Pudd'nhead Wilson is based on the ancient theme of babies being switched at birth. Slave nanny Roxy switches her boy with her master's son, Tom Driscoll. Norman Dietz keeps the numerous characters clear and identifiable. Especially noteworthy is his ability to distinguish slight variations of dialect presented by the linguistically conscious Twain. His vocal quality is melodious and pleasing. The narration is deliberate in its pacing and may seem slow to some. This allows the listener the opportunity to explore the ever-shifting tenor of the writing. The seemingly simple text is quite complex; this rendition helps to unravel the alternations between comedy and tragedy.
Roxy, a slave who is only one-sixteenth black, serves as a nanny to her master's son, Tom Driscoll, who was born the same day as her own son, Chambers. Afraid that Chambers will one day be sold to another family, Roxy switches the two infants, who look almost exactly alike. Only Pudd'nhead Wilson, the town's laughing-stock, is able to figure out her ruse and set things right. Written during a period of great tragedy in Mark Twain's life and great social unrest in America, Pudd'nhead Wilson rises above its farcical plot to ask pointed philosophical questions about society, values, and racism.
Cover Art ©1992 by Richard Ewing; (P)1992 by Recorded Books, Inc.
"Dietz is, as usual, the man for the narrating job. He does Twain proud with his characterizations and adept sense of comic timing." (Kliatt)
I have enjoyed several of Mark Twain's books both by reading them and, more recently, by listening to them as audible books. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are fantastic, but I actually enjoyed Pudd'nhead Wilson even more. The story is intriguing, and the Narrator does an excellent job with the dialects. The extra material at the end was fascinating in which Twain explained how he had trouble getting this book the way he wanted it to be because, he finally realized, it was two stories in one. He told how he had to kill off many of the characters (by having them fall into a well) to remedy the problem.
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