Realism In The Notorious Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County

Beginning in the mid nineteenth century, a dramatic shift in the arts and literature took place that invoked a new way of writing and a new generation of writers. This shift that prompted so many changes is better known as the realism movement. It converted literature from its old romantic and emotional style of writing and advanced to a more practical, applicable style. Literature began to tell a story that was true and honest, rather than dramatized. The presentation, American Literary Realism, defines realism as a literary device that provides an accurate and practical expression of life. This can be seen in Mark Twain’s “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, as he includes certain settings, characterization, and dialogue.

American Literature Realism describes realism as an accurate and practical expression of life through literary devices. The presentation touches on the initial rise, which helps to explain why and how realism had such an effect on the literature community. This movement followed the French Revolution of 1848, as realists began to reject the streamline romanticism that had been present for such a long time. Readers developed a want and a need for an accurate portrayal of life, rather than an emotional and exaggerated one. Realism gave writers a way to accomplish this and fulfill the readers’ desires. Literature began to depict real people in real places, without regards to sounding pristine or fictional. Most characters that were created during the realism movement belonged to the middle class and endured every-day obstacles or situations. A few well-known American authors that were brought to light during this time are William Dean Howells, Rebecca Harding Davis, Henry James, and Mark Twain.

Written by Mark Twain, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” expresses realism in more than one method. One way the Twain successfully embodies realism is through the use of setting. The story takes place soon after the California Gold Rush of 1849, in the mid nineteenth century. It is located in Calaveras County, California in a mining settlement called Angel’s Camp. Mining settlements were very common in California at this time especially, due to the provision of simple manual work and the great benefit that is provided through gold. This setting provides a depiction of realism because many people are able to relate to a life like this at the time. Twain purposefully does not go into extreme detail about the tavern or the settlement because people could already understand what it would look and feel like. The common people, who also happen to be the majority of the readers, are able to infer about the little details that Twain did not include, such as the way it smells, feels, looks, and sounds. This use of realism provides an even greater connection to the story with the readers, which contributed to Twain’s success during this time in particular.

Secondly, Twain expresses his grasp of realism in “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” through his use of characterization. This is a simple element, yet it is effective because the readers are able to feel as if the story and characters are “down to earth” and real. Twain writes that Simon is, “… Fat and bald-headed, and had an expression of winning gentleness and simplicity upon his tranquil countenance.” 

The final way that Twain uses realism in his story, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is through the use of certain dialogue. More specifically, he includes dialect that would have been used in every-day life in this particular time and place. Twain himself doesn’t actually speak as his characters do, but Simon Wheeler uses the common dialect of the Southwest. For example, Simon says things like, “But as soon as money was up on him, he was a different dog; his underjaw’d begin to stick out like the fo’castle of a steamboat, and his teeth would uncover, and shine savage like the furnaces.” While this does provide a somewhat humorous element to the literature, it is included in order to portray realism and add depth to his characters. This was the most natural way for Simon to speak, therefore Twain’s readers are able to believe that the story holds a realistic approach. The readers are also able to infer more about Simon’s character, simply from the way he speaks and carries conversation. 

16 August 2021
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