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Pudd'nhead Wilson is unique to its time in its portrayal of slave characters. Most works of this period portrayed blacks as lazy, dishonest, and at times even dangerous. Often, this was a not-so-subtle attempt to spread the propaganda that blacks were an inferior class of citizens who were unable to function independently in society, and that slavery was in fact beneficial to them. Twain, by contrast, takes a different approach in this novel. Though he acknowledges that the slaves in the story steal from their masters, he frames it not as evidence of their flawed characters, but rather as a form of social activism. These acts of thievery are justified expressions of defiance against their oppressors - not desperate acts of greed.