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One discussion topic is how Twain uses narration to illustrate the cultural differences between the allegedly uncivilized West and the allegedly more civilized, urban East in the United States during Twain's time. Simon Wheeler looks and, to some extent, sounds like the stereotypical uneducated Westerner. Twain, the narrator and apparently an Easterner, telling of his encounter with Wheeler, is condescending. However, it becomes apparent that Wheeler's use of bad grammar and Western vernacular are what keep Twain's attention. In fact, Wheeler's "Western" mannerisms are actually what make his story seem realistic to Twain, the narrator.
Wheeler also tells his tale with "earnestness and sincerity; which showed me plainly that, so far from his imagining that there was anything ridiculous or funny about his story . . . " The story is in fact, somewhat ridiculous. So, it is not Wheeler, the Westerner, who looks like a country dupe. It is Twain, the narrator, who is duped into believing Wheeler. The narrator thinks he is going to hear a serious story.
Another interesting topic, along with the use of narration, is the use of a storyteller within the story: a "frame story." The narrator seeks out someone (Wheeler) in order to hear a story (about Smiley). The story of the jumping frog is a "tall tale," difficult to believe. But using a narrator to introduce another narrator can give it a greater sense of having actually happened. Discuss how the introduction of another narrator might give the story added authenticity . . . or if it is an example of how a tall tale, passed from one person to another, becomes even more unbelievable. Another way of suggesting this topic is this: Is Simon Wheeler just some country yokel repeating a fantastic story or is he more intelligent than the Western stereotype (of that time) - suggesting that he is telling a ridiculous tale in a serious way to make fun of the much too formal, and somewhat elitist narrator. (In other words, is Twain making fun of Wheeler or is Twain using Wheeler to make fun of himself - Twain as the initial narrator?)
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