Dan’l Webster’s appearance is deceiving because he just looks like an ordinary frog; the stranger has no way of knowing that Jim Smiley has spent three months training the frog how to jump high. Kathleen Wilson (Editor), Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 1, Mark Twain, Published by Gale, 1997. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Wheeler’s story is slight. Teachers and parents! When she emerges as an unlikely winner, Smiley is able to win money from his opponents. As the southwestern frame story genre developed, authors found this condescending attitude conflicting with sincere admiration for the people of the frontier. Critics have found a variety of valuable points in Wheeler’s narrative. Jim Smiley approaches gambling as a profession, and he clearly is honest and straightforward in his dealings—rather than rigging his bets, he puts hard work into training his animals to be unlikely winners. “Simon Wheeler” suggests both “Simple Simon” of the nursery rhyme and a not-so-simple “wheeler-dealer.” This is appropriate because Simon does appear, at least in the narrator’s opinion, to be simple, both in the sense of being uncomplicated and in the sense of being not very bright; but, in reality, he is rather complex and crafty. Smiley boasted that his frog could “outjump any frog in Calaveras County.” When the stranger enters town, Jim Smiley immediately trusts him and tries to engage him in a bet. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our. This illustrates that Smiley is a clever but honest businessman; he relies on other people’s biases (and his animals’ extensive training) to make his money. To Schmidt, it is the importance of cooperation in a community over unrestrained competition among individuals; the relaxed and cheerful Wheeler represents community values, while Jim Smiley disturbs the community with his competitiveness and pays the price for it when his frog loses the jumping contest. The names of other characters are meaningful, as well, and this is something upon which numerous critics have commented. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. It may seem a bit much to find religious allegory in the humorous tale of a gambler and his frog, but Smith contended that “however much a humorist Mark Twain was, he was aware of this tale’s tragic significance.” Smith’s interpretation, whether one finds it valid or not, is yet another indication of the riches that readers can mine from “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”. The narrator, apparently from the eastern part of the nation, finds himself in a western mining camp listening to a rustic character tell stories about a habitual gambler named Jim Smiley and the animals that were the subject of Smiley’s bets. The juxtaposition between the unnamed narrator’s crisp diction and Wheeler’s unrefined but passionate delivery helps further delineate the cultural differences between the East and West. While Jim Smiley can live a stationary lifestyle in the community because his honesty, the stranger has to immediately flee town in order to escape being punished for his deceitful behavior. The name Smiley, Smith added, “suggests that in him the hopes of the land are invested and in his rejuvenation rests the chance to turn the waste land into the smiling land it once was.” Simon Wheeler is, in Smith’s view, an enchanter and a spinner of tales; his tale holds the clue to Leonidas W. Smiley’s disappearance. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Instant downloads of all 1377 LitChart PDFs The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Quotes I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that if I asked old Wheeler about him, it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me to death with some exasperating reminiscence of him as long and as tedious as it should be … As an outsider leading a roaming lifestyle, the stranger doesn’t find himself beholden to the same code of integrity that Smiley honors. He’s an honest man who puts hard work into training his animals to be winners. Many writers of the era penned “frame stories,” commonly set in the southwestern United States, showing supposedly sophisticated and cultured Easterners encountering less polished characters on the frontiers of the expanding nation. While the Western Wheeler and Eastern narrator take vastly different views on the value of the content of the story—with the narrator finding it absurd, and Wheeler considering it “a really important matter”—the narrator appreciates and records Wheeler’s unpolished, Western style of storytelling. He reports that he went to see Simon Wheeler “in compliance with the request of a friend of mine”; he “hereunto append[s] the result.” He assures Wheeler that he “would feel under many obligations to him” for any information Wheeler could provide about Rev. Smith saw “Jumping Frog” as a retelling of the great legends of pilgrims on a quest for knowledge and spiritual salvation. However, it seems that Smiley is growing prideful due to his nearly spotless track record, implying that he is perhaps about to be proven wrong. If the letters “o” and “s” are dropped from “Leonidas,” the remaining letters can be rearranged into “Daniel,” and the “W” stands for “Webster.” The king, therefore, has been turned into a frog, just as in the original Fisher-King tale, Smith asserted. Also important is the fact that just as the frog cannot jump in the final contest detailed in the story, Webster failed to make the ultimate leap in politics—he never became president. It seems increasingly likely that Smiley will have to learn for himself the danger of trusting in appearances. Twain’s accomplishment, Schmidt commented, is “much more than the simple addition of another character to his satiric targets”; the author has managed to satirize “the entire point of view of the local colorist” and “the genteel version of the Enlightened traveler and belle esprit, a representative nineteenth-century American rich in official and accepted attitudes.”, There is much in the story to support this view. These names, along with other aspects of the story, led one scholar, Paul Smith, to make an interpretation in Satire Newsletter that seems a bit far-fetched, but is sufficiently interesting to merit the attention of anyone studying the story. “Writers often capitalized on the juxtaposition of literate traveler and colloquial rustic, exaggerating their differences of manners and speech to suggest cultural absurdities in one or the other or both,” critic Paul Baender explained in Modern Philology. The narrator obviously is annoyed by Wheeler’s “interminable narrative,” but maintains an attitude of pained tolerance, all the time letting us know he considers himself superior to Wheeler. When the stranger enters town, Jim Smiley immediately trusts him and tries to engage him in a bet. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. Schmidt noted in Southwest Review that in earlier southwestern frame stories and their predecessors— “local color” stories focusing on quirky, unsophisticated characters in various parts of the United States—the story’s narrator tended to be identified with the author and to be condescending toward the rustics he or she encountered. Wheeler ascribes just such talent to the dog, saying the animal “would have made a name for himself if he’d lived, for the stuff was in him and he had genius … he hadn’t no opportunities to speak of, and it don’t stand to reason that a dog could make such a fight as he could under them circumstances if he hadn’t no talent.” Smith thought the symbolism of the name appropriate and called the dog “the embodiment of Jacksonian democracy.” But another scholar, S. J. Krause, has argued in American Quarterly that Jackson actually considered himself superior to the so-called common people, that his stubbornness was not altogether admirable, and that he had a penchant for gambling. Though Smiley perhaps lacks tact, he doesn’t appear to be a cheat, which allows him to remain an accepted member of the community. Once again, Smiley uses this to his advantage. After cheating in the bet, the stranger leaves in order to escape punishment, permanently deeming himself an outsider. Inspired by an anecdote Mark Twain heard while traveling in the western United States, the sketch was published in various forms and under various titles, including “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” and “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” but the basic story remains the same in all versions. “Would not have made it through AP Literature without the printable PDFs. Jim Smiley has integrity, and it never occurs to him that the stranger would cheat or harm his frog. Like the mare, Jim Smiley’s bulldog does not look like a winner, consequently inviting people to judge him based on his appearance. And because Daniel Webster, the man, was a politician, the transformation symbolizes how practical politics have replaced religious idealism in American life.
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