Pudd'nhead Wilson

Personal Development: Nature vs. Nurture in Pudd’nhead Wilson

It is often debated whether one’s character is instilled at birth, or through the environment in which one is raised. Mark Twain’s novel Pudd’nhead Wilson argues the latter through describing the development of two boys of the same age, Chambers and Tom. A slave woman by the name of Roxy raises both boys, but while she is able to discipline Chambers, her own son, she is forbidden to punish her master’s son, Tom. Thus, as the boys develop into adults throughout the course of the story, it becomes apparent that while race and natural factors may slightly impact one’s development, it is primarily one’s upbringing and environment that determines the quality of one’s adult character.

When the boys are infants, Roxy switches them so that her son Chambers grows up as Tom, and Tom as Chambers. The boys both have very light skin and are the same age, so nobody notices the switch, and the true Chambers easily passes as a white Tom. The false Tom is an obnoxious child right from the moment they are switched. He cries constantly, scratching and hitting anyone that comes within his reach. However, rather than reprimand him, Percy Driscoll, Roxy's owner and the real Tom’s father, forces Roxy to ignore Tom's outbursts and to indulge...

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