Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mark Twain: Satirical Softcover of Siamese Serfdom

I wanted to discuss the topic I brought to class the other week outlined in my Précis assignment. Mark Twain’s humor and use of sarcasm appeal to my own sense of humor. He uses the sometimes ridiculous happenstances to parody the societal norms of the time. The indirect criticism is a clever and poetic way to attack the institutions that create a paradox. Racism is a self-contradicting social construction that is still alive today.

My Précis assignment focused on the idea that Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins were meant to be a single novel, not separated as they were published. This little bit of information is valuable; however the larger issue of race and racism in this country is expounded upon by the author of the academic journal I researched. Being a Spanish major I have been enrolled in many cultural studies and language courses. Some of these courses have made me more culturally sensitive and have revealed the more profound nature of racism. Even though institutional racism is not as apparent or regulated today, it still exists in a significant way. There are many large and small legislative maneuvers that attempt to control minorities within the United States. In the 19th century and even late into the 20th century people of color have been subject to discrimination and segregation. What I appreciate about Mark Twain’s work is that he appropriately creates a satirical work that highlights, in sometimes a not so subtle way, the flaws of the standards have created for themselves and others. He utilizes the two pair of “twins” to develop an argument against the very core of racism. The switching of the twins points out the blatant contradiction of the blood argument. The blood of a person of color is only different because society makes it different. The small community creates the distinction between black and white, when there is no physical, visible difference. Mark Twain continues to satirize the irony in Those Extraordinary Twins with the idea of “killing half”. Society, represented by the court system, elects to execute one twin, but because they are conjoined twins they doom the other to die as well. Those who judge a decision are truly caught between a rock and hard place. Mark Twain uses this fiction as a way to illustrate the impossibility of a solution and relates it back to the inability of society to make a proper decision.

The two novels make a fun read and demonstrate the ridiculous contradiction racism presents.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are right about Twain. His writing was satirical, but at the same time he was making a serious comment on the society that surrounded him and his books. It is interesting to look at Twain's work and see the social commentary that is often found in his writing, Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins are no exception. With The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man we are once again seeing how the "one-drop" notion comes into effect. It is interesting to see the two different takes on the notion and how it effects the characters differently. Hopefully noting too terrible comes of the narrator in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.