Pudd'nhead Wilson

Pudd'nhead Wilson Essay Questions

  1. 1

    A major theme of the book is the arbitrariness of racial classifications. Discuss this theme, citing three or more examples.

  2. 2

    Compare and contrast the two sets of "twins" is this novel: 1) Luigi and Angelo Capello, and 2) Tom Driscoll and Chambers.

  3. 3

    "Honor" is a motivator of much of the story's action. Discuss, giving at least three examples.

  4. 4

    A question posed by the novel is whether "nature" or "nurture" is the controlling factor in what type of person an individual will become. Does Twain conclusively favor one theory or the other? Discuss, giving examples of each.

  5. 5

    What role does the novel's setting play? How does the physical layout of Dawson's Landing mirror the town's racial segregation?

  6. 6

    Nineteenth century literature regularly portrayed slaves as lazy and dishonest. This often was done to support the view that blacks were better off in slavery. Does Twain's portrayal of slave characters in this novel diverge from this view? If so, how?

  7. 7

    How do the quotes from Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar fit into the novel? Are they integral to the plot?

  8. 8

    What role does "reputation" play in the novel? Discuss, using specific examples.

  9. 9

    How does killing in the name of honor differ from other types of killing in the novel?

  10. 10

    Compare and contrast acts of theft by slaves against their masters with the robberies committed by Tom Driscoll.

  11. 11

    Discuss the importance of ancestry in the novel.

  12. 12

    Does Twain's tone in this novel seem racist or anti-racist? Discuss.

  13. 13

    Compare and contrast Pudd'nhead Wilson with the novel The Prince and the Pauper.

  14. 14

    Describe and discuss the character of David "Pudd'nhead" Wilson. Why did Twain choose Wilson to be the novel's title character?

  15. 15

    How does Twain use satire to criticize the American South during the Antebellum period?

  16. 16

    Explain the role of "science" in the novel. In particular, compare and contrast fingerprinting with palmistry.