How does Wheeler's description of the frog as "modest & straightfor'ard" provide humor in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County?"by Mark Twain

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mark Twain's short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," is that much more entertaining when he personifies the animals. He does a fine job presenting the [nearly] unbelievable personage of Smiley, with a long list of unusually talented animals. And Wheeler, as the storyteller, personifies several of the animals in such a way that it simply adds to the sense of hilarity and "fable" that surrounds these "highly unlikely" tales.

When Wheeler describes Smiley's dog, Andrew Jackson, the dog is given the sentiments of a human being:

...[Andrew Jackson] 'peared surprised, and then he looked sorter discouraged-like...He give Smiley a look, as much as to say his heart was broke, and it was his fault, for putting up a dog that hadn't no hind legs for him to take holt of...and then he limped off a piece and laid down and died.

Wheeler also describes Smiley's mare, which is an old nag, but she has an uncanny ability to know when she is about to be beaten and turns on all the power necessary to win a race. She is personified also with the use of the word "desperate:"

...always at the fag-end of the race she'd get excited and desperate-like...

When it comes to the frog, Wheeler describes it as a: "frog so modest and straightfor'ard as he was, for all he was so gifted." One thing funny about this is that the frog does what every frog does: it jumps. It is hard to tell if the frog goes after flies on command, as that is also something frogs love to do. Perhaps what is most entertaining about this is the irony involved. The frog is personified using the words "modest and straightfor'ard," but it would seem that Wheeler—in telling the story—shows no modesty or honesty regarding the frog...or any of the animals—it just seems too amazing that they could have all these qualities.

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