The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Overview

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was a popular success upon its first publication in The New York Saturday Press in 1865. Some of its success can be attributed to Twain's use of popular storytelling conventions and references to contemporary figures. For example, Twain adopted the humorous tall tale of the American Southwest, a popular genre at the time, to tell this story. Furthermore, this tale already was an established piece of American folklore that Twain modified and enhanced; early versions of the tale focused on a jumping grasshopper, not a frog. Twain added to the popularity of his "Jumping Frog" by reciting it at lectures and performances he gave across the United States. Because of its popularity, when Twain published his first collection of stories, he made "Jumping Frog" the title piece. The letter-writing structure initially used in this tale was popular at that time and also contributed to the story's success.

In the tale, Twain also made allusions to recent figures in contemporary American history. For example, Jim Smiley's dog, Andrew Jackson, shares his name with a former president of the United States, while Smiley's frog, Dan'l Webster, shares his name with a renowned statesman and politician of the nineteenth century. The letter that frames the original story was addressed to "A. Ward," whom many individuals believed to be Artemus Ward, another popular humor writer of the time. These references and...

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