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Jim Smiley and the Jumping Frog"

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Cohrin
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Book Report Do you like funny and amusing tell tales especially with the use of animals as caricatures? Well, set in Angel’s Camp, a gold mining community of California during the mid -19th century, Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog by Mark Twain is a classical anecdote to chew on. The narrator, clearly an educated man from the East, presents the story of Jim Smiley, told in Simon Wheeler’s uneducated dialect. The author uses this dialect to present the contrast between East and West: educated verses the uneducated, or refined verses coarse. The narrator claims to have visited the camp populated primarily by men to find Simon Wheeler. Many of them looking for their fortune and probably seem to be full of loud, uncouth, and uneducated people compared to the more genteel East. Within this context, the author uses symbolism, imagery and allegory quite skilfully through his narrator using absurd characters to tell tale. Since tall tales traditionally have been more appreciated in the West, the setting is appropriate. Humorously, the names for the dog and the "educated" frog hint at some possible political undertones. The dog, who didn’t look like much but was feisty when it came to fighting, was named for Andrew Jackson, a westerner and the seventh president of the United States. He was a man of the people and believed in democracy for all.
The moral of the tale could be that the uneducated, common frog was only able to beat the educated frog through cheating. Alternatively, given Webster’s politics, it might be possible read more deeply into this and suggest that the tale is subversively arguing for equality for all Americans. Filled with cunning and cleverness, lies and deceit, competition and contrasting Jim Smiley who appears to be extraordinarily lucky, the author high-lighted the relevant themes effectively. Jim is finally outsmarted by a stranger, who beats him through cheating. Nonetheless, the story poses a moral distinction between honest and dishonest cleverness. It also shows that you don’t necessarily have to be educated and well spoken to be clever, nor is a good education a defense against getting fooled. Will Jim ever find the man that ticked him? I therefore recommend that you read the tale to see how easily he was gulled. More so, I feel that the title fail to hint at the political undertones in the story, which can be found in the name of the feisty dog Andrew Jackson and the amazing frog named Dan’l Webster, who was cheated from winning by a wily stranger who fills him with quail shot so that he can’t move.
Most good short stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. More so, great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice such as Mark Twain who tried to add some spice to Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog.
From the initial stage, the narrator enters the tavern in Angel’s mining camp where a friend has asked him to find Simon Wheeler who in turn had asked him about the Reverend Leonidas W. Smiley. However, Simon Wheeler doesn’t remember a Reverend Smiley but he does start to tell a tale about Jim Smiley, a man who loved to make bets. Here is where the funny and humorous theme came into play. Smiley, an honest gambling addict manages to come out on top a few seconds before the race ends with a mare who is as sick as his master/trainer.
Further, to make the conflict more comical, Smiley has a dog named Andrew Jackson that doesn’t look like he can win a fight yet he gambles on dog- fights until he loses. Putting more mix in the martar to his honest gambling imagery, he educates a frog so that it can beat other frogs at jumping. Eventually, Smiley was outwitted by a stranger at his own game. When Smiley discovers what the stranger had done; fills his frog with quail shot, it was too late, for the stranger had disappeared. The writer tried to add a bit of suspense towards the end of the story when Smiley goes after the stranger but the stranger has already skipped town. The stranger takes the money and leaves. The narrator leaves the saloon thinking his quest was fruitless.

Definitely, this tale proves to the reader the power of story-telling. The lesson gathered from the story is to appreciate that sometimes street smarts are more important than a fine education. The outcome of the tale is appropriate in modern times when compared to the era it was set. Naming and using the strange, weird animals to fulfill a quest are just about anything can be fascinating.

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