How can I apply the following characteristics of realism to Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"? (1. Character is more important than action and plot; therefore,...

How can I apply the following characteristics of realism to Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"? (1. Character is more important than action and plot; therefore, characters are often developed through their making of complex ethical choices. 2. Characters have real and complex motives and attitudes; they have a past and relationships that provide a context for their behavior. 3. Characters control their destinies; characters act on their environment rather than simply reacting to it. 4. The story provides reality through details of the character and environment. In fact, the presentation of characters as REAL and believable people outweighs the plot. 5. Events will usually be real-life with probable results typical of everyday life.)

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A humorist who made extensive use of exaggeration that made incidents become comical, Mark Twain has followed in this story the pattern of the western style of exaggeration in his short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Moreover, the success of this story lies in its telling; Twain makes it seem as though the raconteur has hooked another listener for his tall-tale, a man who is gullible enough to follow along.

1. "Character is more important than action and plot."

Simon Wheeler entertains himself by hooking these gullible listeners such as Mr. Twain, and his motives are to bring himself pleasure, not so much by the telling of the tale per se, but by fooling his listener. 

2. "Characters have real and complex motives and attitudes."

There is an apparent conflict of sectionalism as the Westerner outsmarts Twain with his tale, despite the narrator's comments that the raconteur is

"the sociable Wheeler" (he is being ironic). For, he mentions being "barricaded" in by Wheeler's long-winded tale, and he is quick at the end to prevent any more long-winded stories: "lacking both time and inclination" Twain departs. It would seem, too, that Twain's friend has intentionally sent him to Simon Wheeler.

3."Characters act on their environments rather than simply reacting to it."

Simon Wheeler takes full advantage of the setting for his tale; he fully exploits his regionalism and vernacular and prolongs the telling with much verbosity,

This-yer Smiley had a mare--the boys called her the fifteen-minute nag, but that was only in fun, you know, because of course she was faster than that--and he used to win money on that horse, for all she was so slow and always had the asthma, or the distemper, or the consumption, or something of that kind.

On the other hand, Twain as the narrator becomes irritated by this long-winded, garrulous Wheeler since he is from the East where life moves at a faster pace. Further, he is tricked by Wheeler as he believes that Wheeler "regarded it as a really important matter" while Wheeler simply is having fun with the Easterner.

4. The plot is realistic and "the presentation of characters as REAL and believable people outweighs the plot."

Clearly, the plot of the story is weak, but the characters are humorous and colorful. The reader can almost picture the slow-moving, loquacious, colloquial Simon Wheeler and the exasperated listener, and, of course, Similey, who is described by Wheeler as

"...monstrous proud of his frog, and well he might be, for fellers that had traveled and been everywheres all said he laid over any frog that ever they see."

5. Events are realistic "with probable results typical of everyday life." The exasperated Easterner as listener and the drawling, subtly manipulative Wheeler, who feigns a certain ignorance in order to catch his listener off-guard and annoy him are very true to life. In fact, regional humor used to riducule or fool others is not uncommon; in it, the raconteur tells his story gravely, concealing the real humor and, thus, duping his listeners so that he gets the final laugh.

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