|Table of Contents|
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The providential background
Chapter 2. The prince and the pauper
Chapter 3. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Chapter 4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Chapter 5. Pudd’nhead Wilson
Chapter 6. The mysterious stranger
Chapter 7. Conclusion: A failure to adapt
PROVIDENCE IN THE NOVELS OF SAMUEL CLEMENS
ROBERT LEE CODY
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLM4ENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1)~78
by Robert Lee Cody
To my mother and father, who instilled a desire for learning and gave me the opportunity to fulfill that desire, and to Diane, who helps me continue to learn and grow.
I would like to thank Dr. Ruthellen Crews and Dr. Ward Hellstrom f or the helpful suggestions they have provided for this study. And I especially would like to thank Dr. Ben Pickard, whose perceptive criticism and constant faith were both necessary for the successful completion of this dissertation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
ABSTRACT .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
CHAPTER I: DIE PROVIDENTIAL BACKGROUND . . . . . . . 1
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
CHAPTER II: THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER . . . . . . . 20
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
CHAPTER III: ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN . . . . . 37
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
CHAPTER IV: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT . . 62
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
CHAPTER V: PUDDTHEAD WILSON . . . . . . . . . 86
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
CHAPTER VI: THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER . . . . . . . 110
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 120
CHAPTER VII: CONCLUSION: A FAILURE TO ADAPT . . . . . 124
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
PROVIDENCE IN THE NOVELS OF SAMUEL CLEMENS By
Robert Lee Cody
Chairman: John B. Pickard
Major Department: English
Although much emphasis has recently been placed on the negativism in Samuel Clemens's life and works, his early extended fiction is in fact quite optimistic. This optimism is based on and.is most apparent in his use of the concept of providence as a controlling principle in his early novels. Both thematically and structurally, the providential concept plays an important role in Clemens's early development as a novelist. The best example of this essential optimism is provided by The Prince and the Pauper; but the providential theme and structure is also evident in Clemens's two more famous works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Even as early as Huck Finn, however, there are indications that Clemens is beginning to doubt the continued value of literary applications of the providential concept. It is not surprising, therefore, that in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Clemens's next novel, the importance of this concept is significantly reduced; for Hank Morg'an, though he pays lip service to Christianity, actively seeks to supplant Providence as the controlling force in his world. And in Pudd'nhead Wilson, the doctrine of providence is further diminished as vi
Hank Morgan gives way to an even more deterministic and in some ways more chaotic world view.
Finally, there is the last stage of Clemens's literary career, best represented by the nihilistic note of The Mysterious Stranger. Here, the element of providence is not so much diminished as destroyed; the concept of providential control is finally lost as a thematic and structural device. Here, the central theme is that there is no contr ol of the universe. This message is reflected by the form; for Clemens left only fragments and instructions that his biographer and literary executor, Albert Bigelow Paine, might combine these fragments in whatever manner he thought best. Thus, there can be no definitive text mirroring the author's intentions in.The Mysterious Stranger. Or rather, the fragmentary nature of this work might be said to best reflect Clemens's final intentions.
There is a central movement apparent in Clemens's major fiction, therefore. It is the movement from the strict order of providential guidance and control in his early works to the chaotic secularism of his middle period to the orderless nihilism of the dream world Twain created in his late fiction.
THE PROVIDENTIAL BACKGROUND
"As used in religion, Providence is understood in a theistic
sense to denote the care of God for His creatures, His general supervision over them, and the ordering of the whole course of things for their good." 1 The development of the providential concept, although closely connected to the rise of Christianity, actually pre-dates theChristian era. As a philosophical concept, it appeared at least 350 years before Christ's birth; Paul Tillich noted this when he wrote the following in A History of Christian Thought: "The fourth point in which the Platonic tradition was important was its idea of providence. This seems to us to be a Christian idea, but it was already formulated by Plato in his later writings. It was a tremendous attempt to overcome the anxiety of fate and death in the ancient world." 2 And as a religious concept, providence was a well-established part of the Judaic tradition into which Christ was born. 3 Thus, the providential concept cannot be originally ascribed to Christianity; nevertheless, it has been central to the thought and practice of Christianity from the initial founding of this religion. This is evident throughout the New Testament, which W. T. Davison considers "continuous with the OT, but its doctrine of Providence is more minute, more personal, more tender." 4 Further evidence for the centrality of this doctrine is provided by the early Churchmen who commented on or interpreted these Scriptures, or who
derived from them a distinct theology. For example, Origen, usually regarded as the first great theologian of the Christian Church, reduced his system to two essentials: free will and providence. 5 Augustine, like Origen, was interested in the question of providence. Unlike Origen, however, Augustine approached the idea of providence less as a speculative issue than as a practical concern. 6 For in Augustine's lifetime, the idea that struggle and suffering--de agone Christiano--was necessary became all too real. This is evident from his belief that the cruelties inflicted upon contemporary Romans by Germanic invaders "came from that Divine Providence who makes use of war to reform the corrupt lives of men. [The Roman citizens] ought to see that it is the way of Providence to test by such afflictions men of virtuous and exemplary life, and to call them, once tried, to a better world, orto keep them for a while on earth for the accomplishment of other purposes.' 7 In order to sustain the faithful in their often difficult quest of the City of God, therefore, it was necessary to show that God was not only in total control but also had a loving concern for His creation; Augustine emphasized this whenhe wrote:
Similarly, all things are governed according to their
proper nature and position, both living and non-living,
being subject to the laws of Divine Providence.
Therefore, the Lord says: "And are not the sparrows
sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them will
fall to the ground without your Father's leave.
So also are the birds of the air fed by Him and the lilies of the field clothed by Him. It is the voice
of Truth that speaks, declaring that even our hairs
are numbered. God exercises a direct Providence over holy, rational natures (whether the most exalted and
excellent of angels, or men who serve Him wholeheartedly) . . 8
Thomas Aquinas, while providing a more definitive foundation for
the concept of providence in Roman Catholic doctrine, was nevertheless
heavily indebted to Augustine for his understanding and explanation of that concept; this is especially evident in the connection he showed between providence and the concepts of foreordination and reprobation. 10 And by emphasizing this connection, Aquinas served as a link between Augustine and a central figure in the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin. Thus, despite the changes brought about by the Reformation, the providential concept maintained a central place in Protestant theodicies. This is illustrated by Institutes of the Christian Religion, in which Calvin devotes separate chapters to proving and explaining in traditional terms the idea of providence and to examining how this doc11
trine might benefit his followers.
If such a cataclysmic event as the Protestant Reformation could not disrupt the continuum of the providential concept, then the transportation of Christianity to the American colonies could not be expected to. The concept of Divine Providence has thus been a vital doctrine in American culture since at least 1620. As the framers of the Mayflower Compact stated, one of the principal reasons for the Pilgrims' migration to the New World was for "the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith." 12 An integral part of this faith was the belief that God was watching over and guiding them, as William Bradford indicated when he wrote of the Pilgrims' early troubles:
What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God
and His grace? May not and ought not the children of
these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but*they cried unto the
Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity," etc. "Let them therefore praise the Lord,
because He is good: and His mercies endure forever."
"Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord,
shew how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the deser.t.
wilderness out of the way, and found no city to
dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the
Lord His loving kindness and His wonderful works
before the sons of men. -l
The Pilgrims thus felt that they were, as a modern incarnation of Moses
and the Israelites, the beneficiaries of a special providence which
preservedd both their lives and their healths." 14
This idea of special providences, as opposed to God's more general
concern for and control of all His creation, was not new, of course.15
Nor was it viewed, as the previous example might suggest, as a onesided concept of divine beneficence. The Puritan fathers included misfortune in the idea of special providences, and it could serve two purposes. Many times the misfortune was thought of as the traditional test
or trial of one's faith. More often, however, it was seen as a punishment for evil; and its value here consisted in the object lesson it provided. Increase Mather, in his Remarkable Providences Illustrative of
the Earlier Days of American Colonization,-presented vivid examples of
providential retribution. The following suitably illustrates God's
interposition in the life of the evildoer:
A thing not unlike to this hapned (though not in NewEngland) yet in America, about a year ago; for in September 1682, a man of the isle of Providence, belonging to a vessel, whereof one Wollery was master, being
charged with some deceit in a matter that had been
committed to him, in order to his own vindication, horribly wished "that the devil might put out his eyes if he had done as was suspected of him." That very
night a rhume fell into his eyes, so that within a
few dayes he became stark blind. His company being
astonished at the Divine hand which thus conspicuously
and signally appeared, put him ashore at Providence,
and left him there. A physician being desired to undertake his cure, hearing how he came to lose his sight,
refused to meddle with him. This account I lately received from credible persons, who knew and have often
seen the man whom the devil (according to his own wicked wish) made blind, through the dreadful and
righteous judgment of God.15
And the response of those who witnessed this incident shows that Mather's understanding of and attitude toward the workings of Providence was typical. His purpose was not to explain an unfamiliar concept. Rather, it was to provide sufficient illustrations of an accepted doctrine to encourage the practice of good lives; this is indicated by the design of this project: "In order to the promoving [sic] of a design of this nature, so as shall be intended for Gods glory and the good of posterity, it is necessary that utmost care be taken that all and only Remarkable. Providences be recorded and published.",17
As the New England colonies moved toward independence, changes 18
naturally took place in the contemporary religious scene. As V. L.
Parrington has pointed out, the early development of the New England colonies "would seem to have been determined by an interweaving of [Puritan] idealism and Yankee economics. 19But beginning in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and perhaps culminating in the figure
of Benjamin Franklin, there was a shifting emphasis; Parrington perceived this change as follows:
Following the Revolution of 1688 a new theory of the
political state was rising in England--the theory that the state originated in private property and
exists primarily for the protection of property;
and this conception, thrust upon New England, was
to cut sharply across the cleavages of the old order and create new ones. It substituted the
dominance of wealth for the stewardship of righteousness; the stake-in-society principle for the
Mosaic code. It set a premium upon acquisitiveness
and subordinated the Puritan to the Yankee.20
In general, then, the Covenant of Works, which, while not itself providing salvation, was a sign that the follower of God's laws was a parti21
cipant in the Covenant of Grace and thus saved, was replaced by a Protestant work ethic. Special providences and material successes were
equated, and they were thought to be the result of hard work. The New
England colonies, in essence, were moving from a theocratic to a secular
These were the changes, of course, that Jonathan Edwards was attempting to combat in his ministry. In line with his interest in reinstituting more strictly Calvinistic principles, Edwards's view of
providence was distinctly traditional and definitely not materialistic.
In explaining the correspondence between spiritual and material worlds,
he replaced the emphasis on the former when he wrote:
It is a great argument with me that God, in the creation and the disposal of the world and the state and
course of things in it, had great respect to a showing
forth and resembling spiritual things, because God in
some instances seems to have gone quite beside the
ordinary laws of nature in order to it [sic];particularly that in serpents' charming birds and squirrels
and such animals. The material world, and all things pertaining to it, is by the creator wholly subordinated to the spiritual and moral world. To show this,
God, in some things in providence, has set aside the
ordinary course of things in the material world to
subserve to the purposes of the moral and spiritual,
as in miracles. And to show that all things in heaven
and earth, the whole universe, is wholly subservient,
the greater parts as well as the smaller, God has
once or twice interrupted the course of the greater
wheels of the machine, as when the sun stood still in Joshua's time. So, to shew how much he regards things
in the spiritual world, there are some things in the
ordinary course of things that fall out in a manner
quite diverse and alien from the ordinary laws of
nature in other 4 ngs, to hold forth and represent
Edwards thus illustrated the traditional belief in a God who totally
sustains and controls the universe--by general laws, special providence,
or even occasional miracles. He tried, by the analogies he drew between 23
God's providence and such natural phenomena as rivers and trees, to
reawaken in eighteenth-century Americans the sense that they were still
dependent on Divine Providence, in spite of their personal achievements
and increasing prosperity. In this effort, of course, Edwards enjoyed only a qualified success. But he did provide a continuing alternative to the secular wisdom of Poor Richard's Almanac.
Nor was this alternative lost as the American people, with their newly won independence, prepared to open a new country and to face different though equally serious problems. This continuing belief iq the importance of providence is evident from the various sermons preached and tracts written on the subject in the nineteenth century. A typical example is provided by Gardiner Spring, who clearly stated his conviction that man is totally dependent on Divine Providence for his bodily needs:
The Providence of God mingles itself with all the affairs and circumstances of men. It extends itself alike to the drop of a bucket and to the ocean, to the dust of.the balance and to the whole material universe; to every individual of the human family,
and to the entire race.
Nature herself teaches us, that our insufficience is
absolute, while God's sufficiency is boundless. How many second causes, not one of which is under human control, must be preserved in perfect operation, to
secure daily subsistence to a single individual.24
And Spring later pointed out that man is equally dependent on God for the fulfillment of his spiritual needs:
My brother, if our heavenly Father is so willing to
supply our earthly necessities, He is not the less so
to satisfy our soul's desires. We need the Bread of
Life for our souls, as well as food for our bodies.
If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, He will
And in a confession of faith before a regular meeting of the New York and Brooklyn Association of ministers and churches, Henry Ward Beecher stated: "I hold and I teach that there is a general and a special providence of God which overrules human life by and through natural laws, but, also, I believe that there is an overruling and special providence of God in things pertaining to human life as well as to the life of the
world by a direct action of His own will; by such a use of laws in the
first place upon us, such a use as may not be known by us, but is perfectly known to God, by such a use of natural laws as is wisely adapted
to effect needed results." 26 Even better proof that the providential
concept remained a viable part of American religious thought in the
nineteenth century is provided by Horace Bushnell, a Congregational
minister and a founding member of the Monday Evening Club to which
Samuel Clemens belonged. In his Nature and the Supernatural, Bushnell
devoted a separate chapter to the explanation and proof of providential
control and care. And though the terms of his explanation and proof
might have differed from those of his predecessors, Bushnell would have
had the agreement of the Bradfords, the Mathers and even the Edwardses
when he concluded:
Wha t we find then as the result of our inquiry is,
that the government of the world shows the same hand
which appears in the character and work of Jesus. In the first place, we discover that nothing takes place
in the world that ought to take place, and even must
take place, if the government and supreme law of things
were confined to mere nature and her processes. Next,
we find that the issues of wars and discoveries, the
migrations, diplomacies, and great historic eras of
races and nations, the extinctions and revivals of learning, and the persecutions and corruptions, not less than the reformations of churches, are all so
modulated by the superintending government of the world, as to perpetuate the gospel of Christ, and, as far as we
can see, to insure its ultimate triumph. Then passing
into the interior history of souls, which, after all, is
the chief field of God's government in the earth, we
meet vast myriads of witnesses in all walksof life, and in all past ages, who profess to know God in the witness of their internal life and show, by tokens manifold and
clear, that they are raised above themselves, in all
that makes the character of their life. To sum up all in one brief expression, we have found a New Testament
in the government of the world. It penetrates all depths
of matter, heaves in the roll of the sea, administers back
of the thrones, tempers the courses of history, restraining remainders and excesses of wrath, overturning, conserving, restoring, healing, and reaffirming thus, in all
the grand affairs of human life, without and within,
just what Christ the Word declares, when ascending
to reign-7All power is given unto me in heaven and in
earth. What, in fact, do we see with our eyes, but that the scheme of the four gospels is the scheme of
universal government itself.27
The idea of providence, then, was a well-known part of the American religious culture in Clemens's day. And Clemens was introduced to this culture quite early and emphatically, as Ferguson DeLancey pointed out when he made the following comments: "Jane Clemens was an ardent Presbyterian; all her children had to go to Sunday school, and the older ones had to stay for the sermon. . The preaching was apt to be dull and certain to be long-winded; in the Presbyterian fold its emphasis was strongly upon the Calvinistic doctrines . . But the preaching and teaching bit deep; all of his life [Samuel] thought of theology and philosophy in terms of the Hannibal Presbyterian Church." 28 An indication of just how deeply the preaching and teaching on providence.affected Clemens is provided by the following remark he made near the end of his life in his autobiographical dictations: "My teaching and training allowed me to see deeper into these tragedies than an ignorant person could have done. I knew what they were used for. I tried to disguise it from myself but down in the troubled deeps of my heart I knew--and I knew I knew. They were inventions of Providence to beguile me to a better life. It sounds curiously innocent and conceited now, but to me there was nothing strange about it; it was quite in accordance with the judicious and thoughtful ways of Providence as I understood them." 29 Clemens's early religious experiences, then, introduced him to a God who was directly involved with the daily activities of His creation; to a God who not only exerted a general providence over all His creation but who also interposed in the lives of individuals through special
providence; to a God, finally, who rewarded and punished in this world as well as the next.
As Clemens grew older, his attitude toward religion underwent drastic changes. As early as 1860, he could write to his brother, Orion, "What a person wants with religion in these breadless times surpasses my understanding." 30 And though he did return to organized religion when he married Olivia Langdon, he could not maintain the religious pose long; Kenneth Andrews noted this in his Nook Farm: Mark Twain's Hartford Circle: "But the radiant mood of surrender to Olivials religion, to the luxurious softness of sentiment, to the way of life it represented and the satisfaction in it which may somehow be related to the exaltation of his courtship were to fade in the first year of his marriage. Amid the minor disasters that were partly responsible for his move to Hartford, Mark rebelled against family Bible readings and
confessed his skepticism." Nor would Clemens ever become less skeptical of institutionalized religion, which too often failed to meet his own humanitarian and ethical requirements. Even his participation in the Asylum Hill Congregational Church once he moved to Hartford was 32
primarily social rather than religious.
In the context of his changing attitude toward organized religion, it is quite natural that Clemens's views on providence would change. From the implicit faith of childhood which his autobiographical remarks illustrate, Clemens eventually began to question the validity of the providential concept; this is suggested in a letter he wrote to 'Nother" Mary Fairbanks which contains a humorous and mildly facetious discussion of Providence's part in Clemens's own life:
But don' t you know that the hand of Providence is in
it somewhere? You can depend upon it. I never yet
had what seemed at the time to be a particularly aggravating streak of bad luck but what it revealed itself to me later as a piece of royal good fortune.
Who am I, Mother, that I should take it upon myself
to de-termine what is good fortune &.what is evil?
