How does the author develop the character of Simon Wheeler in "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"?
In this excellent and classic example of a tall tale, the character of Simon Wheeler dominates in the way that he relates and shares his hilarious tale of the celebrated jumping frog. Key to this development is his use of tone or attitude towards what he says. Throughout his tale, Wheeler speaks with a calm, serious tone which adds to the humour because it contrasts sharply with the absurdity of the tale. A key description that Twain gives us about his character is as follows:
Simon Wheeler backed me into a corner and blockaded me there with his chair and then sat me down and reeled off the monotonous narrative which follows this paragraph. He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he turned the initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm; but 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 rally important matter and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse.
It is the use of words such as "backed me into a corner" and "blockaded," which present Simon Wheeler as trapping the narrator in so that he has a captive audience, that add to the tone employed by Simon Wheeler to create a hilarious tale.