Topics for Further Study
Twain's story was first written as a letter, a style referred to as epistolary. Other examples of epistolary works are Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and Alice Walker's The Color Purple (1982). Discuss how the epistolary form impacts the narrative and the reader's interest in a work.
Research what life—particularly life in a mining camp—was like in California at the time Twain wrote this tale.
Tall tales and folk tales traditionally have been used to present nontraditional ideas about society. Examine the social and political messages found in Joel Chandler Harris's "Br'er Rabbit'' stories, and compare them to this story.
Compare Twain's use of satire with that of Jonathan Swift in his "A Modest Proposal" (1729). What and who do these stories satirize?
Compare this tale to Twain's other travel sketches or humorous writings. Discuss their similarities and differences.