In "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" what are the ironic differences in character and background between the first narrator and Simon?Mark Twain's story

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his essay, "Mark Twain's 'Jumping Frog': Towards an American Heroic Ideal," Lawrence R. Smith contends that Mark Twain's story is satiric as a deadpan trickster named Simon Wheeler makes fun of the pompous narrator who presumes to call Wheeler "garrulous" at the onset of the story.  As the narrator makes inquiries about "a cherished companion of his boyhood named Leonidas W. Smiley," it becomes apparent that Simon Wheeler, with his Western dialect and less pedantic turn of phrase, satirizes the hypocrisy of the narrator who seeks the preacher:

Parson Walker's wife laid very sick once, for a good while, and it seemed as if they warn's going to save her; but one morning he come in, and Smiley asked how she was, and he said she was considerable better thank the Lord for his inftnit mercy and coming on so smart that, with the blessing of Providence, she'd get well yet; and Smiley, before he thought, says, "Well, I'll risk two- and-a-half that she don't, any way."

Thus, argues Smith, Twain sets up a contrast, not between the sophisticated and the vernacular voice, but rather between the false and the true.  Here, then, lies the irony.  For, it is the "monotonous narrative" of Wheeler which is effectively superior to the Eastern narrator who is made a fool of by Wheeler's trick within a trick within another trick. Ironically, then, the unsuspecting narrator departs tricked by the more clever Wheeler, saying only

But, by your leave, I did not think that a continuation of the history of the enterprising vagabond Jim Smiley would be likely to afford me much information concerning the Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley, and so I started away.

It is Twain, then, as narrator who becomes the butt of the joke.  Speaking in stilted English, this narrator represents the snobbery of the Eastern part of the United States in the 19th century, an area with which Twain was well acquainted as he lived in Conneticut.

isamna1 | Student

The first narrator seems educated to me. However, Simon seems an illiterate. Also, the first narrator seems an old boy from the East where people believe they know except what they ignore. On the other hand, Simon is from the West, where in the past people from are considered less educated.


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