The story that Simon Wheeler tells the narrator in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was not original with Mark Twain . It was, nevertheless, the first story that caused Twain to "leap" into national attention as a writer. How could Twain distinguish himself by telling a...
The story that Simon Wheeler tells the narrator in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was not original with Mark Twain. It was, nevertheless, the first story that caused Twain to "leap" into national attention as a writer. How could Twain distinguish himself by telling a story that wasn't his own? He did it with the unique manner of storytelling he used.
Twain himself aptly described the manner in which Simon Wheeler tells about Jim Smiley's escapades when he expounded upon the differences between the American humorous story and the British comedic tale or the French witty story. The French and British stories are funny because of their content; the American story is funny because of the way it's told. The American version may wander around seemingly aimlessly with a kind of bubbling energy. Its humor depends upon the storyteller being almost gravely serious and never letting on that he thinks his story is at all funny. Simon Wheeler exhibits that quality, especially when he shows tearful reverence for Andrew Jackson, the bull pup whose career ended in ignominy when he fought an opponent that had no hind legs to grab.
According to Twain, the teller of the humorous tale often puts in extraneous details, tells things out of order, or gets mixed up while speaking. This creates the impression of a bumbling yet lovable character, and that is the charm of the tale and a large part of its humor. In this case, Wheeler's entire story is a rabbit trail. The narrator had asked about Leonidas Smiley, and Wheeler launches into a circuitous narrative about Jim Smiley. And although the story is ostensibly about the frog jumping contest, Wheeler takes his good old time getting to that story and comes to it only by way of multiple other examples of Jim Smiley's gambling escapades.
Wheeler tells the story in a wordy, rambling, bumbling, and unpolished manner—just as the humorous American story should be told, according to Mark Twain.