Pudd'nhead Wilson

Why does twain take the time to tell readers how accurate his book is according to the law

whisper to the reader

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Twain's opening remarks in "A Whisper to the Reader" lay the foundation for law as a significant theme in Pudd'nhead Wilson. The author assures his reader that the novel's legal scenes are accurate, and even gives the credentials of the lawyer who Twain consulted to ensure the book's authenticity. Interestingly, however, the story's portrayal of law is somewhat paradoxical. At times, law is portrayed as a noble profession that has a considerable influence over life in Dawson's Landing. The town's chief citizen, York Driscoll, is a judge. Other prominent citizens - such as Pembroke Howard, and later, Pudd'nhead Wilson - are lawyers. Toward the end of the novel, when Luigi and Angelo are on trial for murder, townspeople fill the courtroom, anxious to see justice be done. Further, it is Puddn'head Wilson's courtroom performance that wins him acclaim and solidifies his status as a "made man."

At other points in the novel, however, Twain seems to mock the legal profession. The so-called attorney-consultant who checked the novel's legal accuracy had not practiced law in a number of years and had to brush up on his law before attempting to edit the book. When Luigi disgraces the Driscoll family by kicking Tom, the Judge is outraged to learn that his nephew had attempted to resolve the dispute by resorting to a court of law. To the judge, confronting such an offense through use of the legal system is a disgraceful practice, which only a coward would engage in. Similarly, Pudd'nhead Wilson, a lawyer, notes that he would have tried to keep Tom's case out of the courthouse, to give the Driscoll's an opportunity to take matters into their own hands, and challenge Luigi to a duel.