Friday, May 27, 2016

The Injustice of Fate in Pudd’nhead Wilson

The dichotomy between an individual’s willpower and inherent destiny is one of the predominant themes throughout Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson.  The novel’s original title, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, implies that the ultimate outcome is somehow predestined and unchangeable by any human effort.  Thus within this world some things cannot be altered; a person’s birth dictates their status rather than their individual merit.  This point is evidenced by the way neither Tom nor Chambers’ identity can be hidden; no matter what they do, their fingerprints are a constant which identify them in the end. 

            In addition to fate’s immovability, it is also associated with the immovability of the characters.  Instead of the truth setting them free, both Tom and Chambers are subsequently entrapped by the life they were born into; Chambers is a slave, and Tom is a free and wealthy man.  Twain constantly refers to racial status as a man-made “fiction” questions the strictures of his contemporaries’ society, suggesting that the “fate” of Tom and Chambers was not that of some metaphysical concept of destiny, but rather an enforcement of society’s expectations of the individual.  

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