PuddnHead Wilson is a detective story written by Mark twain and the argument that came across my mind is whether David Wilson is really a great detective or not.
The duplicities entrained in the south society was further explored by the author and he uses slavery to illustrate how fragile a class society is based on racial hierarchies. During the first chapters the author presented various characters that sets up the duplicities of this kind of society. Attorney David Wilson is a northerner who comes to the small Missouri town of Dawson’s landing to establish his career as a lawyer. upon arriving at Landing, he alienated the townspeople especially those who don’t understand his wittiness. Though the author sets him up as one of the smartest men in town, he was given the nickname Puddnhead when he made a satirical joke about killing half a dog. the townspeople can only understand the attempt that he made as a humor and so they refuse to give him their legal work. he was not considered as a credible lawyer at first because of their judgment on Wilson’s first attempt. This remained in their eyes for twenty years and Wilson cannot get his work in his chosen profession he have with him a “Scotch patience and pluck he resolved to live down his reputation and work his way into the legal field yet.” For twenty years he lived as a surveyor and accountant, trying to outlive his name.
Such complexities made readers think that he is not a great detective. Townspeople are blinded by their first impression on his first attempt but that doesn’t end there as the story progresses and other characters was made known by the readers, it made an impact and realization on who the real Puddnhead Wilson is.
Roxy is a slave who is introduced by the author outside of Puddnhead’s window. Which implies that she has something to do with the evolution of Wilson’s character in the story. Her manner of speech, as I read the book conjured an image of a poor southern black slave. I also learned that Roxy has only 1/16 black blood that is why she appeared to be white. A loving mother who wants to save her infant from slavery, she switches him with the child of her master who looks like his son and also born on the same day. The new tom became the slave and the new Chambers was raised by the master. The switch becomes the heart of the story.
The book then skims over twenty years, showing Tom to be growing up as mean, vindictive master who beats up Chambers to make Tom feel better about himself. When the master of the house dies, Roxy finds out that his will has set her free and she embarks on a life as a riverboat chambermaid. Tom and Valet are sent to live with Judge Driscoll, and Tom continues his life as a mean, self-centered bully. He spends some time in school, but is uninterested, and then moves to the city and builds up large gambling debt. After having the Judge pay off his debt and disinherit him once, he continues to gamble and builds more debt. To pay off this debt, Tom turns to stealing from the residents of ’s Landing by breaking into their homes dressed as a woman.
It is at this time that Roxy loses all of the money that she had made working on the riverboat when the New Orleans bank in which she had an account goes bust. Broke and unable to work due to pain, she returns to ’s Landing to blackmail Tom with the truth about his heritage. Tom is shocked by the news, and for a time has trouble living in white society. He soon returns to his old ways, however, and once again accumulates a large gambling debt.
Shifting the focus of the story, Twain then introduces his readers to a pair of Italian twins, who become the toast of the town. Tom runs afoul of one of the twins in a matter of honor, but instead of challenging the man to a duel, Tom takes him to court. Judge Driscoll, a member of the Founding Fathers of Virginia, considers this an affront to the honor of the family, and fights the duel himself, setting Tom up as an outsider for being too cowardly to fight a duel on his own This duel helps Wilson earn some respect from the community as he was a second to the Italian, Luigi.
When Tom, after being disinherited, and then re inherited again, realizes how precarious his situation is, he swears off gambling, but still must pay off the remainder of his debt. He decides to raise the funds by breaking into the Judge’s strongbox and stealing the money. In the midst of this burglary, however, the Judge discovers Tom and Tom ends up killing him, though Tom frames the Italians for the murder. finally gets to put his legal skills into practice, and using fingerprints that he had taken as a hobby throughout the book, he proves the twins innocent. He also reveals that the guilty party is Tom, whose real identity is exposed. As a slave and in accordance with the laws of the community, he is pardoned for the crime but sold down the river, where he dies working on a farm. Wilson’s reputation is fully established and Chambers is restored to his place as master of the Driscoll house.
After all the twists in the story I can say that David “Puddnhead” Wilson is such a great detective because he was able to figure out what the real story is and made him earn respect from the townspeople of the community that once doubted his capabilities. His reputation is fully established when the twins was proven as innocent with the crime and through his legal practices using fingerprints Tom’s identity was exposed and the real Chamber is restored to his place. truth shall always prevail and quick judgments should never be made in a person’s capabilities.
As David Puddnhead Wilson in the story, he was proven guilty of being a well credible investigator in the small Missouri town of Dawson’s Landing.
Twain, Mark. (1894). PuddnHead Wilson. Random House, Inc