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The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

by Mark Twain

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What literary devices are used in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain?

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Twain uses several literary devices in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". The first technique we notice is that the tale is a "frame story". That means that one story, the story about Twain's conversation with Simon Wheeler, is a frame for a second story, that about Jim Smiley and his jumping frog. The author uses parallel structure to hold together long sentences when describing his characters. For instance, he writes,"

He never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned the initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm. . ."

In addition,, Twain uses colloquial diction to give an authenticity to the dialogue of the story. For example, "Wheeler ignores many grammatical rules, and speaks with an "accent'' of sorts. He says "feller'' instead of "fellow," "reg'lar" instead of "regular," and even "Dan'l" for "Daniel." Twain uses personification when he describes the animals in the story. "Andrew Jackson, Jim Smiley's dog, is described as proud, ornery, and determined." The frog is described as "indifferent as if he hadn't been doin' any more than any frog might do".  Using similes, the frog is also "like a cat" and whirls "like a doughnut." Finally, the story is full of satire, especially when it come to depicting the stereotypes people believed about uncultured Westerners and educated Easterners.

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What  literary element or device in the story can be used in a thesis for "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain?

You may also want to consider Mark Twain's use of colloquialisms and regional dialect in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Few American stories of any kind at this time in history used the natural language of the region like the characters he created in this tale. Twain's own narration reflects a proper use of English diction; however, when he reverts to Simon Wheeler, Twain uses the vernacular of characters he has met in the American West. Wheeler's colorful dialect is full of shortened words and improper grammar that gives the character and story a feel of authenticity few American writers had been able to establish in the 19th century.

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What  literary element or device in the story can be used in a thesis for "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain?

While his customary satire is present in Mark Twain's short story "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," there is a cloaking of this satire as Twain's narrator is not directly involved.  Instead, the story is related as an epistolary tale.  So, for a thesis about the use of literary devices, you may wish to analyze how Twain's use of the frame story, or epistolary tale, is his clever way of disguising his satire of the American West and the American East by giving the story a sense of authenticity with the reporting of the main narrator.

Another literary device that you could build a thesis around is the use by Twain of hyperbole.  Hyperbole is a figure of speech that involves obvious exaggeration; it greatly helps to advance the satire of Twain's piece by increasing the level of humor as Twain ridicules the stereotypes of the East and the West of the United States.   Here is one example of Twain's use of hyperbole for humorous and satiric effect:

[Wheeler] never smiled, he never frowned, he never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he tuned the initial sentence, he never betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm; but all through the interminable narrative there ran a vein of impressive earnestness and sincerity, which showed me plainly that, so far from his imagining that there was any thing ridiculous or funny about his story, he regarded it as a really important matter, and admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse.

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What are the figures of speech in "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain?

One of Mark Twain's earliest stories, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" helped to establish Twain as a one of America's greatest humorists.  This story illustrates Twain's satirical attitude toward  storytelling and the cultural differences between the eastern and western regions of the United States.  Satire is a form of writing that makes use of stereotypes by ridiculing them through exaggeration, an exaggeration that prevails throughout the story, and is termed

hyperbole  [obvious exaggeration]

  • Simon Wheeler tells his "interminable narrative" of two men:

[He] admired its two heroes as men of transcendent genius in finesse.

  • Wheeler enumerates all the things that Jim Smiley would bet on anything, saying that he even bet on Parson Walker's wife who had fallen ill.  One day Smiley walked in and asked how Walker's wife was doing, and the Parson told him that she was doing better.  Nevertheless, Similey says "Well, I'll risk two-and-one-half" that she don't anyway."
 Smiley had a mare called a "fifteen-minute nag." Smiley's frog would "nail a fly every time as far as he could see him."

metaphor [unstated comparison]

  • He never changed his voice from the gentle-flowing key to which he turned the initial sentence
  • At the door I met the sociable Wheeler returning and he button-holed me.

simile  [Stated comparisons using like or as]

  • Jim Smiley had a dog that he would fight; when this dog fought,

his underjaw'd stick out like the forcastle of a steamboat....his teeth would...shine savage like the furnaces.

[Smiley had] a "Yellow one-eyed cow (hyperbole)...with no tail and only jest a short stump like a bannanner."

When speaking of his frog, Smiley says that it is "as solid as a glob of mud."  The frog

 scratches his head with his hind foot as indifferent as if he hadn't no idea he'd been doing anymore 'n any frog might do.

Dan'l Webster...hysted up his shoulders so like Frenchmen

The frog was whirling in the air like a doughnut.....turned one summersault or may be a couple or so and come down flat footed like a cat.

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