For about a week, Providence headed me off at every
turn. The real object of it, & the real result, may not transpire till you & I are old, & these days forgotten--and therefore is it not premature, to call it
bad luck? We can't tell, yet. You ought to have
heard me rave & storm at a piece of "bad luck" which
befel me a year ago--& yet it was the very means of
introducing me to Livy!--& behold, now am I become a
philosopher who, when sober reflection comes, hesitateth
to rail at what seemdeth to feeble finite vision ill
luck, conscious that "the end is not yet.",33
The tone of this letter indicates the developing skepticism Clemens
had about the doctrine. Later, his doubt turned to outright rejection
of the traditional concept of God's guidance of and concern for "His
creation"; Clemens indicated this in the mid-1870's, when he wrote as
follows: "Special Providence: That phrase nauseates me--with its implied importance of mankind and triviality of God. In my opinion these
myriads of globes are merely the blood corpuscles ebbing and flowing
through the arteries of God and we the animalculae that infest them,
disease them, pollute them. And God does not know we are there and
would not care if He did."3 This, of course, would be the attitude
elicited when Clemens felt disgust and contempt for "the damned human
race."1 But he alternately felt a great sorrow for the lot of mankind;
in meditating upon Susy's death, he acknowledged this feeling:
There--that is something I have noticed before: He never does a kindness. When He seems to do one, it
is a trap which He is setting; you will walk into it
some day, then you will understand, and be ashamed
to remember how stupidly gratified you had been. No, He gives you riches merely as a trap; it is to quadruple the bitterness of the poverty which He has
planned for you. He gives you a healthy body and you
are tricked into thanking Him for it; some day, when
He has rotted it with disease and made it a hell of pains, you will know why He did it. He gives you a wife and children whom you adore, only that
through the spectacle of the wanton shames and
miseries which He will inflict upon them He may
tear the palpitating heart OuS50f your breast and
slap you in the face with it.
While his attitude toward providence thus seems to have varied considerably in his lifetime, Clemens did show a keen awareness of the traditional idea of providence; however much he ultimately disagreed with it,
Clemens was totally familiar with the Christian concept of God's direct
concern for the welfare of His creatures and His governance ofthe crea36
tion for His divine purposes.
In addition to his religious training in the concept of providence,
Clemens also seems to have been familiar with a number of writers who
relied on this doctrine in their works. 37 Henry Fielding, for example,
is a notable part of the providential tradition in literature; as Aubrey
Williams has pointed out, Fielding used his fictive world as a microcosmic reflection of the real world in which Providence quite obviously
I would argue that the design of Tom Jones, with all its quite remarkable course of chance encounters and
fortuitous mi-shaps, its long list of extraordinary
accidents and coincident and revelations, is finally
artfully contrived to make us see a fictive world that offers a close analogy to that "real" world
wherein, in Archbishop Tillotson's words, "There are many things, indeed, which to us seem chance and accident; but in respect to God, they are providence and
design; they may appear to happen by chance, or may
proceed from the ill-will and malicious intent of second causes, but they are designed wisely." In sum, we must recognize, I think, that Fielding has
structured Tom Jones, as well as his other novels, in such a way as to demonstrate the truth of Allworthy's declaration when he learns the secret of Tom's birth:
"Good Heavens! Well! The Lord disposeth all things."38
In effectively combining form with function, then, Fielding based the structure of Tom Jones and his other novels on the traditional concept of providence. Clemens was familiar at least with Tom Jones; and similarities which critics have noted between *these two authors suggest that Fielding's works might have exerted a greater influence on his development as a novelist than Clemens would ever have been willing to admit. 39
Clemens was perhaps even more familiar with the'writings of James Fenimore Cooper. And Cooper' s works provide abundant proof that the idea of providential guidance and control continued to be used significantly in nineteenth-century American fiction. For instance, Cooper's most important fictional creation, Natty Buxnppo, shows a notably complete and enduring acceptance of providential governance. Specific illustrations abound in the Leatherstocking Tales; a typical example is provided when Natty expresses some regret at not being able to relate the adventure of the first killing scene in The Deerslayer: "Hawkeye: That's not a bad name for a warrior, sounding much more manful and valiant than Deerslayer! 'Twouldn't be a bad title to begin with, and it was fairly 'arned. If 'twas Chingachgook, now, he would go home and boast of his deeds, and the chiefs would name him Hawkeye in a minute; but it don't become white blood to brag, and 'tisn' t easy to see how the matter can be known unless I do. Well, well-everything is in the hands of Providence; this affair as well as another; I'll trust to that for getting MY desarts in all things." 40In fact, Natty trusts to Providence for all things throughout his life. The extent to which this is true is indicated by the respectful, almost apologetic manner in which he discusses the one change he would wish to see in the providential design
as he approaches his death in The Prairie: "Ah's me! if I could choose a change in the orderings of Providence--which I cannot, and which it would be blasphemy to attempt, seeing that all things are governed by a wiser mind than belongs to mortal weakness--but if I could choose a change, it would be to say, that such as they who have lived long together in friendship and kindness . should be permitted to give up life at such times, as when the death of one leaves the other but little reason to live." 41Perhaps even more significant than Natty's personal dependence on the concept of providence is the fact that Cooper's narrative personae consistently offer a providential explanation of the world. An example is provided by the narrator of The Deerslayer when he says: "Little did Deerslayer know, while thus indulging in feelings that were so natural to man, and so in accordance with his own unsophisticated and just principles, that, in the course of the inscrutable Providence which so uniformly and yet so mysteriously covers all events with its mantle, the very fault he was disposed so severely to censure, was to be made 42
the means of determining his own earthly fate." Cooper, then, depends
on the concept of providence as an important thematic element in his .fiction.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose work Clemens was familiar enough with to classify him with Howells, Motley, and Holmes for his fine and pure English, provides examples of still another way in which the idea of providence might be applied to fictional uses. Hawthorne was primarily interested in "man's accidents," or the events which occur in the everyday world, in his fiction; but he was interested in these events because they provide the only insight man has into "God's purposes," as James K. Folsom indicated when he wrote about the importance of Providence for Hawthorne:
In 1843, on one of the windows of the Old House,
Sophia Hawthorne scratched with a diamond an apparently commonplace maxim: "Man's accidents are Cod's
purposes." This rather platitudinous axiom represents, in capsule form, a commonplace of nineteenthcentury metaphysical thought, here given expression
in some type of divine Providence, namely that God is
in His nature unknowable to man, although man's actions reflect, in some mysterious way, His purpose.
Sophia Hawthorne's short statement very aptly summarizes Hawthorne's own attitude toward the relation
between God and man, or, to expand the definition, between ultimate Reality and reality as it is knowable
in.its finite, experiential forms. Father Leonard
Fick has shown that "the keystone . of Hawthorne's
theology is an unshakable belief in an inscrutable.
Providence," which, although Hawthorne does not apparently equate it with God, is certainly God as He is manifested in this world. As B. Bernard Cohen
points out, "Hawthorne's God is Inscrutable. Man must
not attempt to fathom the mysteries of His actions,
but instead must trust to His kindness," and this
trust, for Hawthorne, takes the form of blind reliance on a Providence whose workings man is unable to comprehend. For purposes of the following discussion the inscrutability of this Providence is what must be
insisted upon, the idea that God's purposes are unknowable except insofar as they are visible through their
workings, man's accidents. 44
Hawthorne would occasionally tack onto his stories a moral which indicated that the portrayed events were representations of God's purposes
for the world; an example of this is the conclusion of "David Swan":
"Sleeping or waking, we hear not the airy footsteps of the strange things
that almost happen. Does it not argue a superintending Providence that,
while viewless and unexpected events thrust themselves continually
athwart our path, there should still be regularity enough in life to
render foresight even partially available."' 45 More often, however,
Providence is not mentioned. Rather, He stands as the invisible principle
behind the way Hawthorne's fiction works, providing a subtle structure
both for this world and for Hawthorne's fiction.
In addition to his thorough exposure to providence as a religious
concept, then, Clemens had a solid acquaintance with writers who relied
on the providential-tradition in literature. With this background in
mind, it seems quite reasonable to suggest that Samuel Clemens looked
to the thematic and structural devices of the providential novel when
he began writing extended fiction of his own. 46
W. T. Davison, "Providence,"' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. John Hastings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955), X, 415. The term "providence" will be used in different ways in this dissertation. In an attempt to avoid confusion, therefore, I will capitalize the term (Providence) only when it is used as a synonym for "God." When used adjectivally or when referring to the concept, the term (providence) will be used without capitalization unless, of course, it begins a sentence or is part of a quotation.
2 (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 6.
3C. A. Beckwith, "Providence," The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1911), IX, 307.
"Providence," Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, p. 416.
Jean Dani~Lou, Origen, trans. Walter Mitchell (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955), p. 206.
Beckwith, p. 308.
The City of God: Books I-VII, trans. Demnetrius B. Zema and
Gerald G. Walsh, The Fathers of the Church (New York: Cima Publishing Company, Inc., 1950), VIII, 19.
81,The Christian Combat," Itrans. Robert F. Russell, The Fathers of the Church (New York: Cima Publishing Company, Inc., 1947), 11, 324-325.
9Davison, p. 417.
10 Beckwith, p. 308.
1Chapter XVI: God By His Power Nourishes and Maintains the World
Created by Him, and Rules Its Several Parts By His Providence," and "Chapter XVII: How We May Apply This Doctrine to Our Greatest Benefit": throughout these chapters, there is reference to the work of Augustine.
120f Plymouth Planation: 1620-1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), p. 76.
13 Ibid., pp.,62-63.
14 Ibid., p. 122.
15 Augustine provided an example of special providence when he
pointed out that many Romans were spared in the barbarian attacks by taking refuge "in places dedicated to Christ's Name--which by a merciful Providence were spacious enough to afford refuge to large numbers." Likewise, Calvin made a distinction between "general" and "special" providence in Chapter XVI of his Institutes.
16 Remarkable Providences Illustrative of the Earlier Days of American Colonization (London: Reeves and Turner, 1890), pp. 252-253.
17 Ibid., unnumbered preface.
18 The New England colonial situation is cited because of its influential position in the development of American culture. As V. L. Parrington stated in Main Currents in American Thought: An Interpretation of Literature from the Beginning to 1920 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1930), p. 3: "Common report has long made out Puritan New England to have been the native seat and germinal source of such ideals and institutions as have come to be regarded as traditionally American. Any critical study of the American mind, therefore, may conventionally seek its beginnings in the colonies clustered about Massachusetts."
19 Main Currents of American Thought, p. 3
Ibid., p. 125.
A full discussion of the relation between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace is contained in Perry Miller's The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939), pp. 365-397.
22 Images or Shadows of Divine Things, ed. Perry Miller (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1948), p. 54.
Ibid., pp. 75-79.
24,, On Divine Providence. Psalm xxxiv. 10," One Hundred Sermons Selected from the Published Works of Fifty Eminent American Preachers by an English Clergyman (London: Thomas Baker, 1861), p. 228.
25 Ibid., pp. 231-232.
26 Lyman Abbott, D. D. and S. B. Halliday, Rev., Henry Ward Beecher, A Sketch of His Career, new ed. (Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1887), p. 497.
27 Nature and the Supernatural as Together Constituting the One System of God (New York: Charles Scribner, 1858), pp. 444-445.
2Mark Twain: The Man and His Work (Indianapolis, Ind.: BobbsMerrill, 1943), p. 25.
29 The Autobiography of Mark Twain, ed. Charles Neider (New York: Washington Square Press, 1961), p. 45.
Mark Twain's Letters, ed. Albert Bigelow Paine (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1917), 1, 45.
31(Archon Books, 1967), p. 69.
3Ibid., p. 70.
3 3Mark. Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks, ed. Dixon Wecter (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952), pp. 79-80.
34Mark Twain's Notebook, ed. Albert Bigelow Paine (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935), p. 190.
3,,In My Bitterness," Fables of Man, ed. John S. Tuckey (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 131.
36 This definition is simply a merging of the definitions of "providence" provided by Davison and Beckwith.
37used Fielding, Cooper, and Hawthorne because these three writers are influential figures in literary history; because they did make obvious and effective use of the providential concept, each in his own way; and because Clemens was quite familiar with at least some of the works of these three.
38,"Interpositions of Providence and the Design of Fielding's Novels," SAQ, LXX, ii (Spring 1971), pp. 281-282.
39In Mark Twain, Son of Missouri (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1934), p. 239, Minnie Brashear provided an early comparison of Clemens with Fielding when she wrote that "there are remarkable resemblances in the mental and emotional trends of the two men and in the themes they choose." More recently, Gilbert Rubenstein, in "The Moral Structure of Huckleberry Finn,".CE, XVIII, 75, comp-ared Clemens's world view to that of Dickens and Fielding, "those other novelists of the realistic tradition that he resembles most closely." Finally, in examining Clemens's use of the deus ex machina in the course of his article on "The Character of Jim and the Ending of Huckleberry Finn," MR, V, 59, 'Chadwick Hansen pointed to Fielding's use of the same device "to rescue Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews."
40 TeWorks of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1912), I, 121.
4lThe Works of James Fenimore Cooper, V, 295. In Cooper's Americans (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1965), p. 285, Kay Seymour House affirmed Natty's normally unquestioning reliance on Providence when she wrote: "Rebellion, perversity, willfulness, all such attempts to destroy predetermined order are to Natty irreligious. Furthermore, to struggle against such an order is futile, and Natty consistently (like the seamen) finds his freedom within the governance of Providence and his own self-control."
42 The Works of James Fenimore Cooper, 1, 495.
43Clemens's opinion is contained in Mark Twain's Notebook, p. 157: "Nobody writes a finer and purer English than Motley, Howells, Hawthorne and Holmes."
Man's Accidents and God's Purposes: Multiplicity in Hawthorne's Fiction (New Haven: College and University Press, 1973), p. 13.
45Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1882), p. 218.
461n this dissertation, I will deal with the principal novels of .Samuel Clemens. This category includes The Prince and the Pauper, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Pudd'nhead Wilson, and The Mysterious Stranger; I will devote a separate chapter to each of these works. The-other major piece of extended fiction, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is more briefly discussed since this work serves a prefatory function in Clemens's use of the providential tradition. Other works will be dealt with as they support the discussion of these major works.
THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Clemens's background in the concept of providence is evident even
in his early writings. In Innocents Abroad, for instance, there is the
narrator's obvious familiarity with the concept when he says, "There
were those among the unregenerated who attributed the unceasing head
winds to our distressing choir music. There were those who said openly
that it was taking chances enough to have such ghastly music going on,
even when it was at its best; and that to exaggerate the crime by letting
George help, was simply flying in the face of Providence." 1 And in
Roughing It, an incident that Jim Blaine relates during the rambling
narrative about his grandfather's old ram is based on his absolute faith
in and equally absolute misunderstanding of the idea of providence:
Don't tell me it was an accident that he was biled.
There ain't no such thing as an accident. When my
Uncle Lem was leaning up agin a scaffolding once, sick,
or drunk, or suthin, an Irishman with a hod full of
bricks fell on him out of the third story and broke the
old man's back in two places. People said it was an
accident. Much accident there was about that. He didn't know what he was there for, but he was there
for a good object. If he hadn't been there the Irishman would have been killed. Nobody can ever make me
believe anything different from that. Uncle Lem's
dog was there. Why didn't the Irishman fall on the
dog? Becuz the dog would a seen him a coming and
stood from under. That's the reason the doo wasn't
appointed. A dog can't be depended on to carry out
a special providence. Mark my words, 2 it was a put-up
thing. Accidents don't happen, boys.
But.in general these early uses of the providential concept are infrequent and contribute only in minor ways to the development of the works
in which they appear. 20
But the situation is quite different in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Clemens's initial collaborated attempt at the novel form. In Tom Sawyer., Clemens quite obviously relies on providence as a serious literary device. The characters in the novel, for example, firmly believe that God is in control of their world. They pray to Him when in trouble, as when Tom and Becky were lost in McDougal's cave: "The lost children had not been found. Public prayers had been offered up for them, and many and many a private prayer that had the petitioner's whole heart in it." 3 They show Him gratitude for favors received, as when the community shows its collective thankfulness for the safe return of Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper by singing, appropriately, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," or when Aunt Polly expresses her personal gratefulness for the return of her wandering "pirate" as follows: "Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you was ever found again--now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the good God and Father of us all I've got you back" (p. 175). Throughout, they acknowledge His total power over His creation, as when Aunt Polly says, "The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away--Blessed be the name of the Lord!" (p. 146). In fact, their devotedness to the providential concept is so complete that they see the hand of Cod everywhere, even in a summer's electrical storm:
And that night there came on a terrible storm, with
driving rain, awful claps of thunder and blinding
sheets of lightning. Tom covered his head with the
bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his
doom; for he had not the shadow of a doubt that all
of this hubbub was about him. He believed that he
had taxed the forbearance of the powers above to the
extremity of endurance and that this was the result.
It might have seemed to him a waste of pomp and ammunition to kill a bug with a battery of artillery,
but there seemed nothing incongruous about the getting
up of such an expensive thunderstorm as this to knock the turf from under an insect like himself
Nor is this simply the fearful response of a misguided or misinformed youth, for any event at all out of the ordinary is invariably interpreted in the same way in this community: "It was a judgment; His hand is here" (p. 70).
In addition to this thematic use of providence, the concept also has an effect on the structure of thenovel; Clemens used several devices from the providential tradition in literature. For example, in an analogue of providential justice, rewards and punishments are distributed during the concluding action of Tom Sawyer. Injun Joe, the only truly malicious character in the novel, suf fers an appropriately horrible death: "When the cave door was unlocked, a sorrowful sight presented itself in the dim twilight of the place. Injun Joe lay stretched upon the ground, dead, with his face close to the door, as if his longing eye had been fixed, to the latest moment, upon the light and the cheer of the free world outside" (p. 294) And Injun Joe's partner in crime is also punished, though his death scene is neither vividly described nor given the aura of horror Injun Joe's was: "At home Tom learned of the Cardiff Hill event; also that the 'ragged man's' body had eventually been found in the river near the ferry-landing;he had been drowned while trying to escape, perhaps" (p. 292). Conversely, the characters with the best hearts, Huck and Tom, are rewarded at the conclusion of the novel for the goodness they had displayed; this reward comes in the form of the traditional treasure-box, filled in this case with over $12,000 worth of gold coins.
