Pudd'nhead Wilson

Fact and Faith within Detective Fiction College

Humans possess the innate need to simplify and categorize the complexities of human identity. For the purposes of this paper, fingerprinting, DNA typing and gene mapping are modern day manifestations of the idea that identity is located on the skin and in the blood. These methods of determining one’s character, propensities, and abilities based on physical markers are predicated on the notion that identity can be read in the body. While the social implications of locating racial identity in the body are apparent if not obvious, the social implications of centering identity in the body are not as evident when it comes to the topic of sexual orientation.

The novel Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain and outside sources show that locating identity in the body transforms society into a hierarchy of dominant groups and oppressed groups. Thus, by locating identity in the body and using the evidence of scientific data to confirm this identity, the dominant groups within society maintain their control. This paper will examine the social construction of race and the use of science in locating identity in the body during the antebellum South through the lens of dominant and oppressive groups in Pudd’nhead Wilson. In comparison, it will also...

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