The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Character List
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Written by Timothy Sexton
The story is narrated by a man who is looking for a Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley on behalf of a mutual friend. Responding to his inquiries is one Simon Wheeler who takes over the role of the narrator of the story within the story about another fellow named Smiley: Jim Smiley.
Wheeler is an affable and friendly sort of fellow who seems to spend half his time telling tall tales and half his time dozing off. He essentially takes over the role of the narration from the actual narrator for most of the story as the bulk of the narrative is constructed from his long digressive stories about Jim Smiley that serve mainly to waste time.
Wheeler’s stories are about a man named Jim Smiley, an inveterate gambler who lived in a mining camp in the Wild West. Smiley was such an obsessive gambler that that he would be willing to place on a bet on just about anything. The centerpiece of the recollection about Smiley concerns the time he trained a pet frog to take part in a jumping competition.
The frog that Jim Smiley trains to jump is named after the famous orator Daniel Webster. Dan’l loses the competition and thus Smiley loses the bet as a result of underhanded tactics by his competitor.
Before getting around to the frog jumping competition, Wheeler tells of how Smiley gambled on the fighting skills of his dog named Andrew Jackson. Smiley could easily get bets against his small dog who essentially played Ali’s rope-a-dope until the pot was impressive enough at which point he would take hold of his opponent’s hind legs and not let go until the fight was won. Tragically, one day Andrew Jackson went up against a dog that had no hind legs and lost badly.
Reverend Leonidas W. Smiley
The old friend that the narrator comes looking never does turn up either in narrative where Simon Wheeler is telling stories or in one Wheeler’s stories about Jim Smiley. Eventually, the narrator concludes that there never was a Leonidas Smiley and instead he has become the victim of a practical joke by his friend.
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