Even before the end, though, there are a number of apparent accidents which, by their fortunate effects, suggest the influence of Divine Providence. For instance, Injun Joe would have discovered Huck and Tom
in the haunted house but for the fortuitous collapse of the stairs he
"Who could have brought those tools here? Do you
reckon they can be up-stairs?"
The boys' breath forsook them. Injun Joe put his
hand on his knife, halted a moment, undecided, then turned toward the stairway. The boys thought of the closet, but their strength was gone. The steps came
creaking up the stairs--the intolerable distress of
the situation woke the stricken resolution of the lads-they were about to spring for the closet, when there
was a crash of rotten timbers and Injun Joe landed on the ground amid the debris of the ruined stairway. He gathered himself up cursing, and his comrade said:
"Now what's the use of all that? If it's anybody,
and they're up there, let them stay there--who cares?"
And when, soon after, Huck nearly runs into Injun Joe's arms, he is
saved from this fearful danger just in the nick of time by a "fortunate"
and well-timed cough. 5 Finally, Tom's escape from McDougal's cave "five
miles down the river below the valley the cave is in" depended on just
such a miraculous concurrence of events typical of the providential
Tom . closed with a description of how he left
Becky and went on an exploring expedition; how he
had followed two avenues as far as his kite-line
would reach; how he followed a third to the fullest
stretch of the kite-line, and was about to turn back
when he glimpsed a far-off speck that looked like daylight; dropped the line and groped toward it, pushed his head and shoulders through a small hole, and saw the broad Mississippi rolling by! And if it had only
happened to be night he would not have seen that
speck of daylight and would not have explored that
passage anymore! (pp. 290-291).
Even Tom realizes the providential nature of his and Becky's escape,
then. And it seems likely that Clemens did, too, since he used providential techniques so readily in Tom Sawyer..
Yet all of his earlier works utilizing the idea of providential care and concern seem to serve only as a preparation for The Prince and
the Pauper, which marks Clemens's fullest use of the providential concept as a structural and thematic element. Clemens had long since abandoned the formal observ ance of his religion when, on November 23, 1877, he made the following entry in a notebook: "Edward VI and a little pauper exchange places by accident a day or.so before Henry VIII's death. The Prince wanders in rags and hardships and the pauper suffers (to him) horrible miseries of princedom, up to the moment of crowning in Westminster Abbey, when proof is brought and the mistake rectified." 6 As Howard Baetzhold has shown, Clemens owed much to Charlotte M. Yonge's The Little Duke (1854) for the idea expressed in this notation. 7But Albert Stone has indicated that Clemens owed an even larger debt to Yonge; according to Stone, it was from Yonge that Clemens took the re8
ligious atmosphere that pervades The Prince and the Pauper. It is
this religious atmosphere that, in spite of the fact that The Prince and the Pauper can be read on the level of children's literature, supports
the moral seriousness of this novel. And without this religious aura, it is unlikely that the concept of providence could function as effectively as it does in the novel.
The earliest indication that Clemens did in fact use the traditional concept of providence in The Prince and the Pauper is contained in the supposed historical document which precedes the story proper. In this letter, the Bishop of Worcester, Hugh Latimer, suggests that the birth of the Prince of Wales is but another example of the special providence England enjoys when he writes the following: "Code gyffe us alle grace, to yelde dew thankes to our Lorde Gode, Gode of Inglonde,
or rather an Inglyssh Code, yf we consydyr and pondyr welle alle Hys proceedynges with us from tyme to tyme." 10From the very first, then, Clemens was establishing a basis for the providential interpretation of his fictive world.
It can thus be expected that providence will be displayed in a number of ways in this novel.- An obvious indication of this concept's importance is the various characters' firm belief in God' s control of the world. Examples of this abound: Tom Canty feels that his ultimate dream of seeing a real prince will be fulfilled "if Heaven were willing" (p. 27); the Lord Hertford explains to King Henry VIII, in reporting upon the "madness" of the supposed prince, Tom Canty, that "it is the will of God that the Prince's affliction abideth still" (p. 70). Miles Hendon therefore expresses a generally accepted contemporary attitude when he says to Edward, "Peace! and forebear to worsen our chances with dangerous speech. What God wills, will happen; thou canst not hurry it, thou canst not alter it; therefore wait, and be patient--'twill be time enow to rail or rejoice when what is to happen has happened" (p. 218).
God's control is only one side of the providential coin, however.
The inhabitants of Clemens's fictive world also acknowledge God's concern for the care of His creatures. This is obvious from their appeals to Him when they are troubled and from their thanksgiving to Him for favorable occurrences. Illustrations of this appear throughout the text. An example of their faith in the efficacy of prayer is presented by the Lord St. John when he brings the following message to the supposed prince from Henry VIII: "Thus saith the king's majesty, who sendeth greeting to your royal highness and prayeth that God will of His mercy quickly 11
heal you and have you now and ever in His holy keeping" (p. 53).
Nor do Clemens's characters forget their God when they receive benefits; young Tom Canty's spontaneous response upon awakening from what he thought to be a bad dream is, "Now God be thanked, I am indeed awake at last! Come, joy! vanish sorr ows!" (p. 118). 12
Such petitions and gratitude indicate the characters' daily dependence upon a Providence who acts as the benevolent ordering principle of their universe. This does not mean that there was no misfortune in Clemens's sixteenth-century world. For one thing, a complete concept of providence admits the necessity of justice. The narrator illustrates the idea that reward and punishment, in this world as well as the next, are viable parts of the providential system when he says of Tom Canty's new activities:
Tom put on the greaves, the gauntlets, the plumed helmet, and such other pieces as he could don without assistance, and for a while was minded to call for help and complete the matter, but bethought him of the nuts he had brought
away from dinner and the joy it would be to eat them
with no crowd to eye him, and no Grand Hereditaries
to pester him with undesired services; so he restored
the pretty things to their several places, and soon
was cracking nuts, and feeling almost naturally happy
for the first time since God for his sins had made him
a prince (p. 67).13
And even if the victim is guiltless, misfortune does not negate the presence of God. For man cannot always see the ultimate ends of God's design or understand His mysterious ways. Immediate misfortune may ultimately serve a good purpose; for example, Edward's humiliating experiences upon aimlessly wandering into Christ's Hospital show him the drastic need for reform: "And now and then his mind reverted to his treatment by those rude Christ's Hospital boys, and he said, 'When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books; for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved, and the
heart. I will keep this diligently in my remembrance, that this day's lesson be not lost upon me, and my people suffer thereby; for learning
softeneth the heart and breedeth gentleness and charity"' (pp. 39-40).
The characters' belief in a God who wisely and justly governs His world and shows benevolent concern for its creatures is only part of the providential element in The Prince and the Pauper, though. For the structure of the novel is essentially a reflection of this belief; the unfolding of the plot depends on just as remarkable a series of "chance encounters and fortuitous mishaps," and a similar list of "extraordinary accidents and coincident and revelations" as Williams noted in Fielding's novels. The story begins, in fact, by laying the foundation for the most important coincidence: "In the ancient city of London, on a certain autumn day in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a boy was born to a poor family of the name of Canty, who did not want him. On the same day another English child was born to a rich family of the name of Tudor, who did want him" (p. 17). This coincidence becomes apparent several pages and "a number of years" later, when it is discovered that the two boys share more than just a birthday; as one of the boys, Edward, Prince of Wales, points out during the chance encounter with Tom Canty, they also have "the same hair, the same eyes, the same voice and manner, the same form and stature, the same face and countenance" (p. 34). The extremely unlikely conjunction of these two look-alikes further provides an opportunity for the first in a string of apparent accidents, as the Prince of Wales, dressed in Tom Canty's clothing, is mistaken for the pauper and evicted fromhis palatial home. Perhaps the Lord Hertford offers the best statement of the improbability of these events when lie reflects as follows on the matter: "Tush, he [Tom] must be the
prince! Will any he in all the land maintain there can be two, not of one blood and birth, so marvelously twinned? And even were it so, Itwere yet a stranger miracle that chance should cast the one into the other's place" (p. 62'). But in traditional*Christian terms, nothing happens by chance; the coincidence, chance meeting, and accident which led to the good Lord Hertford's speculations would all be considered a part of the providential plan. As James Fortuna has written: "Thus, a belief in Providence precludes the 'coincidental' or 'accidental' (though not such events as 'seem' to be coincidence or accident), for such things have no valid 'meaning' for reasonable creatures, and imply simply a lack of understanding of the particular workings of Providence. In the T real' world, whether it be a shipwreck or the fall of a prince,
it was Providence and not fortune at work." Sufficient proof that the hand of God is indeed behind this role reversal is provided as the plot unfolds and it becomes increasingly clear that a wise purpose is served by having Edward cast into the role of a pauper. For the young prince, by being thrown into the life of a poor English subject, learns the quality of mercy which would distinguish his rule later; this is illustrated when he says to an old and unjustly persecuted lawyer whom he encounters in jail: "None believe in me--neither wilt thou. But no matter--within the compass of a month thou shalt be free; and more, the laws which have dishonored thee, and shamed the English name, shall be swept from the s statute books. The world is made wrong--kings should go to school to their own laws at times, and so learn mercy" (p. 253).
Before he could learn this lesson, however, Edward underwent a series of adventures which introduced him to the half-spectrum of unfamiliar English life and which further confirmed that God was guiding
and protecting His future secu lar representative. In other words, Clemens sets up a pattern of near disasters and timely rescues in the course of Edward's wanderings which suggests that providential element which is so important to the meaning and structure of the novel.
The first example of this providential intervention occurs when
Edward is threatened by a mob for "proclaiming his rights and his wrongs, denouncing the imposter [Tom Canty], and clamoring for admission at the gates of Guildhall!" (p. 91). Here Miles Hendon makes his first appearance. Miles's attempted defense of the little prince only incites the wrath of the mocking crowd, however. In fact, Miles as well as the prince seems in real danger when "suddenly a trumpet-blast sounded, a voice shouted, 'Way for the King's messenger!' and a troop of horsemen came charging down upon the mob, who fled out of harm's reach as fast as their legs could carry them. The bold stranger caught up the prince in his arms, and was soon far away from danger and the multitude" (p. 93). Miles, then, aided ironically by the messenger bringing word of Henry VIII's death, is the means of Edward's deliverance from his first real threat.
But Edward is quickly lured from Miles's protection by John Canty, who thinks that the new king is his son. The little king escapes Canty's band of rogues only to become a prisoner of a thoroughly insane hermit who poses the next imminent danger to Edward's safety. Again Providence intervenes, as only Miles's timely and inexplicable appearance
at the secluded forest cabin prevents the hermit frommurdering Edward:
The dawn was coming now; the hermit observed it,
and spoke up sharply, with a touch of nervous apprehension in his voice:
"I may not indulge this ecstasy longer! The night
is already gone. It seems but a moment--only a moment;
would it had endured a year! Seed of the Church's
spoiler, close thy perishing eyes, an' thou nearest to
The rest was lost in inarticulate mutterings. The
old man sunk upon his 1-nees, his knife in his hand,
and bent himself over the moaning boy-Hark! There was a sound of voices near the cabin-the knife dropped from the hermit's hand; he cast a
sheepskin over the boy and started up, trembling.
The sounds increased, and presently became rough and
angry; then came blows, and cries for help; then a
clatter of swift footsteps retreating. Immediately
came a succession of thundering knocks upon the cabin
door, followed by:
"Hull-o-o! Open! And despatch, in the name of all
Oh, this was the blessedest sound that ever made
music in the king's ears; for it was Miles Hendon's
voice! (pp. 200-201).
Of course, Edward only obtains temporary relief. Hendon, not
realizing that the king is in the bedroom, leaves with the hermit and
thus allows the king to be recaptured by John Canty, a fate scarcely
better than that the hermit had planned for him. But this provides yet
another opportunity for Edward to be rescued. His third dilemma is precipitated by the bitter resentment that the elder Canty's accomplice,
Hugo, feels for Edward; thus, Hugo "frames" the young king by making it
appear that Edward has stolen a pig, a crime punishable by death at that
time. For his supposed crime, Edward is threatened by a mob. And again
Miles providentially appears at just the right time:
The crowd closed around, threatening the king and calling him names; a brawny blacksmith in leather apron,
and sleeves rolled to his elbows, made a reach for him,
saying that he would trounce him well, for a lesson;
but just then a sword flashed through the air and
fell with convincing force upon the man's arm, flatside down, the fantastic owner of it remarking pleasantly at the same time:
"Marry, good souls, let us proceed gently, not with
ill blood and uncharitable words." (p. 213).
Each time, then, that Edward faces a serious danger and seems
finally beyond the pale of aid, he is miraculously rescued. Each of
these three rescues follo ws the traditional pattern of providential
intervention; Williams pointed out this formula when he explained that lithe Rev. Isaac Barrow, in an enumeration of the 'distinctive marks or characteristics' by which we 'may perceive God's Hand,' instructs us thus: 'Another character of special Providence is, the Seasonableness and Suddenness of Events. When that which in it self is not ordinary, nor could well be expected, doth fall out happily, in the nick of an exigency, for the relief of innocence, the encouragement of goodness, the support of a good cause, the furtherance of any good purpose. When such an event occurs, he continues, it 'is a shrewd indication, that God's hand is then concerned."' 16 Therefore, Miles Hendon's otherwise inexplicable appearances at just the right moment are justified, and the subplot for which Miles serves as the principal character is provided with a raison d"'etre; Miles is the obvious instrument of a special providence, functioning as a guide and protector to Edward in the young king's wanderingsthrough his kingdom.
In summary, then, it is Edward's seemingly haphazard wanderings
which form the substance of what Franklin Rogers refers to as the little king's "moral pilgrimagee" 17 Through this literal and figurative journey, Edward is able to understand the conditions in which the common people of his realm live. This would not have been possible if the fortunate accident which thrust the Prince of Wales into a pauper's role had not occurred. The hand of God is thus suggested in this initial reversal of roles; and it continues to be shown in the assiduous and often extraordinary means taken to preserve Edward, principally through the instrumentality.of Miles Hendon, during the educative process he undergoes.
Before Edward can resume his proper place, however, there is the traditional recognition scene, so familiar in the providential novel.
As with the rescues, the revelation of true identities occurs only at
the last possible moment:
At last the final act was at hand. The Archbishop
of Canterbury lifted up the crown of England from
its cushion and held it out over the trembling mock king's head. In the same instant a rainbow-radiance
flashed along the spacious transept; for with one impulse every individual in the great concourse of nobles lifted a coronet and poised it over his or
her hand,--and paused in that attitude.
A deep hush pervaded the Abbey. At this impressive moment, a startling apparition intruded upon
the scene--an apparition observed by none in the absorbed multitude, until it suddenly appeared, moving
up the great central aisle. It was a boy, bare-headed,
ill shod, and clothed in coarse plebeian garments that
were falling to rags. He raised his hand with a solemnity which ill comported with his soiled and sorry aspect, and delivered this note of warning:
"I forbid you to set the crown of England upon
that forfeited head. I am the king of England!"
There follows, of course, the typical sequence of tests and explanations.
Finally and inevitably, though, Edward is recognized as the true heir
and crowned the King of England. And the concluding words of the novel
indisputably prove that Edward's adventures as a pauper did indeed
benefit the whole of the nation: "The reign of Edward VI was a singularly merciful one for those harsh times. Now tha t we are taking leave
of him let us try to keep this in our minds" (p. 308).
The final chapter presents abundant examples to show that the
newly crowned monarch was indeed merciful; yet the narrator also indicates that this quality was balanced by an appropriate measure of justice
where necessary. An example of this balance is given when the narrator
explains that Edward "took that old lawyer out of prison and remitted
his fine [in fulfillment of his earlier promise]. He provided good
homes for the daughters of the two Baptist women whom he saw burned
at the stake, and soundly punished the official who laid the undeserved
stripes on Miles Hendon's back" (p. 306). 18 Though this concluding chapter was meant to illustrate Edward's enlightened reign, it is more than a mere showcase of his wise rule. The title, "Justice and Retribution," does anticipate Edward's actions in the chapter. But it also suggests the idea of providential reward and punishment. This is seen in those dispensations which serve as macrocosmic analogues of Edward's actions but which are beyond the power of any earthly ruler to grant. For example, Edward could overthrow Hugh Hendon's title to the family estate; but only God could dissolve that union between Hugh and the Lady Margaret which stood in the way of Miles Hendon's complete happiness: "Hugh deserted his wife and went over to the continent, where he presently died; and by and by the Earl of Kent married his relict. There were grand times and rejoicings at Hendon village when the couple paid their first visit to the Hall" (p. 305). And immediately after this, the narrator points out that "Tom Canty's father was never heard of again" (p. 306); this juxtaposition suggests that the happiness of the new King's Ward and his mother and sisters is completed by an equally providential event, the mysterious and permanent disappearance of John Canty. The concluding chapter of the novel therefore shows poetic justice at work, with God rewarding the good and punishing the wicked in a fictive representation of that eternal justice and retribution which will conclude the creation.
A final indication of the essential part the concept of providence plays in The Prince and the Pauper is the narrator's role. In this novel, the narrator is totally aware of all that the characters think and feel as well as what they do; he is able to transcend the limits of time and space in describing the unfolding of the plot; he imposes
himself within the action of the novel as an interested commentator in addition to functioning as an observer. In all this, he reminds the reader of the omniscient narrator of Tom Jones; they both control their fictive worlds in a manner analogous to that dominion God exerts over His creation. What Martin Battestin wrote about Tom Jones thus also seems to apply to The Prince and the Pauper: "What Thackeray and Booth regard as a useful analogy for describing the effect of the narrative in Tom Jones is with Fielding himself a deliberate metaphor; the authornarrator of Tom Jones stands in relation to the world of his novel as the divine Author and His Providence to the 'Book of Creation."' 19 In the context of the author-narrator's total control in The Prince and the Pauper, therefore, he can be said to mirror Providence's "supervision and superintendence of His Cr nation." 20
In The Prince and the Pauper, then, Samuel Clemens used the concept of providence in developing both the thematic content and the structure of his novel. Never before had he depended on providence so fully, nor would he ever again produce such a thoroughly providential novel. Still, providence would continue to exert a significant influence on his writing even as he began to question the premises on which the providential novel was built; this is illustrated in his next major work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
(New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1911), 1, 75.
