Critical Perspectives10/26/2005Cabin FeverPudd’nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain explores a wide range of identity issues through its plot. Twain uses many characters to portray life in a small town called Dawson’s Landing in Missouri. One of the issues that Twain brings to our attention is the relationship between the identity of his characters, and to the setting. Living in town as small as Dawson’s Landing in the time period the story was set in has a serious impact on the lives of Twain’s characters.
Roxana is a key character in the inner workings of Pudd’nhead Wilson. She is a slave owned by Percy Driscoll. When she has a son she switches him with that of her master’s at birth.
Her child is brought up as a white heir to a substantial estate, while Percy’s son is raised as a slave on a plantation. Roxana is only one sixteenth black, which is what makes hey plot work. Roxana looks white but because a measly one sixteenth of her is black, she can be justified as a slave. This rationalization shows an arrogance that goes hand in hand with the era. Roxana’s strong will and incredible integrity shows when she makes the decision to switch the infants:Now a strange light dawned in her eyes, and in a moment she was lost in thought. She seemed in a trance; when she came out of it, she muttered, "When I 'uz a-washin' 'em in de tub, yistiddy, he own pappy asked me which of 'em was his'n." She began to move around like one in a dream.
She undressed Thomas 'a Becket, stripping him of everything, and put the tow-linen shirt on him. She put his coral necklace on her own child's neck. Then she placed the children side by side, and after earnest inspection she muttered: "Now who would b'lieve clo'es could do de like o' dat? Dog my cats if it ain't all I kin do to tell t' other fum which, let alone his pappy."(p 15) She did not want her son to live the life of a slave as she does. She has a strong strength of character. Luigi and Angelo are identical twins who claim to be children of an Italian nobleman. They are popular amongst the townspeople.
They tell an elaborate story in which they are trapped by a traveling circus and put on display. After several years they escaped and went into business for them selves. It’s a mixture of the exciting story and their flattering personalities that win the admiration of the people of Dawson’s Landing. Starting over is a common motif in this story.
The twins start over by moving to the small Missouri town. Because there is no way.