Pudd'nhead Wilson

Pudd'nhead Wilson Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13 - 15


Chapter 13

After being rebuked and disinherited by his uncle, Tom longs for some "cheerful company" to raise his spirits. He sees a light on in Pudd'nhead Wilson's house and decides this will do, as Wilson has always been courteous toward him. Wilson tells Tom that he is ashamed of him for treating his uncle so poorly. Pudd'nhead indicates that had he been aware that Judge Driscoll was sleeping and did not know about the incident, he "would have kept that case out of court," so as to give the Judge "a gentleman's chance." This puzzles Tom; if the case was kept out of court, Wilson would not have gotten his first legal case after all of these years. However, unlike Tom, Wilson puts the Judge's honor above his own self-interest.

Justice Robinson, John Buckstone, and Constable Blake stop by Wilson's house to discuss the recent thefts. The constable reveals that a woman is suspected of the robberies. Wilson immediately thinks of the mysterious young girl he had seen in Tom's room, but she is quickly put out of his mind when the constable specifies that the suspect is a stooping old woman that someone saw coming out of one of the robbed homes and the constable himself saw getting onto a ferry. Wilson notes that the old woman will have difficulty pawning off the items she stole, as the twins notified the pawnbrokers when they discovered the Indian knife was missing. Luigi and Angelo have offered a five hundred dollar reward for the weapon, as well as a reward of equal value for the thief.

The chapter concludes with Wilson being asked to run for Mayor as the Democratic Party's candidate. This signifies that Wilson is finally being accepted into "the town's life and activities," and he accepts the offer.

Chapter 14

Luigi readily accepts Judge Driscoll's duel challenge. This wins him the Judge's admiration, who states "it's an honour as well as a pleasure to stand up before such a man." Pembroke Howard will be serving as the Judge's second in the duel, while Wilson will be Luigi's. Angelo and a surgeon will also be present on the field of battle, and each competitor is to have three shots apiece.

Before leaving for the duel, the Judge realizes he may soon be dead and he has a change of heart toward Tom. He blames himself for Tom's cowardice, having "indulged him to his hurt, instead of training him up severely, and making a man of him." The will is redrawn and Tom once again stands to inherit the fortune. Tom sees his uncle writing something, and as soon as the Judge sets off for the duel, Tom has the will in his hands and is examining it. He is comforted to learn that he's "got the fortune again." However, he quickly returns to being distraught when he remembers that Wilson has rendered him unable to pawn the knife. Thus, he is still without an immediate source of income to pay off his outstanding debts, creating the danger of exposure should his creditors become impatient and seek out his uncle directly for payment. Tom decides to go to Roxy with his despair. At the haunted house, he learns about the duel from Roxy, who is disgusted that her son was so cowardly as to avoid fighting the duel himself. She is convinced that it's Tom's inherent "blackness" that has made him such a disgrace. She informs Tom that Luigi was injured though not killed in the duel. Moreover, a stray bullet grazed her own nose, and some of Judge Driscoll's hair was snipped off by a shot. Tom cannot believe his bad luck at his uncle not being killed in the gunfight. He reveals to Roxy the danger he currently faces from his creditors, and his mother comes up with a plan to hold them off for a while. Specifically, Tom will offer to pay interest on his debts and will use the loot he recently stole in the raids to meet this interest obligation. Then when Judge Driscoll dies, he can use his inheritance to pay off the remaining debt. Roxy then tells her son that his drinking and gambling days are over. Further, she says that she will follow him to St. Louis to ensure he behaves himself.

Chapter 15

Nothing makes the people of Dawson's Landing prouder than a duel. In their eyes, the participants "had reached the summit of human honour." As Luigi's second, Wilson has become "a made man" and his success in the mayoral race is now secured. Similarly, the twins are now "prodigiously great," accepted by the townspeople with enthusiasm and even asked to stand for seats on the aldermanic board. This embrace of the twins infuriates Tom, who still holds a grudge against Luigi for kicking him, and against Angelo for being Luigi's brother. Tom takes out his frustration on Wilson and Constable Blake, who he runs into on the street. He goads the two men about their inability to apprehend the old woman that is allegedly responsible for the town robberies. Further, he plants suspicion about the twins in the two men's minds.

Tom does this by first uncovering Wilson's plot to catch the thief: The five hundred dollar reward for the knife was publicly advertised, while the reward for the thief was privately communicated to the pawnbrokers. That way, the thief - unaware that there was a bounty on her head - would feel comfortable going into a pawnshop to sell her loot, and would promptly be captured. Tom points out that this scheme is foolproof, and that had the knife actually been stolen, the thief surely would have been uncovered by now. The only possible explanation, he postulates, is either that no such knife ever existed, or the twins still possess it themselves. He further notes that this would allow the twins to look wealthy and important by offering up the reward, without actually costing them anything. This explanation completely wins over the constable, and even causes Wilson to doubt the twins.

