Three examples of exaggeration in the short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain include:
1. The narrator revealing what will be in store for him if he inquires of Simon Wheeler on behalf of his friend
He says about Simon Wheeler: “…and he would go to work and bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it should be useless to me.”
The exaggeration here is that the narrator will be unable to withstand the boring treatise from Wheeler; it will be unbearable and unprofitable to listen to Wheeler’s long-winded, tiresome words.
Yes, people can be excruciatingly boring and tax our time. However, we are not bored to the point of death when this happens. This exaggeration here, though, reveals Simon Wheeler’s character.
2. Simon Wheeler waxing on about Jim Smiley and his gambling
Simon Wheeler embarks on a winding discourse on Jim Smiley’s gambling habits. He basically says that Smiley would gamble on anything, even:
“…if there was two birds setting on a fence, he would bet you which one would fly first.”
The exaggeration here is that Jim Smiley would find a way to make a bet out of anything. It wouldn’t matter how trivial something was; he would see a way to turn the situation into a way to make money and satisfy his gambling urge.
Again, the exaggeration here is used to reveal Jim Smiley’s character. In turn, this exaggeration continues to reinforce Simon Wheeler’s character as noted in the first point above.
3. Simon Wheeler talking about Smiley’s bull pup
Wheeler notes that Smiley’s dog had teeth that “would uncover, and shine savage like the furnaces.”
This exaggeration further reveals Wheeler’s character and his propensity to embellish his stories greatly. However, this exaggeration does serve a purpose in the story. It reveals the eccentricity of Jim Smiley. It shows what he had among his possessions. Along with the dog, he owned a mare, as well as “rat-tarriers, and chicken cocks, and tom- cats.”
Exaggeration is an excellent way to bring out the idiosyncrasies of characters, settings, and events in a story to dramatically reveal information to the reader, whether the story is a humorous or more serious one.