2 (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1913), VIII, 125-126.
3 (New York: Harper & Brotliers Publishers, 1903), XII, 289. Subsequent references to this work will be cited in the text. That prayer is not reserved for emergencies is humorously illustrated when "The Terror of the Seas" and the "Black Avenger" pray before going to sleep: "They said their prayers inwardly, since there was nobody there with authority to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as that, lest they call down a sudden and special thunderbolt
from heaven" (p. 133).
A similar fear of providential justice is displayed during a Sunday morning church service, when Tom refrains from catching a fly during the prayer out of fear of God's punishment: "[Flor as surely as Tom's hands itched to grab it they did notdare--he believed his soul would be instantly destroyed if he did such a thing while the prayer was going on" (p. 51). And Tom and Huck are quite surprised when Injun Joe is not immediately struck down upon lying about Dr. Robinson's murder: "Then Huckleberry and Tom stood dumb and staring, and heard the stony-hearted liar reel off his serene statement, they expecting every moment that the clear sky would deliver God's lightnings upon his head, and wondering to see how long the stroke was delayed" (pp. 111-112).
5 "Injun Joe and his partner plunged into the narrow path between
the tall sumach bushes, and were at once hidden in the gloom. Huck closed up and shortened his distance, now, for they would never be able to see him. He trotted along awhile; then slackened his pace, fearing he was gaining too fast; moved on a piece, then stopped altogether; listened; no sound; none, save that he seemed to hear the beating of his own heart. The hooting of an-owl came over the hill--ominous sound! But no footsteps. Heavens, was everything lost! He was about to spring with winged feet, when a man cleared his throat not four feet from him! Huck's heart shot into his throat, but he swallowed it again; and then he stood there shaking as if a dozen agues had taken charge of him at once, and so weak that he thought he must surely fall to the ground" (pp. 257-258).
6 Mark Twain's Notebook (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1935).
7 Mark Twain and John Bull (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
1970), p. 48.
8 The Innocent Eye: Childhood in Mark Twain's Imagination (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1961). p. 114.
Critics other than Stone have noted this element of the novel. In Mark Twain's Burlesque Patterns (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1960), p. 125, for example, Franklin Rogers pointed out that Edward's journey was an education in moral truth: "Thus the journey becomes what may be called a 'moral pilgrimagee' for the moral consequences of Edward's disillusionment are the important matter of the book." And William C. Spengeman pointed to the moral element of this novel in his Mark Twain and the Backwood Angel: The Matter of Innocence in the Works of Samuel Clemens (Kent State University Press, 1966)2 p. 55, when he wrote: "Edward's moral journey begins in ignorant pride and ends in enlightened humility."
10 (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1909), XV, xv.. Further references to this work will be cited in the text; all further citations in the text are to this work.
11 Other examples of this attitude can be found on pages 60, 217, and 243.
12Other examples of this attitude can be found on pages 130, 164, and 174-175.
13On page 126, Tom expresses this same attitude.
14mTis shows the influence on W. E. H. Lecky on Clemens.
15 James L. Fortuna, Jr., "'The Unsear chable Wisdom of God': A Study of Providence in Richardson's Pamela," Diss. University of Florida 1973, p. 56.
16 Aubrey Williams, "Interpositions of Providence and the Design of Fielding's Novels," SAQ, LXX, ii (Spring, 1971), p. 270.
Mark Twain's Burlesque Patterns, p. 125.
In "Interpositions of Providence and the Design of Fielding's
Novels," p. 282, Williams defines this balance as "a concept pervasive in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that of poetic justice, the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice." He goes on to state that this reward and punishment does occur "in this world and in worldly terms."
9"'Tom Jones': The Argument of Design," The Augustan Milieu:
Essays Presented to Louis Landa, ed. Henry Knight Miller et al. (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1970), p. 292.
20 Ibid., p. 291.
ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Perceptive critics recognized the greatness of Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn quite early. In a review appearing in the May, 1885, issue of Century Magazine, for example, Thomas Sargeant Perry praised the unity and the "evident truthfulness of th.e.narrative" and "the humor of Mark Twain," and summarized his opinion of the novel by stating that It the story is capital reading, and the reason of its great superiority
to Tom Sawyer is that it is, for the most part, a consistent whole." And in an article entitled "The Art of Mark Twain," published in the 14 February 1891 issue of the Illustrated London News, Andrew Lang went even further when he wrote: "What is it we want in a novel? We want a vivid and original picture of life; we want character displayed naturally in action, and if we get the excitement of adventure into the bargain, and that adventure possible and plausible, I so far differ from the newest school of criticism as to think that we have additional cause for gratitude. If, moreover, there is an unrestrained sense of humour in the narrator, we have a masterpiece and Huckleberry Finn is nothing
less." But even these commentators, so complimentary to the novel as a whole, found fault with the ending of Huckleberry Finn. Lang, though he did note the-real weakness of the ending, managed to justify it somewhat when he wrote: "The story, to be sure,.ends by lapsing into burlesque, when Tom Sawyer insists on freeing the slave whom he knows to be already free, in a*manner accordant with 'the best authorities.'
But even the burlesque is redeemed by Tom's real unconscious heroism." 3 Perry, however, made no attempt to excuse the final portion of the novel; as he stated, "It is possible to feel, however, that the fun in the long-account of Tom Sawyer's artificial imitation of escapes from prisons is somewhat forced; everywhere simplicity is a good rule, and while the account of the Southern vendetta--the Shepherdson-Grangerford feud--is a masterpiece, the caricature of books of adventure leaves us cold. In one we have a bit of life; in the other Mark Twain is demolishing something that has no place in the book." 4
Dismay over the ending continued. In Mark Twain at Work, Bernard DeVoto declared that "in the whole reach of the English novel there is no more abrupt or more chilling descent [than the ending of Huckleberry
Finn]." Despite the ring of finality to this statement, however, DeVoto's remark only signaled that the battle was about to begin in earnest; for the ending of the novel was to have defenders as well as detractors. In introductions to separate editions of Huckleberry Finn, Lionel Trilling and T. S. Eliot advanced the idea that the novel was not flawed to any serious extent by the final sequence of events, that, indeed, those events formed a quite appropriate ending to Huckleberry Finn. Writing in 1948, Trilling said that, while the Phelps Farm episode was "too long" and "a falling-off," "it has a certain formal aptness . . It is a rather mechanical development of an idea, and yet some device is needed to permit Huck to return to his anonymity, to give up the role of hero, to fall into the background which he prefers . . For this purpose nothing could serve better than the mind of Tom Sawyer with its literary furnishings, its conscious romantic desire for experience and the hero's part, and its ingenious
schematization of life to achieve that aim." 6 And two years later, Eliot was even more insistent that the need to make Huck disappear makes this conclusion appropriate when he stated: "But it is right that the mood of the end of the book should bring us back to that of the begin7
ning." And he continued that, for "Huckleberry Finn, neither a tragic nor a happy ending would be suitable. No worldly success or social satisfaction, no domestic consummation would be worthy of him; a tragic, end also would reduce him to the level of those whom we pity. Huck Finn must come from nowhere and be bound for nowhere. . He has no beginning and no end. Hence, he can only disappear; and his disappearance can only be accomplished by bringing forward another performer to
obscure the disappearance in a cloud of whimsicalities."
In response to Eliot's and Trilling's defense of the Phelps Farm episode in Huckleberry Finn, Leo Marx devoted an entire article to dissecting the weaknesses of the end of this novel. He wrote that "the flimsy devices of plot, the discordant farcical tone, and the disintegration of the major characters all betray the failure of the ending. These are not aspects merely of form in a technical sense, but of mean9
ing.ty For the ending fails to recognize and resolve satisfactorily the essential issue of the journey down the river--the quest for freedom "from society and its imperatives." In contradiction to Mr. Eliot, Marx in fact suggested that the only right ending for the novel would be the failure of this quest; an unhappy ending is projected throughout the novel and therefore demanded. As Marx stated it, "In any case, the geography of the novel, the raft's powerlessness, the goodness and vulnerability of Huck and Jim, all prefigure a conclusion quite different in tone from that which Clemens gave us . . Through the symbols we 10
reach a truth which the ending obscures: the quest cannot succeed."
And the debate over the final chapters of Huckleberry Finn has
continued. A number of commentators have followed Marx's lead and condemned the ending of the novel as unsatisfactory, providing quite a
variety of reasons for this criticism. But an even larger number of critics have offered even more various reasons to defend the ending. Most of these support the Phelps Farm se quence on the basis of thematic interpretations of the novel that they provide. 12 Still others argue that the ending provides an essential structural device or is necessary 13
to maintain the structural integrity of the novel. And one firm advocate, in perhaps the most comprehensive justification of the ending, states that "to call the last chapters anti-clima ctic would be to neglect the novel's main theme and its subtly dev eloped pattern." 14
In spite of the variety of critical efforts applied to the novel and its ending, however, no one has yet examined Huckleberry Finn from 15
the perspective of the providential tradition in literature. When the novel is viewed from this critical angle, especially if we consider Huckleberry Finn as the midpoint in the development of Samuel Clemens's 16
ideas about writing and life, the conclusion of this work is explicable if not totally acceptable or aesthetically satisfying.
Structurally, Clemens carried over most of the techniques of the providential novel from The Prince and the Pauper. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn there are "fortunate accidents," some fairly amazing coincidences, a number of fortuitous events which occasionally lead to rescue from trying circumstances and always lead to the fulfillment of providential purposeseventual recognition, and the ultimate distribution of rewards and punishments.
An early example of the providential concept in Huckleberry Finn is seen when Huck receives two "gifts" from the Mississippi River at a time he desperately needs some help. On the very morning after his father, while in a drunken stupor, tried to kill him, Huck luckily spies a canoe adrift on the water: "Well, all at once here comes a canoe; just a beauty, too, about thirteen or fourteen foot long, riding high like a duck. . I judged I'd hide her good, and then, 'stead of taking to the woods when I run off, I'd go down the river about fifty mile and camp in one place for good, and not have such a rough time tramping on
foot." And almost immediately after Huck has secured this potential means of his deliverance, the river yields "part of a log raft" and the very opportunity he needs to make his escape: "By and by along comes a log raft--nine logs fast together. We went out with the skiff and towed it ashore. Then we had dinner.* Anybody but pap would a waited and seen the day through, so as to catch more stuff; but that wasn't pap's style. Nine logs was enough for one time; he must shove right over to town and sell" (p. 55). So Huck is aided in his successful escape from pap--and the imminent danger his father represents--by the propitiously coordinated appearance of a canoe and a partial raft just when he needs
Huck's escape thus frees him from the threat of physical harm.
Even more important to the development of Clemens's purpose in the novel, however, it also releases him from the morally corrosive influence of pap. What Huck escapes into, therefore, is a moral journey; Martin-Schockley noted this when he wrote: "The conflict, then, is between right and wrong. The theme is the individual's struggle to know and to do right. Stated in other terms, it is man's universal
journey from innocence to wisdom, or, if you prefer, the salvation of the human soul." 19 But Huck's moral character cannot develop in a vacuum. One of the things he will need for moral maturity is the guide or mentor his father never was. By sheer coincidence, just such a figure is readily available; for Jim, Miss Watson's runaway slave, has also sought refuge on Jackson's Island. 20 Jim will, of course, be the most significant force in Huck's moral development. It is fortunate indeed, therefore, that Huck stumbles upon Jim's campfire.
But for an extremely fortuitous decision, however, Huck would neither have made his moral pilgrimage nor have enjoyed the benefits of Jim's guidance. A short time after he and Jim had become comfortably settled together on Jackson's Island, Huck decided to row over to the Missouri shore to "find out what was going on." By good fortune, he is led to the shanty of a family that is new to the area; therefore, even when Mrs. Loftus penetrates his disguise as "Mary Sarah Williams," Huck's true identity remains hidden. Even more unlikely, Huck has come to the only cabin where he could have discovered the plan to search Jackson's Island for "a runaway nigger named Jim," a search that is to take place that very night: "'Is your husband going over to-night?' 'Oh, yes. He went up-town with the man I was telling you of, to get a boat and see if they could borrow another gun. They'll go over after midnight"' (p. 88). Huck had prepared a grisly scene at pap's cabin so that his father, the widow Douglas, and the townspeople of St. Petersburg would think that he had been murdered. Had he not picked the particular cabin hedid, it is possible that Huck would have suffered the loss of his well-planned anonymity. Had he not come to this cabin on the particular night he did, it is probable that he would have lost Jim
and the moral guidance this runaway slave would eventually provide. Only by the merest of coincidences was this double loss prevented.
Having just escaped capture by Mr. Loftus and his companion, Huck and Jim proceed down the Mississippi River. Much of the time this raft provides the quiet security and peace that Huck was looking for. But for one reason or another, Huck occasionally risks the loss of this comfortable world. For example, the influence of Tom Sawyer is still sufficiently strong to cause Hluck to board the wrecked Walter Scott: "Do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he wouldn't. He'd call it an adventure--that's what he'd call it; and he'd land on that wreck if it was his last act" (p. 98). And landing on the wreck in fact nearly is Jim and Huck's last act. For of course the wreck has already drawn the attention of a gang of desperadoes; and when Huck barely escapes detection by this gang and makes for the raft, Jim has yet another surprise for him: "Oh, my lordy, lordy! Raf'? Day ain't no raft no mo', she done broke loose en gone!--en here we is!" (p. 102). Naturally there is another boat,--the gang's--so there is no miracle in Huck and Jim's discovering one. But the extraordinary help they need to escape again comes a moment later when the gang, ready to occupy this single boat themselves, is "fortunately" drawn back into the Walter Scott at the very last moment:
He flung a bag of something into the boat, and
then got in himself, and set down. It was Packard.
Then Bill he come out and got in. Packard says, in
a low voice:
"All ready--shove off!"
I couldn't hardly hang onto the shutters, I was
so weak. But Bill says:
"Hold on--'d you go through him?"
"No. Didn't you?"
"No. So hie's got his share o' the cash yet."
"Well, then, come along; no use to take truck
and leave money."
"Say, won't he suspicion what we're up to?"
"Maybe he won't. But we got to have it anyway.
So they got out and went in.
The door slammed to because it was on the careened
side; and in a half second I was in the boat, and Jim
come tumbling after me. I out with my knife and cut
the rope, and away we.went! (pp. 103-104).21
Once again, Huck and Jim avoid detection and disaster by a fortuitous 22
concurrence of events.
But perhaps the most extraordinary coincidence of the entire trip downriver occurs, appropriately enough, at the very outset of the controversial Phelps Farm episode. By this time, Huck has come to depend on Providence to get him out of all the tight spots, as he indicates when he says, "I went right along, not fixing up any particular plan, but just trusting to Providence to put the right words in my mouth when the time come; for I'd noticed that Providence always did put the right words in my mouth if I left it alone" (p. 285). But this time, it finally appears as if Huck has run out of good luck and/or providential guidance: "Well, I see I was up a stump--and up it good. Providence had stood by me this fur all right, but I was hard and tight aground now. I see it wasn't a bit of use to try to go ahead--I'd got to throw up my hand" (p. 288). This lack of confidence immediately proves to be unjustified, however, as Huck's surrender to truth is prevented by the timely appearance of Silas Phelps: "So I says to myself, here's another place where I got to resk the truth. I opened my mouth to begin: but [Mrs. Phelps] grabbed me and hustled me in behind the bed, and says: 'Here he comes! Stick your head down lower--there, that'll do; you can't be seen now. Don't you let on you're here. I'll play a joke on him"' (pp. 289-240). And the potential victims of Huck's continued disguise then unwittingly inform him of his supposed identity:
He sprung to the window at the head of the bed,
and that give Mrs. Phelps the chance she wanted. She stooped down quick at the foot of the bed and give me a pull, and out I come; and when he turned back from
the window there she stood, a-beaming and a-smiling
like a house afire, and I standing pretty meek and
sweaty alongside. The old gentleman stared, and says:
"Why, who's that?"
"Who do you reckon 't is?"
"I hadn't no idea. Who is it?"
IlItIs Tom Sawyer!" (pp. 289-290).
Huck has traveled over a thousand miles downriver; he wandered into the unfamiliar southeastern Arkansas countryside in an attempt to locate and hopefully to steal Jim from an unknown family; and he has, by the most unimaginable of chances, been mistaken for his closest companion and thus escaped detection once more in his bid to achieve freedom. Incredible? No; Providential! 23
Huck, then, has been able to escape danger and detection continually through an amazing series of fortuitous opportunities and coincidences. However, Huck's adventures as he travels downriver do not always turn out to his immediate advantage. The true benefit of a number of "fortunate accidents" is only revealed when we see the moral growth Huck ultimately attains. The first of these occurs when Huck and Jim unknowingly pass Cairo. Critics have, of course, questioned Clemens's carrying his two principal characters past their intended destination into the deep South. Some have even wondered at the fact that Jim did not simply cross over from Jackson's Island to the Illinois shore in his bid for freedom. But these criticisms arerelevant only if the primary purpose of Huck and Jim's trip really is escape. If, as it seems to me, Clemens's real intention is to send Huck on a journey to moral maturity, these objections are not valid. In fact, Huck required the continued presence of Jim while they are in slave territory
where he still has a choice about what to do with Jim--in order to work out his own moral and ethical values. At Cairo, Huck would still have been willing to follow the conventional perceptions and the value system of his society; this is obvious from comments he makes just before he discovers they have passed Cairo:
It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn't
ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just
see what a difference it made to him the minute he
judged he was about free. It was according to the old saying, "Give a nigger an inch and he'll take an ell."
Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking.
Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped
to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying
he would steal his children--children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't ever
done me no harm.
I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a
lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me
up hotter than ever. . (p. 126).
While Huck might not turn Jim over to slave hunters at this point, it is obvious that he is still not ready to decide irrevocably against the standards of his society. He will be ready to do so only after he had continued downriver under Jim's subtle influence and his sure example. He will be ready to only after he also has journeyed extensively in the Deep South and actually seen the social foundations of the institution of slavery. The apparent misfortune which carried Huck and Jim past Cairo is necessary for Huck's continued moral growth and thus must be viewed as an ultimately fortunate event.
