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Example text

Nonetheless, in throwing our initial interpretation of his own character into disarray, Twain throws a spanner into our own assumptions of readerly intelligence and superiority – just gives a warning of our own tendencies to take the exaggerations we may read for the truth. My unpicking of the way Twain constructs more than one persona in this sketch, and of the way his humour and his satire work, is long-winded and clumsy compared to the economy of the sketch itself. But this is part of my point.

Was all right, because she done it herself’, 18–19). Similarly, he wonders why Miss Watson cannot ‘fat up’. The brevity and colloquial vigour of the last phrase and its 34 The Cambridge Introduction to Mark Twain suggestion, perhaps, of a possible easy physicality and comfort checked, in Miss Watson’s case, by an abstemious self-discipline, contains its own comic charge. Huck’s final analysis of what he has been told – that he can’t see ‘no advantage to it’ so will ‘just let it go’ – also acts to release comedy for the reader, though not for Huck (who remains serious throughout).

As E. B. ’2 Twain’s own best known short work, the sketch that brought him instant celebrity, ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ cannot help but spring to mind with this metaphor. I give some brief idea of the way that Twain’s humour works, working in a highly selective manner and trawling through his writing career. But I hope that my explanations do not overly weigh that humour down, and thereby allow Twain’s metaphorical frogs to keep on jumping. Twain’s humour takes many forms and it is this that helps, in part, to account for his massive success.

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