And they maybe sort of lived happily ever after?

We talked in class about insiders versus outsiders and that got me thinking about what it means to be an outsider or an insider. Does Pudd’nhead Wilson, and therefore Mark Twain, represent the ideal trajectory for someone moving into a new town?

In order for someone to attain “insider” status, does that mean someone else has to suffer a debilatating fall from grace and become an “other?” It’s something that I think popular culture frequently tries to explore and yet it doesn’t always turn out to be as…eloquent, shall we say, or brilliant as Mark Twain ends up (or deceptively intertwined within a larger narrative). Perhaps this suggests something about why there aren’t many adaptations of Pudd’nhead Wilson–it’s difficult to negotiate the idea that someone will ultimately suffer as a result of someone else’s good deeds that gets him ahead of the game.

Is that why we’re supposed to be glad that “Tom” gets sold down the river? He became morally reprehensible/ambiguous, Pudd’nhead was accepted, but the community can’t disturb the equal balance between insider and outsider so someone has to go to restore balance?

It’s a somewhat cynical ending, which suggests that Twain, in addition to being sardonic, is more misanthropic than lighthearted and decepitively brilliant. But is it really the happy ending it was discussed in class if the outsider becomes the insider and the morally reprehensible insider becomes the disadvantaged outsider, and the Italian invaders leave?

One Response to “And they maybe sort of lived happily ever after?”

  1. jfaraci says:

    I like the idea you brought up about balance. We have talked so much about small southern societies in class and it is interesting to think that maybe Puddnhead was only accepted on the basis of restoring balance. I do not think it was a happy ending because technically no one got what they wanted in the end. Roxy’s son was sold. Puddnhead is mayor. The real Tom is stuck in limbo with his identity. And the real Chambers becomes a slave. However, if we are to look at the ending as restoring balance to the community than I can agree that this was most definitely achieved.