Pudd'nhead Wilson

The Material Dialectic: A Marxist Analysis of Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson

America has undeniably come a long way from its dark adolescence prior to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in becoming a global icon of ethnic diversity. No longer are African Americans relegated to indentured servitude or the “black” water fountain. Indeed the establishment of civil rights has brought a better way of life for not only Americans of different color, but also women and people of different religious beliefs. American history does not glamorize our past misdeeds with slavery, and our literature from the time lives on to tell the tales of those on the oppressed side of that nineteenth century dichotomy. A good example of such literature would be Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, a novel set in antebellum America on the banks of the Mississippi. In the piece Twain portrays the human rift created by color and miscegenation through the opposing notions of wealthy landowners and their slaves.

On the surface, the text certainly seems to reinforce the theme of human value based on skin color. However reading Pudd’nhead Wilson from a Marxist perspective raises questions of Twain’s motives. From this avenue of analysis, the text becomes more difficult to dismiss as simply a caricature of racial conflict, but instead...

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