Affirmation of this is provided soon after when Clemens dramatically ended Chapter 16--and his work on the novel for a time--by the collision of a Mississippi steamboat into Huck and Jim's raft. This accident forces Huck from the security of the raft to the jeopardy of the shore. 24 But, more importantly, it forces him to witness the Shepherdson-Grangerford
feud and learn just how "awful cruel" humans can be to one another; the best example of this comes when Huck witnesses the killing of Buck and his cousin as they try to swim to safety: "The boys jumped for the river--both of them hurt--and as they swum down the current the men run along the bank shooting at them and singing out, 'Kill them, kill them!' It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree" (p. 158). As quick as he could, Huck returned to Jim and the rebuilt raft, whose qualities he has now come to realize and appreciate more than ever:
It was Jim's voice--nothing ever sounded so good
before. I run alonS the bank a piece and got aboard,
and Jim he grabbed me and hugged me, he was so glad
to see me.
I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below
there and out in the middle of the Mississippi. . .
I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and
so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there
warnTt no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't.
You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a
raft (pp. 159-160).
Huck and Jim don't get the opportunity to enjoy their pleasure long, however; almost as soon as they get comfortable again, they suffer an intrusion by "the rightful Duke of Bridgewater" and "the pore disappeared Dauphin." The appearance of these two reprobates provides the framework for a continuation of the social satire begun on the Kentucky shore. But even more significantly, their appearance provides the impetus for Huck's continued moral growth. For they will not allow him to remain isolated on the raft, as he wishes to do. And in accompanying them on their fraudulent adventures ashore, Huck is forced to learn more and more about the society which formed his conscience. This series of alternations between the raft and the shore, begun when the steamboat smashed his raft and continued with the intrusion of the
king and the duke on the raft, is therefore essential to Huck's ultimate decision to oppose conventional morality and free Jim. Though Huck himself would have been hard pressed to define any advantages he received from his contact first with the Grangerfords and then with two old con artists, the reader can see that these catalysts were necessary if Huck was to free his superior intuitive perceptions--the insights of his basically good heart--from the influence of his societally deformed
In addition to the ultimately fortunate mishaps, the fortuitous
events, and the miraculous coincidences, Clemens also used another traditional device of the providential novel in HuckleberryFinn--the recognition scene. From the time Huck creates the illusion of his own murder, he lives in a world of disguises. To Mrs. Loftus, he is Sarah Mary Williams and, when she pierces that disguise, George Peters. To the Grangerfords, he is George Jackson. Then he becomes the unnamed, orphaned owner of Jim to satisfy the curiosity of the Duke and the Dauphin. At the Wilks's, he is the supposed valet of the false Harvey Wilks. And at the last, in the most telling disguise of all, he becomes Tom Sawyer. Throughout the story, then, Huck has assumed a wide variety of disguises. As James Cox has pointed out, these disguises protect Huck from physical and psychic harm. 26But even more important, they allow him to wander freely through a variety of social situations in the ante-bellum South, and therefore to penetrate the masks of his society. And this has been an essential factor in Huck's growth as an independent moral and ethical being. By seeing the South as it really is, he finally reaches the point where he can reject its value system--by accepting Jim as a fellow human--and suffer its subsequent condemnation--
to the hell of conventional morality. His disguises having served
their purpose, therefore, Huck's true identity is revealed during the
denouement of the novel; Aunt Polly provides the requisite explanations
which return everyone--including Huck--to his proper identity and/or
role when she arrives at the Phelps's farm:
Aunt Sally jumped for her, and most hugged the
head off of her, and cried over her, and I found a good enough place for me under the bed, for it was getting pretty sultry for us, seemed to me. And I peeped out, and in a little while Tom's Aunt Folly shook herself loose and stood there looking across
at Tom over her spectacles--kind of grinding him
into the earth, you know. And then she says:
"Yes, you better turn y'r head away--I would if
I was you, Tom."
"Oh, deary me!" says Aunt Sally; "is he changed
so? Why, that ain't Tom, it's Sid; Tom's--why, where
is Tom? He was here a minute ago."
"You mean where's Huck Finn--that's what you mean!
I reckon I ain't raised such a scamp as my Tom all
these years not to know him when I see him. That
would be a pretty howdy-do. Come out from under that
bied, Huck Finn." 28
So I done it. But not feeling brash (p. 370).
Clemens used the structural devices and techniques of the providential novel through the first two-thirds of Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn. Therefore, it is natural to assume that he would have continued
this dependency on the providential concept through the final, controversial section of the novel. And to an extent, he does. In addition
to the recognition scene just discussed, there is the typical providential bestowal of rewards and punishments at the end of the tale. This
is first seen in the tar-and-feathering of the Duke and the Dauphin:
I told Tom all about the Royal Nonesuch rapscallions, and as much of the raft voyage as I had time to; and as we struck into the town and up through the middle of it--it was as much as half-after eight then--here
comes a raging rush of people with torches, and an
awful whooping and yelling, and banging tin pans and blowing horns; and we jumped to one side to let them
go by; and as they went by I see they had the king and the duke astraddle -of a rail--that is, I knowed
it was the king and the duke, though they was all over
tar and feathers, and didn't look like nothing in the
world that was human--just looked like a couple of
monstrous big soldier-plumes (p. 299).
And though it made Huck sick to see this, it probably does not have the same effect on the reader looking for providential justice. For the two rapscallionsns" far from being the humorous yet harmless wags this term might suggest, eventually are revealed as truly evil when they try to steal everything from the orphaned Wilks girls and, when this fails because of the propitious arrival of the real Harvey and Peter Wilks, as they sell Jim back into slavery. So their punishment is well deserved.
Though the punishment was meted out much earlier, it is only during the resolution of the action that we discover another malevolent character has received his just dues; for in the concluding chapter, after the other rewards and punishments have been distributed, Jim informs Huck--and the reader--of pap?'s murder. Huck is therefore permanently secure from the morally corrosive influence of his father, and pap finds an appropriate end to his thoroughly degenerate life at the hands, apparently,of equally malevolent companions.
Tom Sawyer is another who deserves the punishment he receives.
Tom has concealed the fact that Jim is already free in order to rescue him in a fashion agreeable to "all the best authorities"; thus, he forces Jim to suffer various torments and needless captivity so that he can continue his romantic adventures. Finally Tom is shot, quite appropriately, during the unnecessary escape attempt. But as an indication that the punishment of a truly just Providence is proportionate to the seriousness of the crime, Tom's wound is not ultimately serious.
In fact, because he is only a mischievous boy whose faults result from wrong-headed romantic notions and thoughtlessness, Tom is even allowed a tangible benefit from his suffering; this is suggested when Huck reports, "Tom's most well now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watch-guard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is" (p. 374).
Just as the wicked are punished, so the good are rewarded. Jim is the most truly Christian character in the book: He shows an almost fatherly love in his relationship with Huck he teaches moral lessons both by word and by deed; and he demonstrates exceptional forebearance throughout his numerous trials and tribulations. Finally, he receives a suitable reward for this exemplary behavior; for just when his situation seems to be once more desperate, he is freed: "They ain't no right to shut him up! Shove!--and don't you lose a minute. Turn him loose! he ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks this earth!" (p. 369). 29
The only major character left is, of course, Huckleberry Finn. And Huck does receive some tangible rewards: He is finally freed of Pap; he has his $6,000 back, plus interest; and he gains social acceptance and a new family. But there is still a tentativeness about the ending. For the rewards in store for Huck do not adequately reflect his merit; they are not appropriate to his developed character. Ultimately Huck--and Clemens as well--is not sure he wants this traditional sort of happy ending. Indeed, Huck has struggled long and hard to escape the conventional society and its mores. And for all their goodnatured naivete the Phelpses do represent the slaveholding society and do uphold the very moral code which Huck has finally overcome. Thus, there is the indication that Buck will reject the traditional
and socially acceptable happy ending planned for him; Richard Adams suggested this when he wrote: "This aspect of the conclusion is exactly right. It would have been wrong--impossible in fact--for Clemens to bring the story to a stop, as he might have tried to do by having Huck accept the moral values of society and return to it uncritically as a 'happy ending."' 30 Neither providential nor genteel expectations are fully met at the very end of Huckleberry Finn.
This tentativeness at the very end may provide a key to the apparently faulty ending of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Prince and the Pauper was praised by critics because it presented conventional material and used traditional techniques and devices based on the patterns of the. providential novel. Clemens wrote according to this formula to impress and win the acceptance of the genteel audience of Nook Farm in particular and of the Eastern literary establishment in general. In Huckleberry Finn, however, Clemens began to move away from a traditional formula with his principal character; Linda Hood Talbott suggested this change when she wrote: "In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain's perspective on man would change, as his characterization of Huck developed. As the 'pen warmed up in hell' satirized the ante-bellum. South, Twain, the humorist, would move toward his later view of the damned human race. And as Huck, the boy with 'as good a heart as ever any boy had,' struggled with his conscienceMark Twain would struggle with his. In the course of this struggle, Mark Twain's perspective would reach midstream--and the riverboat pilot would chart the course which his later work would follow." 31 Even though he had begun to ignore the requirements of a genteel audience, Clemens was not yet willing to reject the stable and proven literary formula totally, however. He was truly
caught in midstream. And the most obvious sign of this conflict is the concluding section of the novel. For after the climactic scene in which Huck determines to go to hell to keep Jim from slavery, Clemens did not know where to take his novel. Unsure ofan appropriate ending to this significant action, he fell back on traditional patterns. The first of these,.as we have seen earlier, is the recognition scene. But Clemens was faced with the problem of penetrating Huck's various disguises when he was some 1100 miles from St. Petersburg and anyone who would recognize him. He solved it simply by bringing St. Petersburg to Huck--first in the person of Tom Sawyer and then through Aunt Polly, who finally unmasks Huck. Once Clemens is forced to reintroduce Tom into the narrative, young Sawyer dominates the action. 32 And after all the extravagant activity which Tom has inspired, Clemens chooses another traditional technique to draw the action to a close; the happy ending, in which all the wicked receive appropriate retribution for their sins and the good are rewarded with increased and continuing happiness, is in keeping with the providential tradition. But the particular ending planned for .Huck would have been false to the development of his character, and it seems that Clemens realized this. So Huck's intended escape to the 33
Territory, suggested at the conclusion of the novel, is Clemens's limited break with the providential structure. In developing the structure of Huckleberry Finn, Clemens did make significant use of the providential tradition. But he could not finally force Huck to accept the rewards of a society that he had just rejected in a display of his moral development.
The fault of the ending, therefore, is that Samuel Clemens was indeed caught at midstream. He finally came to understand that the
providential tradition was not an appropriate vehicle for a vernacular character-such as Huck. Yet he had no substitute for the structural techniques and devices of the providential novel at this time. And that he is thus caught between dependence on and rejection of this tradition-much as Huck is caught between dependence on and rejection of his society's norms--is even more apparent in the thematic use Clemens makes of the providential concept.
Throughout the book, Huck has a full awareness of the concept of providence. This is obvious from references he makes to his own dependence on Providence for protection; for example, in reporting on his initial approach to the Phelps's farm, he says: "I went right along, not fixing up any particular plan, but just trusting to Providence to put the right words in my mouth when the time come; for I'd noticed that Providence always did put the right words in my mouth if I left it alone" (p. 285). But his flimsy grasp of this basic Christian concept is even more obvious. His confusion about what Providence precisely represents is initially illustrated when Huck discusses the contradictor y .explanations of it supplied by the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson:
Sometimes the widow would take me to one side and talk
about Providence in a way to make a body's mouth water; but maybe next day Miss Watson would take
hold and knock it all down again. I judged I could see that there was two Providences, and a poor chap
would stand considerable show with the widow's Providence, but if Miss Watson's got him there wasn't no
help for him any more. I thought it all out, and
reckoned I would belong to the widow's if he wanted me, though I couldn't make out how he was a-going to
be any better off then than what he was before, seeing
I was so ignorant, and so kind of low-down and ornery
A later confrontation with yet another version of Providence suggests that, while Huck is intuitively perceptive, he is theologically
naive; for he responds to the Dauphin's remark that he will "just trust in Providence to lead him to the profitable way" by interpreting the term "Providence" to mean "the devil, I reckon" in this instance (p. 210). 34 But perhaps the most significant instance of Huck's confusion about the providential concept occurs when he misinterprets the pangs of his socially developed conscience--the conscience of a slave-holding society--for the warnings of Providence: The more I studied about this the more my conscience
went to grinding me, and the more wicked and lowdown and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when
it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain
hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the
time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing
a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always
on the lookout and ain't a-going to allow no such
miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared
This confusion about Providence in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is readily explainable, of course. Huck has had only a limited contact with religious doctrines; and his quite informal training in this particular concept has come from extremely diverse sources. There is, of course, the Widow Douglas with her joyful Providence and Miss Watson .with her vengeful Providence. But there is also the Dauphin with his diabolical Providence; this version is seen when the Dauphin gives credit to God for his and the Duke's early success at the Wilks's: "It ain't no use talking; bein' brothers to a rich dead man and representatives offurrin heirs that's got left is the line for you and me, Bilge. Thish yer comes of trust'n to Providence. It's the best way, in the long run" (p. 220). And finally there is Jim's forgiving Providence; Jim suggests this aspect of Cod when, in relating how he struck his
daughter, he says, "Oh, de po' little thing! de Lord God Almighty forgive po' ole Jim, kaze he never gwyne to forgive himself as long's he live" (p. 208). The narrative has to reflect his confusion since Huck is the point of view through which we see and understand the action of the novel. But there is a further reason for the thematic confusion regarding providence; it in effect reflects Clemens's own feelings toward the concept. He is not quite willing to abandon this traditional theme. Yet he is beginning to question the validity of the providential ideal in his published fiction. 35 Because Tom Sawyer is such a conventional and ultimately conforming individual, he could never represent this skeptical position. Nor could Edward, Prince of Wales and later King of England, because he is such a thoroughly genteel hero. But Clemens's attitude toward providence could be carried into literature by a character such as Huck Finn. For Huck, from his theologically naive yet thoroughly practical perspective, can reveal the contradictions of the providential concept. Even more significant, Huck can ultimately reject a Providence which supports slavery. It is as much Samuel Clemens as it is Huck Finn, then, who says: "All right, then, I'll go to hell" (p. 279).
Clemens thus has reached a midpoint in his literary career, as reflected in both his techniques and theme. He is starting to depart from the traditional handling of his fictive world. While he had early come to the conclusion that his world--which is so surely reflected in his fiction--was not controlled as benevolently as he wished, he had not found the proper voice and/or he was insufficiently sure of himself as an artist to communicate this radical truth in his earlier works; rather, he had employed traditional techniques and conventional themes.
And in Huckleberry Finn, Clemens in the main depends upon the structural devices and techniques of the providential novel. Only at the last, by having Huck reject a perfectly providential "happy ending," does Clemens cast some doubt on the sufficiency of the providential structure. And there is a correspondent doubt cast upon the theme of providence, conveyed by Huck's confusion about the God who controls the world and reflecting Clemens's own skepticism about the providential concept. Clemens is thus starting to move upstream, a direction that will take him initially to the more secular, mechanistic control of The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and Pudd'nhead Wilson. But in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Clemens has taken the first step toward the disintegrating structure and nihilistic message of TheMysterious Stranger.
Mark Twain: The Critical Heritage, ed. Frederick Anderson (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1971), pp. 129-130.
Ibid., pp. 133-134.
Ibid., p. 135.
4 Ibid., p. 130.
5 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942), p. 92.
6, 'The Greatness of Huckleberry Finn," Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn, ed. Sculley Bradley et al., rpt. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1962), p. 318.
[An Introduction to Huckleberry Finn], Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ed. Sculley Bradley et al., p. 326.
Ibid., p. 327.
"Mr. Eliot, Mr. Trilling, and Huckleberry Finn," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ed. Sculley Bradley et al., p. 333.
10 Ibid., p. 340.
These include Robert Ornstein in his article "The Ending of Huckleberry Finn," NLN, LXXIV, 698-702; William Van O'Connor in "Why Huckleberry Finn Is Not the Great American Novel," Adventures of HuckleBerry Finn, ed. Sculley Bradley et al., pp. 371-378; Kenneth Lynn in "You Can't Go Home Again," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,. ed. Sculley Bradley et al., pp. 421-436; Henry Nash Smith in his chapter "A Sound Heart and a Deformed Conscience," Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer (New York: Atheneum, 1967), pp. 113-137; and Maxwell Geismar in Mark Twain: All American Prophet abridged edition (New York: McGrawHill Book Co., 1973), p. 102.
12These include Spencer Brown in "Huckleberry Finn for Our Time: A Re-Reading of the Concluding Chapters," tMQR, VI, 41-46; Thomas Arthur Gullason in "The 'Fatal' Ending of Huckleberry Finn," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ed. Sculley Bradley et al., pp. 357-361; Harold P. Simonson in Huckleberry Finn as Tragedy," YR, LIX, 532-548; and Eric Solomon in "The Search for Security," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,, ed. Sculley Bradley et al., pp. 436-443.
13Included in this group are Clarence A. Brown in "Huckleberry Finn: A Study in Structure and Point of View," MTJ, XII, ii, 5, 10-15; Victor A. Donyo in "Over Twain's Shoulder: The Composition and Structure of Huckleberry Finn," MFS, XIV, i (Spring 1968), pp. 3-9; Martin Shockley in "The Structure of Huckleberry Finn," Critics on Mark Twain: Readings in Literary Criticism, ed. David B. Kesterson (Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 197.3), pp. 70-81; and Allen Stein in "Return to Phelps Farm: Huckleberry Finn and the Old Southwestern Framing Device," Miss Q, XXIV, 111-116.
14Warren Beck, Huck Finn at Phelps Farm: An Essay in Defense of the Novel's Form (Archives des Lettres Modernes, Nos. 13-15), Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1958, p. 6.
1In his article "The Two Providences: Thematic Form in 'Huckleberry Finn,"' CE, XI, 188-195, Edgar Branch mentions the dichotomy between Miss Watson's and the Widow Douglas's concepts of providence; but he simply converts these two concepts to a dramatic conflict within Huck between "self-centered conventional morality and humanitarian idealism."
16In "Huck Finn: Mark Twain at Midstream," Nassau Review, I, V, 44-60, Linda Hood Talbott suggests this movement in C lemens, though she does not take her idea in the same direction as I intend to in this discussion.