Back at the Driscoll household, Tom reveals to his uncle that Luigi is a confessed murderer. Tom claims that he only pretended to be afraid of the Italian, in order to avoid the more serious disgrace of meeting an assassin in a duel. In the Judge's mind, this restores the family's honor, and therefore it restores Tom to his favor. Judge Driscoll is outraged and deeply offended that the assassin pretended to be a gentleman and met him on the field of honor. He resolves to bring about the demise of the twins' political campaign.

As the chapter closes, Tom is on a transient boat with his large bag of plunder. This is the loot he stole in the raid, and he plans on liquidating it to carry out Roxy's plan to hold off the creditors. However, as Tom sleeps aboard the vessel, a fellow thief robs him of all the items.


When Roxy learns that Tom is too afraid to fight Luigi, she attributes his cowardice to his black blood. Her comment suggests that no matter how hard Tom tries to clean up his act, he is doomed to failure due to his inherent slave nature. According to Roxy, Tom's black blood has infected his soul and thereby guaranteed his downfall. Roxy's comments are interesting for a number of reasons. First, she has the same black blood running through her own veins and actually has more than her son (since she is 1/16 black, while Tom is merely 1/32). Yet Roxy has never indicated that her black blood has doomed her to failure or that cowardice is in her inherent nature. Nor has any of her actions so suggested. Unlike Tom, who was too afraid to step anywhere near the scene of the duel, Roxy stands close by (and is even grazed by a bullet) to watch. The only real difference between Roxy and her son (and perhaps the only plausible explanation for their distinct personalities and traits) is that Roxy has lived most of her life in slavery, while Tom grew up wealthy and free. This suggests that it is "nurture" rather than "nature" which is really at work here. Additionally, Roxy's suggestion that Tom's inherent "nature" is to blame for his failures is further undermined by her comments about his high birth. She has previously indicated that Colonel Essex - before his death, a prominent citizen of Dawson's Landing who was himself descended from Virginia's First Families - is Tom's father. Here, she adds that she and Tom are descended from Captain John Smith ("de highest blood dat Ole Virginny ever turned out") and Pocahontas. If an individual's blood is the determining factor in whether he or she should succeed or fail in life, then Tom's noble bloodline would suggest that he should be the town's leading citizen.

Honor continues to play an important role in these chapters. We see that Judge Driscoll is not the only character who is disappointed and disgusted by Tom's "dishonorable" refusal to fight Count Luigi in a duel. For example, Pudd'nhead Wilson tells Tom how ashamed he is of him for dishonoring his uncle's name. Wilson indicates that had he been aware that Judge Driscoll did not know about the kick, he would have kept Tom's assault charges out of court to give the Judge a "gentleman's chance." To Wilson, himself a lawyer and officer of the court, the Judge's honor is more important than his own legal career. Similarly, Roxy voices her disgust at Tom's cowardice. Thus, it appears that the honor code is not limited to the descendents of Virginia's First Families; rather, it is pervasive throughout the town. Indeed, we see just how highly the town values honor after Judge Driscoll and Luigi's duel. So impressed are the townspeople with the duel's participants for honorably engaging each other in battle, that the combatants, along with their seconds, become town heroes.

The reader also sees that the Judge's honor code is somewhat hypocritical. When Luigi first accepts the Judge's challenge and agrees to engage him in a duel, the Judge expresses admiration and respect for the twin, remarking that it is an "honor" and a "privilege" to face the Italian. Yet, he does and about-face when he learns that Luigi once killed a man. Suddenly, Judge Driscoll views Luigi as a scoundrel who is unfit to stand on the field of honor. Moreover, he begins plotting ways to undermine and destroy the twins' political campaign. The Judge's response to the news that Luigi had previously killed someone is quite hypocritical. Shortly before learning this, he had gone out to the field of honor and met Luigi in mortal combat. At that time, the Judge knew that either combatant might kill the other. Yet not only did he not condemn this willingness to take life, he commended it as an indicator of honor and valor. It is therefore somewhat confusing as to why Judge Driscoll responds so angrily when Tom reveals that Luigi once killed a man.

Additionally, we see in these chapters just how clever Pudd'nhead Wilson is. He devises the plan to publicly announce the five hundred dollar reward for the Indian knife, while privately informing pawnbrokers that there is an equal reward for the capture of the culprit. If Tom had not been present when Wilson was discussing the rewards with Constable Blake and Justice Robinson, the plan would have likely been successful in securing Tom's apprehension. However, Wilson's intelligence does have its limits, for he never suspects that Tom could be the thief, and thus speaks freely of the scheme to catch the thief in the thief's own presence.