Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“Jim Baker’s Bluejay Yarn” was first published as chapter 3 of Mark Twain’s travel narrative A Tramp Abroad (1880). In that version, the actual narrative is preceded by an introduction, which appears at the end of chapter 2, in which the narrator of A Tramp Abroad introduces Jim Baker as “a middle-aged, simple-hearted miner who had lived in a lonely corner of California among the woods and mountains a good many years, and had studied the ways of his only neighbors, the beasts and the birds, until he believed he could accurately translate any remark they made.” Also in the introductory section, Jim Baker elaborates on his high opinion of jays, offering the opinion that they are “just as much a human as you be,” and concluding that “a jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise.” The narrator affirms that he knows this to be true because Jim Baker told him so himself, thus establishing his own naïveté and gullibility. This beginning establishes a “frame” for the story.
Some editors print the introductory material as part of “Jim Baker’s Bluejay Yarn,” although others include only the material from chapter 3 of A Tramp Abroad that is discussed below. Because the story materially benefits from establishing Jim Baker’s character and his views on jays, it is best to read a complete version.
(The entire section is 1126 words.)
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