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1912), XIII, 54. Further references to this work will be cited in the text.
18 Huck receives other gifts of this sort during the course of the
novel. For example, soon after his escape from his father he receives some bread which even the skeptical Huck'believes is providentially sent: "I got a good place amongst the leaves, and set there on a log, munching the bread and watching the ferry-boat, and very well satisfied. And then something ng struck me. I says, now I reckon the widow or the parson or somebody prayed that this bread would find me, and here it has gone and done it. So there ain't no doubt but there is something in that thing--that is, there's something in it when a body like the widow or the parson prays" (p. 62). And on at least four other occasions Huck uses a skiff, raft, or similar conveyance to escape danger, though those vessels don't always appear so suddenly or mysteriously.
19, 'The Structure of Huckleberry Finn," p. 75.
The coincidence is emphasized by the fact that Jim, a runaway
slave seeking free territory, is still on the island several days after he initially arrived, almost as if he were waiting for his moral protege. And several critics have noted that Jim plays a principal role in Huck's moral development. For example, Kenneth Lynn, in selections from Mark Twain and Southwestern Humor, reprinted in the Norton edition of Huckleberry Finn, p. 426, wrote: "But while Jim's relationship to Huck is fatherly in the sense that he constantly is correcting and admonishing the boy, forever telling him some new truth about the world, he is identified even more unmistakably as Huck's father by the love that he gives him." And in "Black Magic and White in Huckleberry Finn," also reprinted in the Norton edition of Huckleberry Finn, p. 402, Daniel Hoffman was even more direct when he wrote that "Jim is now free to take the place that Pap was never worthy to hold as Huck's spiritual father."
Note first that Huck had conveniently found this same knife just a little before he has such extreme need for one and secondly that Packard and Bill providentially suffer the same fate that they had planned for the third robber, Jim Turner.
Another example of such good fortune occurs when the lightning propitiously glares just as Peter Wilks's coffin is opened to reveal the lost bag of gold, thus distracting Huck's captors and allowing him the opportunity to escape: "All of a sudden the lightning let go a perfect sluice of white glare, and somebody sings out: 'By the living jingo, here's the bag of gold on his breast!' Hines let out a whoop, like everybody else, and dropped my wrist and give a big surge to bust his way in and get a look, and the way I lit out and shinned for the road in the dark there ain't nobody can tell" (pp. 265-266).
Another coincidence, although not so incredible, is the fact
that, as Huck luckily anticipated, Tom Sawyer arrives on the very next boat that lands--significantly, he is several days late--after Huck had appeared at the Phelps's. Through this fortunate bit of timing, Huck is enabled to head off Tom and thus maintain his disguise and his plan to rescue Jim.
This alternation between river and shore provides the basic movement of the plot in the middle section of the novel, from Chapters XVII to XXXI, or even, as some critics insist, of the entire novel; see, for example, Martha Banta, "Escape and Entry in Huckleberry Finn," MFS, XIV, (Spring 1968), pp. 79-91, and Warren Beck, Huck Finn at Phelps Farm: An Essay in Defense of the Novel's Form (Ar chives de Lettres Modernes,
Nos. 13-15), Paris, Lettres Modernes, 1958, pp. 1-32.
As Henry Nash Smith writes in the chapter "Sound Heart and Deformed Conscience," Mark Twain: The Development of a Wri ter, p. 122: "What is still sound in [Huck] is an impulse from the deepest level of his personality that struggles against the overlay of prejudice and false valuation imposed on all members of the society in the name of religion, morality, law, and refinement."
26In his article,"Remarks on the Sad Initiation of Huckleberry Finn," SR, LXII, p. 395, Cox suggested this basis for Huck's disguises when he wrote: "Huck is indeed the man without identity who is reborn at almost every river bend, not because he desires a new role, but because he must re-create himself to elude the forces which close in on him from every side."
This event is, of course, the climactic action of the novel; nor does Huck' s action come easy:
And [I] got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and
in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes
storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing
and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no
places to harden me against him, but only the other
kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and
when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where
the feud was; and such-like times; and would always
call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could
think of for me, and how good he always was; and at
last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men
we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and
said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the
world, and the only one he's got now; and then I
happened to look around and see that [letter to Miss
It was a close place. I took it up and held it in
my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide,
forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I
studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then
I says to myself:
"All right, then, I'll go to hell"--and tore it up
The finality of Huck's decision is indicated by the fact that he next pledges to do that which earlier he had found so appalling when Jim mentioned it--stealing a person out of slavery:
It was awful thought and awful words, but they was
said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no
more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out
of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again,
which was in-my line, being brung up to it, and the other wasn't. And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again. . (p. 279).
28 An integral part of the recognition sequence is Tom's revelation,
which immediately precedes the arrival of Aunt Polly, that Jim "ain't no slave; he's as free as any return that walks this earth" (p. 369).
The fact that Miss Watson freed Jim on her deathbed doesn't negate the providential nature of this event; rather, she is just the instrument through which God works. In his article "The Character of Jim and the Ending of Huckleberry Finn," MR, V, p. 59, Chadwick Hansen suggested this when he noted: "Jim has to be reunited with his family and the only way to accomplish this without writing another and very different novel is to use a machine, just as Fielding had to use a machine to rescue Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews."
The Unity and Coherence of Huckleberry Finn," Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, ed. Sculley Bradley et al. (New York: 14. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1971), p. 356.
Nassau Review, I, V, 47.
Several critics have seen Tom's domination of the action at the end of the novel as a necessary result of Clemens's own personality taking control for a variety of reasons. See, for example, Robert Ornstein, "The Ending of Huckleberry Finn," MLN, LXXIV, p. 702, and Henry Nash Smith, "A Sound Heart and a Deformed Conscience," Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer (New York: Atheneum, 1967), p. 133.
But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and civilize me,. and I can't stand it. I been there before."
This remark further suggests the direction that Clemens will take in future novels, where he more and more conveys the suggestion that the control of the world is diabolical rather than beneficent.
35 This direction can also be seen in such early short pieces as
"The Lost Ear-ring," The "Second Advent," and "The Holy Children" in Mark Twain's Fables of Man, ed. John S. Tuckey (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972).
A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT
Following Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Clemens settled into a period during which he was more interested and absorbed in commercial ventures than in fiction. As Justin Kaplan put it, "he submerged some of his goals in enterprises that appeared more rewarding than writing books: the [Charles L. Webster & Company] publishing house, the
[Paige] typesetting machine, and, in general, making money." During this time, however, Clemens still worked occasionally with an idea that was to become A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. And the uncertainty that he was feeling about his writing in 1885 and that he would soon come to feel about business and industry would be an essential ingredient in this next novel. Thus, though not as great a novel as Huck Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is perhaps an even more important document for those trying to reach an understanding of both the author and his times. The complexity of this task, however, is reflected in the extremely diverse critical commentary which has been written about A Connecticut Yankee. The one point on which most critics agree is that there is a distinct strain of satire within this novel. They cannot seem to agree, however, on the origin of the satiric intent, the success of the satire, or even the object(s) at which the satire is aimed.
This disagreement is evident even among those commentators who have tried to trace the genesis of A Connecticut Yankee. John Hoben 62
was the first to attempt such a study. Hoben felt that the novel began as a burlesque based on the possibilities for humor contained in a contrast between sixth-century Arthurian England and nineteenth-century industrial America. Proof, for Hoben, that the dominant tone and intent originally was burlesque rather than satire was provided by a letter written to "Mother" Mary Fairbanks; in this letter, written on November 16, 1886, only five days after he read the first three chapters of A Connecticut Yankee at a meeting of the Military Services Institute on Governors Island, New York, Clemens wrote:
The story isn't a satire, particularly, it is more
especially a contrast. It merely exhibits under high
lights, the daily life of the [imaginary Arthurian]
time & that of to-day; & necessarily the bringing them
into this immediate juxtaposition emphasizes the salients of both. Only two or three chapters of the
book have been written, thus far. I expect to write
three chapters a year for thirty years; then the book
will be-done. I am writing it for posterity only;
my posterity; my great grandchildren. It is to be my holiday amusement for six days every summer the rest 3
of my life. Of course I do not expect to publish it.
According to Hoben's chronology, Clemens did not work on the novel again until the fall of 1888--by which time he had developed an intense antagonism toward England, principally because of Matthew Arnold's attacks on the American scene. The material written at this time reflected this Anglophobia, so that the direction of the novel apparently changed from simple burlesque to energetic satire.
Hoben's study did not satisfactorily answer all of the questions about the genesis of A Connecticut Yankee, though. A central problem left unsolved was how Clemens had managed to develop sufficient material for the forty-one chapters supposedly written between the fall of 1888 and the summer of 1889, a period during which he was deeply involved in various business activities. Howard Baetzhold therefore offered a
revised time schedule, based on "new evidence." 4And while Baetzhold agreed with Hoben that there was a change of intention--from burlesque to satire--in the novel, he disagreed with him on the amount of influence Arnold's attacks had on the change; instead, he felt that the changed intention resulted as much from George F. Kennan' s series of articles on Russia and Siberia, which appeared in 1887 and 1888 issues of Century Magazine.
In a still later genetic study, James D. Williams opposed the view held by Hoben and Baetzhold that there was a distinct change of intention in A Connecticut Yankee following Chapter 3, or at any other point in the novel. 5He did admit that there is the "obvious intrustion of a satiric tone inappropriate to the narrator" in Chapter 8; but he interpreted this simply as the first of several losses of authorial control over the narrative persona, rather than the signal of a changing
intention. According to Williams, revisions of the novel and the finished novel itself indicate that A Connecticut Yankee was a working out of "ideas on chivalry, slavery, and progress which had been dominant in Mark Twain' s thinking for twenty years," and that satire was defi7
nitely not the outstanding or defining component of this novel.
It is fairly obvious, then, that commentators have been unable tc' reach any consensus on the genesis of satire in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. This lack of agreement is typical of the critical analysis and interpretation of the novel as well. While most critics would agree, in contradiction to Mr. Williams, that satire really is a significant element of A Connecticut Yankee, they do disagree on the general target(s) of Clemens's satire. The most obvious target would seem to be medieval England. And in fact a number of commentators have
based their interpretations of the novel on the premise that the author
was attacking the attitudes.and actions of sixth-century England. A number of other critics have agreed that Clemens was writing an indictment of England's medievalism in A Connecticut Yankee; however, they emphasize that the attack was directed at nineteenth-century Britain as much as or more than at sixth-century England. This idea was most
popular, of course, when the novel was first published. And a number of recent critics have offered a slightly different perspective; while agreeing with those commentators who read the novel as a satiric attack on sixth-century'and/or nineteenth-century England, these commentators cannot agree that Clemens was conversely offering nineteenth-century American democracy as an antidote to medieval abuses. The majority of these critics suggest that A Connecticut Yankee is not so much an indictment of nineteenth-century America as a recognition that not even this democratic and technologically oriented society provides satisfactory
answers to the questions man is eternally asking. On the other hand, a number of critics do not feel that Clemens's own society was handled quite so leniently in the novel;rather than viewing A Connecticut Yankee simply as a result of Clemens's recognition that nineteenth-century America had failed to fulfill the promise which he and so many others had earlier predicted for her, several commentators feel that Clemens often aimed his satire quite directly at the American system of the day. 11
This diverse commentary that critics have produced on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court indicates both the complexity and the unevenness of the novel. Additionally, these characteristics reflect, and thus give an insight into, the personality of the author. But however much Clemens and his work are defined by complexity and unevenness,
and however much these traits hinder a critic trying to grasp the central
meaning of A Connecticut Yankee., consistent targets of Clemens's satire
in this novel can be demonstrated.
Because of Clemens's humanitarian and republican inclinations,
he opposed any institution which undermined the dignity, worth, or freedom of the common man. Hank Morgan, the Connecticut Yankee, indicates
that the Established Church, the monarchy, and the nobility of sixthcentury England all conspired to that end:
The truth was, the nation as a body was in the
world for one object, and one only: To grovel before
king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them, starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked so that they might wear silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared
from paying them, be familiar all their lives with
the degrading language and postures of adulation
that they might walk inlyride and think themselves
the gods of this world.
The nation as a whole, then, was led by these three institutions. But
the keystone of these three, and the one which therefore kept the people
totally subservient to the institutions of monarchy and nobility as
well, was the Roman Catholic Church. This Hank recognizes almost from
the beginning of his.tenure in the Arthurian kingdom, as is evident
from his explanation on the genesis of the Established Church and her
brother institutions in England:
Before the day of the Church's supremacy in the world, men were men, and held their heads up, and had a man's pride and spirit and independence; and what of greatness and position a person got, he got mainly by
achievement, not by birth. But then the Church came to the front, with an axe to grind; and she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat--or a nation; she invented "divine right of kings," and
propped it all around, brick by brick, with the Beatitudes--wrenching them from their good purpose to make
them fortify an evil one; she preached (to the commoner) humility, obedience to superiors, the beauty
of self-sacrifice; she preached (to the commoner)
meekness under insult; preached (still to the commoner, always to the commoner) patience, meanness of
spirit, non-resistance under oppression; and she
introduced heritable ranks and aristocracies, and
taught all the Christian populations of the earth to
bow down to them and worship them (p. 67).
One of the central victims of satire in A Connecticut Yankee therefore is the Roman Catholic Church, the Established Church of Arthur's kingdom. As Hank says, "It being my conviction that any Established Church is an established crime, an established slave-pen, I had no scruples, but was willing to assail it in any way or with any weapon that promised to hurt it" (p. 124). And, while Hank cannot be said to voice Samuel Clemensts sentiments or represent his ideas at all times, the Connecticut Yankee does seem to have the agreement of his creator on this point. For in a notebook, Clemens suggested the method he would use against the Church--as well as the monarchy and nobility which Mother Church supported--when he wrote the following: "No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or 13
other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live." Neither Hank nor Clemens was interested in the total destruction of organized religion, however. Instead, Hank planned to replace the Established Church with a number of Protestant sects; significantly, Clemens stated in another notebook entry, "I use compulsion in establishing my several
breeds of Protestant churches, because no missionarying has ever been accomplished except by force which was not contemptible by comparison of the paltry result with the gigantic outlay of cash and labor." 14
In the face of such a systematically planned dismantling of the Established Church in A Connecticut Yankee, a central question is how the doctrine of providence is affected as a thematic and structural
device. We still do see the thematic use of providence as flank wanders through his adventures in this Roman Catholic kingdom. Certainly the people of the kingdom are continually pr aying to God, occasionally to thank Him for some benefit received but more often to petition Him for some favor. For example, when the Holy Fountain in the Valley of Holiness goes dry for a second time in its history, a pilgrim relates, "'None.may describe [the feeling of the people] in words. The fount is these nine days dry. The prayers that did begin then, and the lamentations in sackcloth and ashes, and the holy processions, none of these have ceased nor night nor day; and so the monks and the nuns and the foundlings be all exhaustedand do hang up prayers writ upon parchment, sith that no strength is left in man to lift up voice"' (p. 180). 15 Nor are the people unaware of the providential concept, which serves as the foundation for the act of praying. This is obvious when a candidate for a military post, in responding to a question Hank asks him, says, "Verily, in the all-wise and unknowable providence of God, who moveth in mysterious ways his wonders to perform, have I never heard the fellow to this question for confusion of the mind and congestion of the ducts of thought" (p. 223). 16 Thus, a sixth-century Briton is quite familiar with the concept of God's concern for and control over manys destiny; it is supposedly an essential underpinning of his whole view of life.
But while providence is a familiar concept, it is not presented as a spiritually viable one in A Connecticut Yankee. The prayers of the people, based ideally on a firm belief in a providential God, are often performed ritualistically and out of habit rather than as an essential function in the life of many of the characters. Morgan le Fay
provides the most notable example of this; in her palace, grace before meals and an evening benediction are just as regularly observed as the atrocities she commits. But Hank sarcastically notes that Morgan le Fay. is no anomaly in this seemingly contradictory behavior when he relates the following:
Madame, seeing me pacific and unresentful, no doubt
judged that I was deceived by her excuse; for her
fright dissolved away, and she was soon so importunate to have me give an exhibition and kill somebody, that the thing grew to be embarrassing. However, to
my relief she was presently interrupted by the call to prayers. I will say this much for the nobility: that, tyrannical, murderous, rapacious, and morally rotten as they were, they were deeply and enthusiastically religious. Nothing could divert them for
the regular and faithful performance of the pieties enjoined by the Church. More than once I had seen a noble who had gotten his enemy at a disadvantage,
stop to pray before cutting his throat; more than once I had seen.a noble, after ambushing and despatching his enemy, retire to the nearest wayside shine and humbly give thanks, without even waiting
to rob the body (p. 131).
And, though this tendency is initiated by the nobility, it is not limited to them. For members of the lower classes of citizens, strong practi-tioners of the rituals of Roman Catholicism, do things just as morally reprehensible. Dowley the blacksmith, for example, only moments after indicating his recognition of "the grace and providence of God," would have killed Hank and King Arthur had not he and his fellows been stopped by a passing "gentleman." Thus, the ideal contrasts with the practice in much of Arthur's realm, and providence is less a viable doctrine than a part of a hollow rhetoric for many in the kingdom.
