The Title of the Book

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The title The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson does not make more sense because normally tragedies are known for sad endings, yet Pudd’nhead ends the story somehow well. Interestingly, the main character in the title is not the main focus of the majority of the story. Though Pudd’nhead is playing a major role, Tom’s escapades take the reader’s attention more. By giving an “inferior” character like Pudd’nhead Wilson the attention in the title of the book, the author is trying to tell his readers of the importance of remaining positive on humankind. He gives Pudd’nhead more attention in the title and not more popular characters like Roxy, Judge Driscoll or Tom. He also constructs Wilson to have a good ending despite his tragedies in the story hence a show of courteous human kindness.

Giving the book a title with Tom would have been tragic for the reader. The readers would not know whether it is Tom the Chambers of just Tom since the two characters are switched. The character of “Tom” (Chambers) is a vicious, spoiled and dissolute person. However, “Chambers” (Tom) is a decent young person who lives fighting bullies on behalf of “Tom.” The real Tom and the false Tom are two different persons in character and having the name Tom on the title would have been difficult for the reader to understand the same way it would have been hard to analyze.

Roxy would not have been the best for the title because she suffers more than she causes tragedy. Despite her freedom from slavery, she remains the most threated character by slavery which is the core theme of the story. Equally, Judge Driscoll would not have fitted the title since his role does not portray tragedy. He is so kind that he even supports “Tom” to pay his gambling debts.

Pudd’nhead Wilson initially came to the town of Dawson’s Landing to start up a career in law, but ended up doing odd surveys and accounting jobs and later fingerprinting. The town’s society has a lot of injustices. The town is highly stratified and hierarchical community. At the top of the social order are the first families of Virginia, some of which engage in unjust acts like slavery. They are followed by quasi-nobility of certain white people with liege from Virginia and the free blacks. The lowest in the social ladder are the slaves. Wilson’s is unique in portraying the slaves because he claims they are lazy, deceitful and somehow dangerous. In the unjust society, Wilson managed to discover and prove to the court that the twins were innocent of the murder crime and that the guilty one is Tom. He also reveals the truth about the true identity of Tom and Chambers. His work leads to the freedom of the twins, and he gains favor in the society. He may never be called “Pudd’nhead” (foolish) again.

Despite his successful court session and pursuit of justice in the death of Driscoll, Wilson has not managed to solve the stigma that is still evident in Dawson’s Landing. His career has shown success, but the tragedy is that nothing significant has changed within the town. Slaves are still perceived as properties with their value remaining the service of their masters. The community still has narrow-minded and inhuman beliefs which are the ultimate downfall of the story and tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson.

August 21, 2023




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