illustration of a frog sitting in the grass

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

by Mark Twain

Start Free Trial

What particularly American characteristics can you identify in the story? How would this story be different if it were not set in the United States? What does it reflect about our American history and heritage?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This story is often anthologized in collections of American stories, for very good reason: it illustrates quite a lot about traditions and values in the US, especially the south.

Overall, the story paints a vivid and funny picture of the important roles that storytelling, friendliness with strangers, and preserving local myths play in southern heritage.

In fact, if this story were set outside of the United States, it would lose its dialect, humor, and context, and it probably wouldn't be nearly as famous and beloved as it is today.

Let's take a close look at the particularly American characteristics on display in the story:

1. The hilarious image of the earnest, detailed, deadpan storyteller who has no idea that he's utterly boring you. This man has the narrator cornered and is dead-set on delivering an extremely long account of an endless series of ridiculous anecdotes about a guy who likes animals and betting. It's very American! (Having grown up in the south, I know at least three folks who are just like this. They see you and say hello, then launch into their story.) 

2. Certain qualities of oral storytelling: repetition (reminding your listeners of what you just said a moment ago), a faithful reporting of what everybody says even if it's obvious or repeated, a tendency to let one story's ending be the impetus for another closely related story's beginning, and, most hilariously, a focus on getting all of the details about what happened and when just right, even though the listener definitely doesn't care.

3. Southern American dialect, grammar, vocabulary, and imagery. A fellow is a "feller;" instead of "He caught a frog," it's "He ketched a frog;" a water bug is known as a "straddle-bug;" and a dog's jaw sticks out "like the fo'castle of a steamboat."


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team