The reasons for this lack of spiritual viability in the providential concept are clear. The first, of course, is the influence exerted by the Established Church. As Hank explains, and as Clemens illustrates, this influence is primarily a negative one. The Church's main purpose
should be spiritual leadership. However, spiritually dedicated Churchmen are not nearly prevalent enough; and since they lack powerful positions in the Church hierarchy, they cannot affect the direction of the Church. That this is so is evident when Hank ironically wishes there were fewer good priests: "Something of this disagreeable sort was turning up every now and then. I mean, episodes that showed that not all priests were frauds and self-seekers, but that many, even the great majority, of those that were down on the ground among the common people, were sincere and right-hearted, and devoted to the alleviation of human troubles and suffering. Well, it was a thing which could not be helped . . But I did not like it, for it was just the sort of thing to keep people reconciled to an Established Church" (p. 142). Rather than concentrating on its spiritual mission, the Roman Catholic Church was most interested in developing reverence for the institutions of Church, monarchy, and nobility. And conversely, it also prevented the growth.of any progressive or civilizing influences, such as Hank's projects. This, of course, reflects a standard conflict, as W. E. H. Lecky pointed out in his study of European moral-ethical systems:
Yet the habits of advancing civilization are, if I mistake not, on the whole inimical to [reverence's]
growth. For reverence grows out of a sense of constant dependence. It is fostered by that condition of religious thought in which men believe that each incident that befalls them is directly and specially
ordained and when every event is therefore fraught with
a moral import. It is fostered by that condition of
scientific knowledge in which every portentous natural event is supposed to be the result of a direct divine
interposition, and wakens in consequence emotions of
humility and awe. It is fostered in that stage of
political life when loyalty or reverence for the
sovereign is the dominating passion, when an aristocracy, branching forth from the throne, spreads habits of deference and subordination through every village,
when a revolutionary, a democratic, and a skeptical.
spirit are alike unknown.17
That this conflict is present in.A Connecticut Yankee is most obvious when the Roman Catholic Church finally declares war on Hank Morgan, named as "a revolutionary, a democratic, and a skeptical spirit" in the Interdict. In such a situation, the concept of providence is used by the Church to preclude "a revolutionary, a democratic, or a skeptical spirit,"while instilling a reverential one. This is evident throughout ,.the novel, especially when Hank mourns the fate of the captives in Morgan le Fay's dungeon cells: "Consider it: among these forty-seven captives there were five whose names, offenses, and dates of incarceration were no longer known! One woman and four men--all bent, and wrinkled, and mind-extinguished patriarchs. They themselves had long ago forgotten these details; at any rate they had vague theories about them, nothing definite and nothing that they repeated twice in the same way. The succession of priests whose office it had been to pray daily with the captives and-remind them that God had put them there, for some wise purpose or other, and teach them that patience, humbleness, and submission to oppression was what He loved to see in parties of a subordinate rank, had traditions about these poor old human ruins, but nothing more" (P. 152; my italics). In A Connecticut Yankee, then, Clemens indicated that the providential concept can be used as an instrument for the suppression of the masses, and as a result can become spiritually sterile.
An even more important influence in the undermining of the providential concept, however, is the arch opponent and eventual victim of the Established Church, Hank Morgan himself. While Hank recognizes the secular tendencies of the Church--her desire for power and support of the monarchic and aristocratic establishments--and her resultant
victimization of the common people, he has a secular philosophy himself. In spite of his opposition to the Established Church and in spite of his plan to replace it with a variety of sects, Hank is also unconcerned with the spiritual welfare of the inhabitants of sixth-century England. Rather, as a republican and a humanitarian, Hank is mainly interested in improved living conditions and freedom for the masses. In order to accomplish these goals, he depends on education and industrialization. Hank does realize the need for religion as a part of his general scheme, as he indicates in the following observations: "We must have a religion-it goes without saying--but my idea is, to have it cut up into forty free sects, so that they will police each other, as had been the case in the United States in my time" (p. 142). But he merely views religion as another social function, one that demands stringent control so that it does not disrupt other equally or more important social functions; as Hank says, "I had started a teacher-factory and a lot of Sundayschools in full blast in those places, and also a complete variety of Protestant congregations all in a prosperous and growing condition. Everybody could be any kind of a Christian he wanted to; there was perfect freedom in that matter. But I confined public religious teaching to the churches and the Sunday-schools, permitting nothing of it in my other educational buildings" (p. 78). 19 Were Hank to supplant the Established Church, then, it would simply be the replacement of a nominally religious but actually secular power by a more obviously secular control.
And Hank does plan to gain such control. Soon after his arrival at King Arthur's Court, he says, "I made up my mind to two things: if it was still the nineteenth century and I was among lunatics and couldn't
get away, I would presently boss that asylum or know the reason why; and if, on the other hand, it was really the sixth century, all right, I didn't want any softer thing: I would boss the whole country inside of three months" (p. 25). As it turned out, three months was a little quick. Eventually, though, Hank did receive the recognition and concomitant title he desired:
I couldn't have felt really and satisfactorily fine and proud and set-up over any title except one that should
come from the nation itself, the only legitimate source;
and such a one I hoped to win; and in the course of years of honest and honorable endeavor, I did win it
and wear it with a high and clean pride. This title
fell casually from the lips of a blacksmith, one day, in
a village, was caught up as a happy thought and tossed
from mouth to mouth with a laugh and an affirmative
vote; in ten days it swept the-kingdom, and was become as familiar as the king's name. I was never known by
any other designation afterward, whether in the nation's
talk or in grave debate upon matters of state at the
council-board of the sovereign. The title, translated
into modern speech, would be THE BOSS (pp. 68-69).
His control at this time was still incomplete. But he was continually preparing for the eventual sway he would hold over this country, guarding always against the discovery of his intentions until the right time; as he puts it, "I was pretty well satisfied with what I had already accomplished . . I was training a crowd of ignorant folks into experts--experts in every sort of handiwork and scientific calling. These nurseries of mine went smoothly and privately along undisturbed in their obscure country retreats, for nobody was allowed to come into their precincts without a special permit--for I was afraid of the Church" (pp. 77-78).
Ultimately, Hank does think the time is right and reveals his plans openly. This comes, of course, after he has returned from his odyssey across the English countryside, accompanied first by Sandy and
then by the King, to face Sir Sagramour le Desirous, along with Merlin, and finally the massed chivalry of England. In defeating all these, Hank insists that "knight-errantry was a doomed institution. The March of Civilization was begun" (p. 359). And so he feels secure in declaring the beginning of a new era, his era: "When I broke the back of knighterrantry that time, I no longer felt obliged to work in secret. So, the very next day I exposed my hidden schools, my mines,.and my vast system of clandestine factories and workshops to an astonished world. That is to say, I exposed the nineteenth century to the inspection of the sixth" (p. 360). Hank has now reached the apex of his control over sixth-century England.
With the Roman Catholic Church exerting the predominant influence, providence was not a spiritually viable concept. With Hank Morgan in control, the concept would be weakened further. For Hank Morgan came to deliver the gospel of an industrialized society. This is obvious from the religious fervor with which he describes his projects: "In various quiet nooks and corners I had the beginnings of all sorts of industries under way--nuclei of future vast factories, the iron and steel missionaries of my future civilization" (p. 77; my italics). And Hank functions not merely as the prophet of that promised state, but as its BOSS. As such, he is the earthly analogue to "the heavenly despot": "Unlimited power is the ideal thing when it is in safe hands. The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect government. An earthly despotism would be the absolutely perfect earthly government, if the conditions were the same, namely, the despot the perfectest individual of the human race, and his lease of life perpetual . . My works showed what a despot could do with the resources of a kingdom at
his command" (p. 79). And therefore, he is sufficient to provide for the inhabitants of his earthly kingdom, sixth-century England.
Hank Morgan, then, sees himself as a nineteenth-century style
substitute for the providential God of the Established Church in sixthcentury England. This fact is subtly presented but still obvious throughout A Connecticut Yankee. It is first suggested even before Hank works his first "miracle": "I was as happy a man as there was in the world. I was even impatient for tomorrow to come, I so wanted to gather in that great triumph and be the center of all the nation's wonder and reverence.' Besides, in a business way it would be the making.of me; I knew that" (p. 47; my italics). And the eclipse of the sun was the making of Hank, a fact testified to by his title THE BOSS and by his ultimate control of the kingdom. But Hank is not satisfied to be boss of the A.rthurian kingdom. Rather, he sets about to create a new world and a new people, as evidenced by his "Man-Factories" and his various other projects: "My schools and churches were children four years before; they were grown-up now; my shops of that day were vast factories now; where I had a dozen trained men then, I had a thousand now; where I had one brilliant expert then, I had fifty now. I stood with my hand on the cock, so to speak, ready to.turn it on and flood the midnight world with light at any moment" (p. 79). Another sign of his own feeling of omnipotence is his retention of the power finally to destroy the technologic world he had created: "Time for the second step in the plan of campaign! I touched a button, and shook the bones of England loose from her spine. In that explosion all our noble civilizationfactories went up in the air and disappeared from the earth" (p. 393). But the most obvious indication of his belief that lie can substitute
effectively for Providence is seen when he discusses his plans to offer
a nineteenth-century version of God's concern for and care of His followers:
Fires interested me considerably, because I was
getting a good deal of an insurance business started,
and was also training some horses and building some
steam fire-engines, with an eye to a paid fire department by and by. The priests opposed both my fire and life insurance, on the ground that it was an insolent
attempt to hinder the decrees of God; and if you pointed
out that they did not hinder the decrees in the least, but only modified the hard consequences of them if you took out policies and had luck, they retorted that that
was gambling against the decrees of God, and was just
as bad. So they managed.to damage those industries more or less, but I got even on my Accident business.
As a rule, a knight is a lummox, and some times even a labrick, and hence open to pretty poor arguments when they come glibly from a superstition-monger, but even
he could see the practical side of a thing once in a while; and so of late you couldn't clean up a tournament and pile the result without finding one of my accident tickets in every helmet (pp. 268-269).20
As a result of the influence exerted by both the Roman Catholic
Church and Hank Morgan, then, the significance of the providential concept has been reduced as a philosophical/religious construct in sixthcentury England and consequently lessened as a thematic element in
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The providential concept
still structures the novel, but its use is modified by the secularism
of the Church and Hank.
Indeed, there are a number of fortunate accidents, timely rescues,
and miracles which move the action of the novel forward and which show
the providential element in A Connecticut Yankee. The first important
incident of the novel is the accident which transported Hank Morgan
from nineteenth-century Connecticut to sixth-century England; the
wizened Hank explains the incident to Mark Twain as follows:
Well, a man like that is a man that is full of
fight--that goes without saying. With a couple of
thousand rough men under one, one has plenty of that sort of amusement. I had, anyway. At last I met my match, and I got my dose. It was a misunderstanding
conducted with crowbars with a fellow we used to call
Hercules. He laid me out with a crusher alongside the
head that made everything crack, and seemed to spring
every joint in my skull and made it overlap its
neighbor. Then the world went out in darkness, and
I didn't feel anything more, and didn't know anything
at all--at least for a while.
When I came to again, I was sitting under an oak
tree, on the grass, with a whole beautiful and broad
country landscape all to myself--nearly (p. 15).
Hank, of course, awakes in Camelot. And he soon realizes that having
been "accidentally" knocked into the sixth century is really a "fortunate
mishap," both for himself and the sixth century:
After that, I was just as mu ch at home in that country
as I could have been in any other; and as for preference, I wouldn't have traded it for the twentieth.
Look at the opportunities here for a man of knowledge,
brains, pluck, and enterprise 'to sail in and grow up
with the country. ...
W-hat a jump I had made! I couldn't keep from thinking about it, and contemplating it, just as one does who has struck oil. There was nothing back of me that could
approach it, unless it might be Joseph's case; and
Joseph's only approached it, it didn't equal it, quite.
For it stands to reason that as Joseph's splendid financial ingenuities advantaged nobody but the king, the
general public must have regarded him with a good deal
of disfavor, whereas I had done my entire public a
kindness in sparing the sun and was popular by reason
of it (pp. 63-64).L1
In order that he would be alive to reach these conclusions, though,
another series of fortunate accidents was necessary. For upon discovering the supposed date of his incarceration, Hank saves himself by using
a very fortuitous elipse to convince Arthur and his knights of his
powerful magic. But Amyas le Poulet, the page whom Hank renamed Clarence
and who would become Hank's right-hand man, had accidentally given Hank
the wrong date. Still, he manages to serve *as the providential
"instrument to the saving of Hank's life" when he convinces King Arthur's Court that Hank should be burned at the stake a day early, before his power has time to work against the sun. The ploy was meant to enhance Hank's reputation by showing that he was so powerful a magician he needed no time to prepare. Unwittingly, Clarence does accomplish his goal when the eclipse takes place on time but ahead of the schedule Hank had developed. Thus, Hank ironically is saved as much by a series of mishaps as by his first "miracle."
But the last rescue that Hank benefits from clearly illustrates the modification which the providential concept undergoes in the course of A Connecticut Yankee:
The fact is I did need to lean upon somebody. My
knights couldn't arrive in time. They would be as much
as three hours too late. Nothing in the world could save the King of England; nor me, which was more important. More important, not merely to me, but to the
nation--the only nation on earth standing ready to blossom into civilization.
In a minute a third slave was struggling in the air.
It was dreadful. I turned away my head a moment, and
when I turned back I missed the king! They were
blindfolding him! I was paralyzed; I couldn't move,
I was choking, my tongue was petrified. They finished
blindfolding him, they led him under the rope. I
couldn't shake off that clinging impotence. But when I saw them put the noose around his neck, then everything let go in me and I made a spring to the rescue-and as I made it I shot one more glance abroad--by
George! here they came, a-tilting!--five hundred
mailed and belted knights on bicycles! (pp. 343, 346).
Once again we have the traditional pattern of a rescue just in the nick of time. But the question naturally arising is whether it is truly providential intervention that has saved Hank and the. king, or whether it is instead the technological know-how which Hank brought from nineteenth-century America--represented here by the bicycles on which the knights arrive--which is chiefly responsible for this narrow escape. The balance is beginning to favor technology.
This nineteenth-century influence is even more apparent in other modifications of the typical providential structure; an example of this modification is Hank's miracles. Miracles are a well-accepted part of the Christian tradition. Kenneth Scott Latourette pointed this out when he wrote: "In a confidence in miracles, both East and West [branches of the Catholic Church] were in accord. How far that can be ascribed to environment, especially to the environment peculiar to this period, may be debatable. It is clear, however, that while from the very beginning Christians had believed in the miraculous and the power of the Christian faith to work miracles was one of the factors in the conversion of the Roman Empire, in the years after 500 miracles loom more prominently in the writings of the educated leaders of the Church in 22
the West than in the centuries before that dividing line. And they occupy an integral place in the doctrine of providence as well. Jonathan Edwards illustrated this quite well when he wrote: "The material world, and all things pertaining to it, is by the creator wholly subordinated to the spiritual and moral world. To show this, God, in some things in providence, has set aside the ordinary course of things in the material world to subserve to the purposes of the moral and spiritual, as in miracles. And to show that all things in heaven and earth, the whole universe, is wholly subservient, the greater parts of it as well as the smaller, God has once or twice interrupted the course of the g greater wheels of the machine, as when the sun stood still in Joshua's
time." The sun did not stand still for Hank, of course; instead, it was temporarily blotted out. But this seemed miraculous to his sixthcentury audience. In reality, the eclipse was a very natural and explainable phenomenon which Hank's historical knowledge and technological
expertise allowed him to use. And this is true of the other 11miracles" that occur in this novel. The "miracle" that destroys Merlin's tower results from blasting powder detonated by lightning striking a lightning rod embedded in one of the batches of powder. The "miracle" which saw the Holy Fountain filled again depended on stone and mortar, a little iron pump and Greek fire, rockets, gunpowder, and a small electrical battery. And the "miracle" which produced the Camelot Weekly Hosannah and Literary Volcano was effected by the printing process. 24 So Hank feels that he can serve as an earthly and technologically based analogue of Providence, and those "miracles" which enhance his power do affect the structural as well as the thematic use of the providential concept in A Connecticut Yankee.
But Hank is mistaken, ultimately, about the extent of his power.
In spite of'his early caution, he had finally failed to gauge adequately the cunning and the strength of the Established Church. And so he was defeated by the Interdict and by the superstition of those whom he tried to free:
"The Church is master now. The Interdict included
you with Mordred; it is not to be removed while you remain alive. The clans are gathering. The Church has gathered all the knights that are left alive, and as soon as you are discovered we shall have business on
When hose* knights come, those es*ablishm;nts'[Ha*k
has set up] will empty themselves and go over to the enemy. Did you think you had educated the superstition out of those people?" (p. 380).
But his defeat comes at "The Battle of the Sand-Belt," which provides the resolution of the action. In the typical providential novel, the resolution of the book provides an opportunity for justice finally to prevail, with the reward of the good and the punishment of the evil.
But in the Battle of the Sand-Belt, everyone suffers. The combined host of the "Churc h, the nobles, and the gentry" and even the common folk are destroyed:* "Within ten minutes after we had opened fire, armed resistance was totaly annihilated, the campaign was ended, we fifty-four were masters of England! Twenty-five thousand men lay dead around us" (p. 402). But the fifty-four were not to be spared, either. Clarence makes this clear when he writes, "We were in a trap, you see--a trap of our own making. If we stayed where we were, our dead would kill us; if we moved out of our defenses, we would no longer be invincible. We had conquered; in turn we were conquered. THE BOSS recognized this; we all recognized it" (p. 404). Only ThE BOSS does not die of the ensuing plague. He is provided with an even worse fate; for Merlin has cast a spell over him which would cause Hank to sleep for thirteen centuries, finally to awake to a now unfamiliar and terrifying situation:
"I thought that Clarence and I and a handful of my
cadets fought and exterminated the whole chivalry of
England! But even that was not the strangest. I
seemed to be a creature out of a remote unborn age,
centuries hence, and even that was as real as the
rest! Yes, I seemed to have flown back out of that age into this of ours, and then forward to it again,
and was set down, a stranger and forlorn in that
strange England, with an abyss of thirteen centuries
yawning between me and you! between me and my home and my friends! between me and all that is dear to
me, all that could make life worth the living! It was
awful--awfuler than you can ever imagine, Sandy. Ah,
watch by me, Sandy,--stay by me every moment--don't
let me go out of my mind again; death is nothing,
let it come, but not with those dreams, not with the torture of those hideous dreams--I cannot endure that
again. . Sandy?..... (p. 407).
Some might argue that this is indeed a providential ending, that all suffer because they all deserve punishment--the Church and nobility for their offenses against the common people, the commoners for so slavishly yielding to and even following the lead of the ruling institutions, and
Hank, and by association Clarence and the fifty-two faithful lads, for a developing self-aggrandizement and a constant sense of pride. Significantly, though, at the same time that Hank is destroying his technological civilization, Samuel Clemens is beginning to have doubts about 25
the Paige typesetter. Thus, a more probable cause for the chaotic ending of A Connecticut Yankee is that Clemens was yielding to a disillusionment toward the "machine madness"'which Hank Morgan represented. Justin Kaplan indicated this relationship when he wrote as follows: "The Yankee and the (Paige typesetting] Machine were twinned in his mind. Both were tests of a perfectible world in which, contrary to all his insights and experience, friction and mechanical difficulties were equivalents of ignorance. and superstition. Both expressed a secular religion which had as an unexplained article of faith a belief 26
not in eternal life but in perpetual motion." By the end of.A Connecticut Yankee, Clemens has come to realize that the Paige typesetter, in which he had invested so much time, energy and money, cannot lead to the enlightened republic he had envisioned. So the short-lived secular reign of Hank Morgan comes to a catastrophic end.
