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Vernacular Realism The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and The Mysterious Stranger

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Words: 1077 |

Pages: 2.5|

6 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

Words: 1077|Pages: 2.5|6 min read

Published: Jun 29, 2018

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Role of Dialect and Vernacular in Twain's Works
  3. Conclusion

Introduction

Mark Twain, the pseudonym of Samuel Longhorn Clemens, is renowned for his vivid portrayal of mid-nineteenth century Southern American life through the use of southwestern dialects and local vernaculars. In stories like "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and "The Mysterious Stranger," Twain masterfully employs dialect and vernacular as powerful instruments for deflating hypocrisy and pretension while also capturing the essence of his characters and settings. This essay aims to explore Twain's adept use of dialect and vernacular in his works, examining their role in shaping characters, enhancing realism, and conveying broader themes.

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Role of Dialect and Vernacular in Twain's Works

Dialect and vernacular are integral elements of Twain's writing, contributing to the authenticity and realism of his characters and settings. Twain's commitment to portraying the nuances of regional speech reflects his desire to capture the diverse cultural landscape of nineteenth-century America. As Kuhnert (YEAR) notes, Twain's use of dialect and vernacular serves as a means of grounding his narratives in specific geographical and social contexts, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the world of his stories.

In "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," Twain skillfully employs dialect to differentiate between the Eastern narrator and the Southern character, Simon Wheeler. The narrator's formal language and educated demeanor stand in stark contrast to Wheeler's colloquial speech and rustic appearance. For instance, the narrator's description of Wheeler as "fat and bald, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance" underscores the narrator's condescending attitude towards him. This juxtaposition highlights the social and cultural divide between the educated East and the rural South, setting the stage for the ensuing narrative.

Moreover, Twain's use of dialect extends beyond mere linguistic differences to reflect broader themes of social hierarchy and power dynamics. As Sewell observes, the narrator's use of Standard English signals his elevated social status and intellectual superiority, while Wheeler's use of Southern vernacular marks him as belonging to a lower socioeconomic class. This contrast serves to reinforce Twain's critique of social pretension and hypocrisy, as the ostensibly educated narrator finds himself outwitted and outmaneuvered by the seemingly simple-minded Wheeler.

In addition to its role in character differentiation, dialect also plays a crucial role in establishing the authenticity of Twain's settings and enhancing the realism of his narratives. In "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," the mining town of Angel's Camp comes to life through Wheeler's colorful descriptions and vivid anecdotes. Twain's meticulous attention to detail, from the dilapidated tavern to the eccentric characters who populate the town, creates a vivid sense of time and place that immerses the reader in the world of the story.

To further explore Twain's use of dialect and vernacular, it is essential to consider the broader implications of his narrative choices and their impact on the reader's interpretation of his works. For example, Twain's use of Southern vernacular can be seen as a form of cultural critique, challenging prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions about the South and its inhabitants. By portraying Southern characters with dignity and humanity, Twain challenges readers to reconsider their preconceived notions and confront the complexities of Southern identity.

Furthermore, Twain's use of dialect and vernacular can be viewed as a form of resistance against the dominant literary conventions of his time. As Emberson (YEAR) argues, Twain's deliberate incorporation of colloquial speech and regionalisms into his writing was a radical departure from the formal, elevated language favored by many of his contemporaries. By embracing the language of everyday speech, Twain sought to democratize literature and make it more accessible to a wider audience, regardless of their social or educational background.

Moreover, Twain's use of dialect and vernacular serves as a means of preserving and celebrating the rich linguistic diversity of American English. As Emberson (YEAR) notes, Twain was keenly aware of the unique cadences and rhythms of Southern speech, and he sought to capture these nuances in his writing. Through his meticulous attention to detail and his skillful rendering of regional speech patterns, Twain not only brought his characters to life but also preserved a vital aspect of American culture for future generations.

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Conclusion

Mark Twain's use of dialect and vernacular in his works is a testament to his skill as a writer and his commitment to realism and authenticity. Through his vivid portrayal of regional speech and his nuanced depiction of Southern characters and settings, Twain invites readers to explore the rich tapestry of nineteenth-century American life. By embracing the language of everyday speech and challenging prevailing literary conventions, Twain leaves behind a lasting legacy that continues to resonate with readers today.

References:

  1. Emberson, Frances Guthrie, PhD. “Mark Twain’s Vocabulary: A General Survey.” The University of Missouri Studies. X (1935) 5-35.
  2. Kuhnert, Daniela. “Mark Twain: The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” American West Literature. 03 Jan. 2001. Technsche University Chemnitz. 30 May, 2004 http://www.tu-chemnitz.de /phil/amerikanistik/projekte/west/markt.htm
  3. Twain, Mark. “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Kaplan, Justin., ed. The Signet Classic Book of Mark Twain’s Short Stories. New York: New American Library, 1985. 1-6.
  4. Sewell, David R. Mark Twain’s Languages: Discourse, Dialogue, and Linguistic Variety. Berkley: University of California Press, 1987.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Vernacular Realism The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and The Mysterious Stranger. (2018, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 12, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/vernacular-realism-in-twain-works/
“Vernacular Realism The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and The Mysterious Stranger.” GradesFixer, 10 Apr. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/vernacular-realism-in-twain-works/
Vernacular Realism The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and The Mysterious Stranger. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/vernacular-realism-in-twain-works/> [Accessed 12 Apr. 2024].
Vernacular Realism The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and The Mysterious Stranger [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Apr 10 [cited 2024 Apr 12]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/vernacular-realism-in-twain-works/
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