In "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," what conclusions can you draw about Smiley's character?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jim Smiley is an interesting character indeed, and Wheeler gives enough details to draw some pretty solid conclusions.  The first thing that we learn about him is that he is a curious man, meaning, he was curious about people and things around him.  Smiley's curiosity take the form of betting--he is curious to know just how fast something can go, how far it can go, and sets up bets to find out.  It's an interesting form to take, but Wheeler calls him "the curiosest man about."  Wheeler also concludes that he was pretty "lucky," because he often won the bets that he staged.  Some inferences, or guesses made by reading between the lines, that can be drawn here, is that Smiley was not a rich man (betting might have supplemented his income, AND, he had come to a mining town for work), and possibly addicted to gambling.  We learn that he would bet on anything with anyone at any time.

Smiley was also determined--Wheeler mentions how if he had bet on how far a bug would walk, he would follow that bug "to Mexico" to find out the answer.  I also gather that he was rather unsrupulous and tactless at times, given the fact that he even placed a bet on the longevity of the pastor's wife.  Betting was the man's life, and he did it even at the cost of offending people, and being incredibly rude while doing it.

Overall, Smiley seems like a man who would be amusing to tell stories about, but kind-of a pain to know in person.  I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main character of Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," Jim Smiley (not Leonidas W. Smiley) is obviously an addict to any form of gambling and a true character of the Old West. Whether or not Smiley was a lover of animals is debatable, but he owned quite a few: a horse ("a fifteen minute nag"), rat-terriers, chicken cocks, tom-cats, bull pups, bullfrogs and "a yaller one-eyed cow." Smiley seemed to be an honest man, since there is no proof that he ever tried to cheat on a bet as he was buffaloed by his filled-up frog. Although he lived in a mining town, it is unknown if he ever struck it rich, but he must have earned a bit of a grubstake since he always had money to bet.

mkcapen1 | Student

Smiley is the man who will bet on anything.  He doesn't seem to have a lot of sense.  Despite his stupidity, he always came out as lucky whenever he bet.  He had a nag that he had named a name that would make her seem slower than she really was so that when he bet on her all the people would expect her to be real slow and not win.  She won.  His animals were deceptive because even his little cute dog that looked like it would hurt no one would win the fights.  He seemed to collect himself a whole crew of animals so that he could use them to keep his betting going.  He trained them himself.

One day he decided to use a frog for betting.  He trained it and when he was ready he set off to get a bet going.    However, he fell for the trick of a stranger and that was an unusual thing since he was usually the trickster.


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