The concept of providence, then, does continue to play a significant part in the novels of Clemens. But the concept is modified by the intrusion of Hank and his technological secularism. The significance of the providential concept as both a thematic and a structural device is thus lessened. And because of this, we see the beginning of a negativism and a concomitant chaos that affect the writings of Samuel Clemens for the rest of his career.
Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain (New York: Pocket Books, 1968), p. 316.
21, Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee: A Genetic Study," AL, XVIII,
Mark Twain to Mrs. Fairbanks, ed. Dixon Wecter (San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1949), pp. 257-258.
Baetzhold summarized this schedule in "The Course of Composition of A Connecticut Yankee: A Reinterpretation," AL, XXXIII, p. 207, when he wrote: "This article will rechart the course of that composition to show that the first three chapters were planned and written (earlier than Hoben thought) between December, 1885, and March, 1886; that during the summer of 1887 when a Yankee supposedly lay untouched, Twain wrote some sixteen chapters; and that the manuscript was finished by May, 1889." In "Hawaiian Feudalism and Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," AL,, XXX, p. 51, Fred Lorch had earlier attempted to solve this problem by pointing to Clemens's continuing interest in the feudal practices of the Sandwich Islands and to a novel on the Sandwich Islands Clemens was apparently "busy at work on in the winter and spring of 1883-1884."
51t Revision and Intention in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee.."
AL, XXXVI, 288-297.
Ibid., p. 292.
Ibid., p. 297.
See James 11. Cox's "Yankee Slang," the ninth chapter of his book The Fate of Humor (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1966), pp. 198-221; the section on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in Philip Foner's Mark Twain: A Social Critic (New York: International Publishers Co., Inc., 1958), pp. 103-115; and Robert Wilson's "Malory in The Connecticut Yankee," Texas University Studies in Literature, XXVII, 185-206.
Like Clemens, several American reviewers seem to have been influenced by criticism such as Matthew Arnold's on America; see, for example, Sylvester Baxter's review for the Boston Sunday Herald, William Dean Howell's for Harper's Magazine, and an unsigned review for the Plumas National, all contained in Mark Twain: The Critical Heritage, ed. Frederick Anderson (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1971), on pages 148-152, 152-156, and 174-176, respectively.
10 Included in this group are Henry Nash Smith's Mark Twain's Fable
of Progress: Political and Economic Ideas in "A Connecticut Yankee"
(New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1964); Roger Salomon's chapter entitled "The Fall of Prometheus: A Connecticut Yankee" in
his book Twain and the Image of History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961), pp. 95-132; Richard Rust's article on "Americanisms in A Connecticut Yankee," SAB, 33, iii, 11-13; Allan Guttmann's "Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee: Affirmation of the Vernacular Traditionll NEQ, XXXII, 232-237; and Pascal Covici's section on A Connecticut Yankee in Mark Twain's Humor: The Image of a World (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1962), pp. 91-109.
11 This is seen in Gladys Bellamy's Mark Twain as a Literary Artist
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950), p. 309; Charles Holmes's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Mark Twain's Fable of Uncertainty," SAQ, LXI, 462-472; Gerald Allen's "Mark Twain's Yankee," NEQ, XXXIX, 435-446; and the sixth chapter of Robert Wiggins's Mark Twain: Jackleg Novelist (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964), pp. 72-82.
Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1917), XrVI, 65-66. *Further references to this novel will be cited in the text. Pages 195-202 of Mark Twain's Notebook contain numerous entries indicating Clemens's personal antipathy to these three institutions for their pretensions and abuses of power.
13 Mark Twain's Notebook, ed. A. B. Paine (New York: Harper &
Brothers, 1935), p. 198.
Ibid., p. 199; my italics.
15 Another good example of this dependence on prayer is contained
on page 57 of the novel, which contains a description of the English population's reaction to Hank's eclipse. Still other examples of the sixth-century belief in the efficacy of prayer are contained on pages 37, 187, and 345.
Another reference, to 'the grace and providence of God," is contained on page 297. And the report carried on page 379 shows an understanding of the relationship between prayer and God's control. Finally, the discussion of insurance on pages 268-269 illustrates the traditional belief of the medieval Church that nothing happens by accident but that all is part of the mysterious and hidden plan of the all-wise Providence.
17 History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, 3rd ed.,
rev. (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1895), 1, 141-142.
18 Also see page 101, where the Church explains the pitiful condition of freemen and the flourishing state of Church, monarchy, and nobility as "ordained of God"; pages 264-265, where the Church uses lithe chastening hand of God" to justify the chaos created by ecclesiastical and aristocratic institutions; and pages 268-269 where the Church opposes insurance as "an insolent attempt to hinder the decrees of God."
19 An indication of the relative unimportance of religion is suggested in Hank's remark on the necessities of a new country: "The first thing you want in a new country, is a patent office; then work up your school system; and after that, out with your paper" (p. 72).
20The concept of providence precludes the idea of accidents.
Although Hank might appear to be facetious here, he really did think that his coming to sixth-century England would be a benefit to the general population of the kingdom. See, for example, his description of the civilization he was building, on pages 77-81, or his explanation of the benefits of this civilization as it developed after he defeated knight-errantry, on pages 360-362.
A History of Christianity (New York: Harper & Row, 1953), p. 369.
Images or Shadows of Divine Things, ed. Perry Miller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948), p. 54.
24 Note that either Hank or an impartial observer applies the term 11miracle" to each of these incidents; see pages 60-61, 196 and 240 as well as page 44.
Significantly, Clemens had written the following to Orion in
January, 1889: "All the other wonderful inventions of the human brain sink pretty nearly into commonplace contrasted with this awful mechanical miracle" (Mark Twain's Letters, ed. Albert Bigelow Paine [New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 19171, 11, 508). In spite of his optimistic public statements, Clemens realized that the continual delays and predictable breakdowns could ultimately spell disaster. As Kaplan points out on page 330 of Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain,, "the writer Mark Twain saw omens of disaster long before the promoter Mark Twain, who all his life believed that he was lucky and also, like inventors and prophets in general, maintained a mulish faith that despite constant delays and breakdowns his machine would turn up trumps eventually. 'I want to finish the day the machine finishes,' he kept saying of the new book, acknowledging a magical kinship between a writer writing words and a machine setting them in type. Yet he fatalistically accepted the fact that the life history of the machine would have to be written in terms of those delays and breakdowns. 'Experience teaches me that their calculations will miss fire, as usual,' he said of Paige and his workmen."
Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, p. 329. Also note that Hank finds himself in a secular version of heaven when his typeset newspaper is admired on pages 241-242 of A Connecticut Yankee.
Even when it was.first published in 1894, Pudd'nhead Wilson caused a certain amount of disagreement among critics. On the one hand, William Livingston Alden insisted that "Pudd'nhead Wilson, Mark Twain's latest story, is the work of a novelist, rather than of a 'funny man.' There is plenty of humour in it of the genuine Mark Twain brand, but it is as a carefully painted picture of life in a Mississippi town in the days of slavery that its chief merit lies. In point of construction it is much the best story that Mark Twain has written, and of men and women in the book at least four are undeniably creations."1 Another revi ewer, however, felt that the characterization was really the only strength of the work: "And what has to be said about the book must be chiefly about the individuals in it, for the story in itself is not much credit to
Mark Twain's skill as a novelist." And still a third reviewer questioned whether the story was literature at all, much less an acceptable novel: "Pudd'nhead Wilson is ...admirable in atmosphere, local color and dialect, a drama in its way, full of powerful situations, thrilling even; but it cannot be called in any sense literature ... What is this? is it literature? is Mr. Clemens a 'writer' at all? must he not after all be described as an admirable after-dinner storyteller--humorous, imaginative, dramatic, like Dickens--who in an evil moment, urged by admiring friends, has put pen to paper and written down his stories?" 3
In view of this initial disagreement, then, it should not have been surprising that, when critics rediscovered Pudd'nhead Wilson some sixty years later, they would fail to agree on its meaning, its significance, and its merit. Instead, as with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, commentators have applied a wide variety of critical approaches, and within these approaches have displayed quite divergent opinions, in an effort to understand and to judge Pudd'nhead Wilson.
A quite popular approach, and one which provides a typical illustration of the critical disagreement over Pudd'nhead Wilson, is based on the element of determinism in the novel. One prominent critic, Gladys Bellamy, has written that Clemens "works out two kinds of determinism," heredity and environment or training, in Pudd'nhead Wilson. 4But a number of other critics feel that actually it is only environmental determinism that causes both the false and the true Tom Driscoll, as well as the rest of the characters in this novel, to behave as they
do. And Henry Nash Smith seems to have offered a possible resolution to this apparent conflict when, in explaining the similarity of Pudd'nhead Wilson to "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" and The Mysterious Stranger, he wrote: "The themes [of the three] are all connected with the notion of training--the shaping of the personality by society, a process that for Mark Twain embraced the cumulative social pressure he called heredity
(my italics). Training constantly threatens and often annihilates personal identity, the ultimate me, especially by implanting in the individual the sense of guilt, or moral sense, or conscience."
Determinism, of course, is only one angle of vision from which
to view Pudd'nhead Wilson. Other themes center on the effect of slavery and its supporting institutions on the ante-bellum South of Clemens's
youth; 7on the issue of appearance versus reality as it relates to the determination of identity; 8on the supposedly complementary ideas of property and popularity-power; 9and on Dawson' s Landing as lawless
wilderness. And, in addition to the thematic approach, critics have devoted studies to tracing and explaining various fictive techniques, 11
devices, and elements of this novel.
But perhaps the most significant disagreement, and a major cause of the variety of critical approaches and opinions as well, involves the quality of fiction Clemens produced with Pudd'nhead Wilson. George M. Spangler made a similar observation when he wrote the following: "The striking lack of agreement about the merits of Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson is unquestionably related to the equally striking disagreements over interpretation of the novel, related in the crucial sense that all the thematic analyses so far presented leave important 12
aspects of the novel unaccounted for." Therefore, a number of critics
argue that it is obvious, once the appropriate interpretive key is realized, that Pudd'nhead Wilson is not a flawed but rather a masterly novel. 13Still other critics argue that, although flawed, Pudd'nhead 14
Wilson is still a great novel. And finally, there are those critics
who argue against the greatness of Puddtnhead Wilson because of its flawed condition.
In all of this discussion of the novel, however, even those critics who have recognized the flawed nature of Pudd'nhead Wilson may have failed to realize the central cause for this condition. Henry Nash Smith, for example, did suggest the central problem--lack of control-when he wrote: "While this deed [of Tom selling his own mother, Roxy, down the river] is not inconsistent with Tom's character, it does not
belong to the imaginative fabric of the novel or even to its ideological structure; it represents the infection by stereotypes from popular fiction and the theater to which Mark Twain was always exposed when he lost control of his materials." 16 But even Smith failed to look beyond this pervasive flaw to its cause, which may well be the reduced role the concept of providence plays in Pudd'nhead Wilson. In The Prince and the Pauper, the strict and effective authorial control of the fictive world mirrors the control of Providence in the larger world. In Pudd'nhead Wilson, conversely, the loss of authorial control which Smith noted can be seen as a reflection of the continued diminishment of the providential concept in Clemens's fiction.
The disintegration of the providential concept as a viable thematic element is initially suggested by the fact that there is little formal religious observance or sincere Christian practice in Dawson's Landing. John M. Brand pointed to this fact when he wrote: "Here is a chilling look at life in the Secular City, where we experience the anguish of an age lacking not only such giants as Bumppo and Bush, but also the 17
gods Cooper envisioned underlying even the savage wilderness." Instead, there are a number of well-defined substitutes for the religious institution--and its familiar doctrines such as that of providential control--in Dawson's Landing.
The most obvious substitute is of course the "cult of Southern
aristocracy," as Arlin Turner referred to it. There are four prominent .members of this cult when the story begins: Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, Pembroke Howard, Percy Northumberland Driscoll, and the chief representative of the F. F. V. in Dawson's Landing, Judge York Leicester Driscoll. These men lived, and were willing to die, primarily for one
thing--to uphold the "gentlemanly" traditions which def ined their role and status in the community; the narrator points this out early when describing Judge Driscoll: "He was very proud of his old Virginia ancestry, and in his hospitalities and his rather formal and stately manners he kept up its traditions. He was fine and just and generous. To be a gentleman--a gentleman without stain or blemish--was his only religion, and to it he was always faithful." 18
But this ideal of gentlemanly conduct was not without its unchristian aspects. The most obvious was of course slavery, which was supported by the members of the F. F. V. in Dawson's Landing. The reconciliation of the inherently cruel practice of keeping slaves with the concept of being "a fine and just and generous" gentleman illustrates how the aristocratic code of the F. F. V. could function as an ethical substitute for Christian doctrine. For example, when Percy Driscoll decides to sell his slaves in Dawson's Landing for stealing "a couple of dollars" from him, rather thanselling them down' the river as he had originally threatened, he narrow-mindedly views this as a virtuous act: "They were sincere, for like a god he had stretched forth his mighty hand and closed the gates of hell against them. He knew, himself, that he had done a noble and gracious thingand was privately well pleased with his magnanimity; and that night he set the incident down in his diary, so that his son might read it in after years, and be thereby moved to deeds of gentleness and humanity himself" (pp. 28-29).
Still another questionable aspect of the gentlemanly code was the practice of dueling. According to the code by which members of the F. F. V. lived, duels were necessary for preserving personal and family honor. The narrator indicates the importance given to honor when he
comments as follows: "Honor stood first; and the laws [making up the code] defined what it was and wherein it differed in certain details from honor as defined by church creeds and by the social laws and customs of some of the minor divisions of the globe that got crowded out when' the sacred .boundaries of Virginia got staked out" (p. 116). And in any battle between the antagonistic traditions of aristocracy and Christianity, the latter always loses where members of the F. F. V. are concerned: "These laws required certain things of him which his religion might forbid: then his religion must yield--the laws could not be relaxed to accommodate religions or anything else" (p. 116).
Of course, not all of the townspeople in Dawson' s Landing openly admit to or actively participate in such irreligiosity. But even those who do not worship directly at the temple of aristocracy still agree to its tenets. This is first indicated in an early description of Dawson's Landing, when the narrator points out that the basis of the town's economy is slavery. And it is later affirmed by the reaction of the townspeople to the duel fought between Judge Driscoll and Luigi Capello: "The people took more pride in the duel than in all of the other events put together, perhaps. It was a glory to their town to have such a thing happen there. In their eyes the principals had reached the summit of human honor. Everybody paid homage to their names; their praises were in all mouths. Even the duelists' subordinates came in for a handsome share of the public approbation: whereupon Pudd'nhead Wilson was suddenly become a man of consequence" (pp.1145-146).
The "cult of Southern aristocracy," practiced by the members of the F. F. V. and approved by the townspeople, is not the only false religion practiced in Dawson's Landing, though. Another notable
replacement for Christian doctrine and practice is Mammonism. Much of the novel revolves around acquisition. One image that emphasizes this principle, simply because it seems so out of character, is that of Judge Driscoll counting his money each evening, an image which David Wilson suggests while presenting his case at the concluding trial of the novel. 19
An even clearer image of the effect materialism has on Christian doctrine and practice in Dawson's Landing is presented through the character of Roxy, however. Materialistic values have taken firm root in Roxy's soul. Consequently, she corrupts the providential tradition by continually putting this concept to the use of her materialistic goals. This is first evident when she justifies thievery by linking it to this basic Christian concept: "[Roxyl was gone; but she came back, by and by, with the news of the grand reception at Patsy Cooper's, and soon persuaded ["Tom"] that the opportunity was like a special providence, it was so inviting and perfect. So he went raiding, after all, and made a nice success of it while everybody was gone to Patsy Cooper's" (P. 95). Still another example of Roxy's tendency to justify her materialism by applying Christian trappings to it occurs just a bit later, when she attempts to restore the false Tom Driscoll's flagging courage: "Den you's all right. If [Judge Driscoll] don't die in six months, dat don't make no diff'rence-Providence'll provide" (p. 144). 20 As these incidents suggest, then, Roxy's materialism cannot be viewed simply as, in Spangler's words, "her temporary acceptance of Tom's standards." 21 Rather, she had, up until her final repentance at the end of the novel, an aggrandizing nature developed independent of Tom's influence. For example, the fact that she hadn't stolen Percy Driscoll's 11couple of dollars" was the result of a very temporary religious fervor:
"Then she covered the tempter with a book, and another member of the kitchen cabinet got it. She made this sacrifice as a matter of religious etiquette; as a thing necessary just now, [only a fortnight after she 'got religion' at a revival,] but by no means to be wrested into a precedent; no, a week or two would limber up her piety, then she would be rational again, and the next two dollars that got left out in the cold would find a comforter--and she could name the comforter" (pp. 2627). And the possibility for an exchange of the infants, Tom and Chambers, resulted from Roxy dressing her own son in the finery of his master. While this exchange was made initially to preserve her baby from ever being "sold down the river," Roxy ultimately recognizes the material value of the deed. So when she returns to Dawson's Landing after eight years as a chambermaid aboard "a Cincinnati boat in the New Orleans trade," and discovers that her Tom has been disinherited, she is bitterly dejected:
"What's dat? What do it mean?"
"Mean's he bu'sted de will."
"Bu's--ted de will! He wouldn't ever treat him so!
Take it back, you mis'able imitation nigger dat I bore
in sorrow en tribbilation."
Roxy's pet castle--an occasional dollar from Tom's
pocket--was tumbling to ruin before her eyes. She could
not abide such a disaster as that; she couldn't endure
the thought of it (p. 72).
Ultimately, though, "an occasional dollar" will satisfy neither her wounded pride nor her materialistic nature. For when Tom contemptuously refuses Roxy's request for "on'y jis one little dol[lar]," she begins to extract a return from the investment she had made in that exchange of 22
babies over some twenty years. And it is significant that, in addition to the show of filial affection and respect she requires of her son,23