these temporary setbacks because once a bet was involved, his behavior would change. As the stakes in the bets were raised, Andrew Jackson would bite the other dog in the hind leg and stay there, hanging on, until the owner of his opponent would give in and forfeit the fight. In this way, Jim's bull-pup would win his fights. Andrew Jackson died when Jim arranged for him to fight a dog that did not have any hind legs. The narrator implies that Andrew Jackson was a proud dog and died of embarrassment. Like the former President of the United States with whom he shares his name, Andrew Jackson is described as being determined and strong-willed.
The Fifteen-Minute Nag
The Fifteen-Minute Nag is the name given to Jim Smiley's horse. An old and rather sickly animal, The Fifteen-Minute Nag was used by Jim in many of his bets. The horse suffered from various ailments and did not look as if she could win a horse race. Nevertheless, Jim would frequently put her in races. Although she would start out slow, in the last leg of the race, the nag always seemed to get excited and typically found the energy to win the race.
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Themes and Characters
A cultured easterner relates his recent visit to a talkative old man at a western mining camp. Rather than providing the information that the easterner is looking for, the old man keeps him waiting while he spins a tale about a betting man and his pet frog.
"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" highlights various aspects of late-nineteenth-century American society and culture through the retelling of a tall tale. Central to the story is the idea of conflicting cultures, particularly the clash between the settled, eastern portion of the United States and the still-developing West. At the time Twain wrote the story, the East and its inhabitants had a reputation for being civilized, cultured, and advanced. The West, on the other hand, was still being settled, and people thought of its population as less educated and less refined. By extension, westerners were thought by easterners to be naive and easily duped.
Twain presents these ideas in his story in various ways. Simon Wheeler, for instance, symbolizes the American westerner—a garrulous old man who tells farfetched and highly improbable tales. He speaks in a monotone, supposedly having no knowledge of a good storyteller's techniques for keeping an audience's attention. An uneducated man, Wheeler tells his story in the popular genre of the tall tale rather than in one of the more accepted classic genres taught in eastern schools. He also speaks in the vernacular—that is, in...
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