The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Literary Elements

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Literary Elements


Tall tale, Humorous

Setting and Context

Midwestern United States, Turn of the Century

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told from the first person view of a narrator, possibly Twain himself.

Tone and Mood

Humorous, elaborate, exaggerated

Protagonist and Antagonist

Specific to Wheeler's story, Jim Smiley can be seen as the protagonist, with the stranger who cheats him as the antagonist

Major Conflict

Being a humorous story, conflict is minimal, however Smiley's unrestrained gambling habits can be seen as a conflict, as well as the stranger's challenge.


The climax of Wheeler's story comes when the stranger cheats Smiley by filling his frog with bird-shot.


The Narrator's suspicion in the opening that Leonidas Smiley does not even exist foreshadows his being "taken hostage" by Wheeler, who consequently relates the story of Jim Smiley.


Wheeler's statement that Jim Smiley was the "curiousest man about betting" is obviously an understatement of the gambling passion which seems to consume the man's life.


In the description of Smiley's dog, Wheeler alludes to both a "steamboat" and a "furnace" to emphasize the dog's tenacity.


Twain's use of slang is the most poignant imagery in "The Jumping Frog", as the distinctiveness of the dialect and disjointed speech lets the reader feel as if they are hearing this fantastic story firsthand.


At the beginning of the story, the Narrator bemoans the fact that he was forced to hear the entire story of the jumping frog. He then proceeds to relate the entire story again, subjecting the reader to the same story, making the entire writing one humorous paradox.


A distinct piece of parallelism can be found in Wheeler's description of Smiley's gambling habits. He says of Smiley: "If there was a dog-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a cat-fight, he'd bet on it; if there was a chicken fight, he'd bet on it." These three conjoined statements are identical, save for the type of animal.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

A humorous bit of metonymy comes from Wheeler's habit of stating a name before explaining to whom the name belongs. For instance, he begins speaking about "Dan'l Webster", only backtracking later to explain that this is the name of Smiley's frog.


When describing how Smiley's dog was defeated in a fight, Wheeler claimed he appeared "surprised and discouraged", emotions that a dog is not likely to display. A familiar synecdoche which Wheeler uses when describing a horse race is that Smiley's horse finished "a neck ahead". This is a common racing term, meant to indicate that the horse won by about a stride.

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