The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

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American humorist and literary master Mark Twain takes on tough issues like slavery, race, and the ugliness that can lurk beneath the surface of rural life in this novel. An interwoven tale of three families whose fates are thrown together in the aftermath of a murder, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson is one of Twain's more serious works, although it is told with the same love of quirky misfits and wonderful observations that enliven books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (From
Curriculet Details
38 Questions
38 Annotations
3 Quizzes

In this 9th and 10th grade digital curriculum, annotations include links to poems and writers referenced in the book and explanations of literary devices such as irony and hyperbole. Interactive videos support engagement and cover subjects such as tone and theme. The Common Core aligned questions and answers address setting and narration, along with the themes of race, class and slavery. Our free online unit will increase student engagement with rich media annotations while supporting reading comprehension with questions and quizzes that are imbedded directly into the book.

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The image below shows a map of the Mississippi river. Notice the location of St. Louis and think about approximately where Dawson's Landing would be located based on the information in the text.  (This annotation contains an image)
In the highlighted passage, the words "body" and "clothed" are an example of ________________. 
The image below shows a steamboat. Steamboats were a common feature of Mark Twain's literature.  (This annotation contains an image)
The character Pudd'nhead earned his name due to the fact that the townspeople thought he was ____________. 
Did you know that you can define words that you do not know by highlighting a word and clicking on the "Define" feature?  
Recall that this book was written in the mid-nineteenth century. The language may seem shocking to modern readers, but this was common discourse at the time the book was written. 
From the word "marster" we can infer that Roxy is ______________. 
Can you elaborate on the reason why the prowler in this paragraph did not feel he was "committing any sin that God would remember against him in the Last Great Day" when he steals the chicken? 
The word "Negro" is surprising to come across in a text. However, this was a commonly used word to describe African-Americans up until the middle of the twentieth century. While nobody uses this word anymore, keep in mind that it would not have been surprising to hear during the time this book was written. 
Pay attention to how the author's use dialogue evokes a sense of time and place. Why do you think Mark Twain uses regional dialect?  
What do you notice about the dialogue of the slaves in the text? 
Use the Define feature to look up the word canings. What is another way to say canings?  
Think about how the details between how Tom and Chambers play as children illustrates their dynamic. Even though they are allowed to play together, Chambers is not allowed to participate in an equitable way.  
Why does Roxy have to become a chambermaid on a steamboat? 
This is an image of a horseshoe. A horseshoe is often thought to be a symbol of good luck.  (This annotation contains an image)

CHAPTER 5 — The Twins Thrill Dawson's Landing

"He was getting into deep waters" is an example of figurative language. To learn more about the difference between literal and figurative language, watch the short video below.  (This annotation contains a video)
Can you recall why the comment Pudd'nhead made twenty-three years before about the dog led to his nickname and caused "blight" in his life? 
Calling someone by their "Christian name" means that they are being called by the name they were given at birth. This is opposed to a nickname that people are sometimes called. Aunt Patsy is speaking to the twins in a more formal way by calling them by their Christian names.  
Rowena's reaction illustrates that she is _______________. 
What can we infer about the skill of the twins on the piano? 
A nymph is a mythological creature who is usually portrayed as a young, beautiful woman. The painting below was done in 1896 by John William Waterhouse and shows water nymphs abducting Hylas. As you read, consider why Twain titled this chapter "The Unknown Nymph." (This annotation contains an image)
This is a map of New Orleans, Louisiana.  (This annotation contains an image)
Another way to to say "fawn upon him slavelike" is  
A "mammy" is an archetype that is commonly used in literature about slavery. A mammy is a nanny. Video below discusses archetypes and their role in literature.  (This annotation contains a video)
How is the reaction Roxy expected from Tom different than the reaction he actually had? 
The highlighted phrase may appear to be very disturbing to read for modern readers. However, during Twain's time this was not an uncommon choice of words. Pay attention to your reaction when you come across language that is not acceptable for modern audiences to use. How does this language add to or take away from the overall text? 
Quiz #1 
Roxy is ___________ with Tom's ultimate reaction. 

CHAPTER 9 — Tom Practices Sycophancy

Why is it so hard for Tom to call Roxy "mammy"? 
This is a picture of a throne. A throne is a very fancy type of chair that royalty sits on. Roxy is sitting on a simple box, yet the way she is sitting on it makes it appear like she is sitting on a throne.  (This annotation contains an image)
Krakatoa is a volcano in Indonesia that erupted in 1883. The eruption was one of the most deadly in history and was responsible for over 36,000 deaths. The image below is a lithograph that documents that explosion.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Tom so uncomfortable sitting at a table with white people? 
Recall that Wilson developed a reputation for not being very smart when he first moved to town. As a result, his law practice suffered since people generally wish to only hire lawyers who they perceive as being highly intelligent.  
Can you explain why Wilson has never had a law case? 
Tom's reaction revealed that he is __________ about palm reading.  
Some people believe that it is possible to determine someone's future by reading their palm. The image below shows a palm with various lines that palm readers believe represent parts of an individual's fate.  (This annotation contains an image)
An "ugly look" can also be described as 
At this point in history, many Irish people were immigrating to the United States. The map below shows where Ireland is located.  (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz #2 
Explain the irony in the highlighted passage. Why is it ironic that citizens insured their properties against the fire company? 
"Fireboys" refers to firemen.  

CHAPTER 12 — The Shame of Judge Driscoll

Kindle refers to small pieces of wood that help start a fire. The image below shows kindle underneath larger logs. How does Twain's use of kindle imagery add to the description of the judge's anger? (This annotation contains an image)
The use of the phrase "murderous devil" is an example of ________________. 
In this passage Wilson is 
A pauper is a phrase that was used commonly in the nineteenth century to describe individuals who were living in poverty. Recall why Wilson was in danger living out his days as a pauper.  
Another way of saying "leather-headed idea" is 
"Whetted us up" is a colloquialism that someone would use when they are expressing interest.  
Explain why Tom does not have "desire for white people's company"? 
The image below shows two men engaged in a duel. Duels were frequently used to resolve conflicts in the period before and sometimes even during the time this story takes place in. The winner of the duel would be the person who survived.  (This annotation contains an image)
"Sent Louis" refers to St. Louis, Missouri. The map below shoes the location of St. Louis.  (This annotation contains an image)
What does the difference in the way the dialogue is written for Roxy and Tom reveal about both characters? 
Pay attention to the constable's reaction in the dialogue. Watch the video below to review how to make text-based inferences while reading.  (This annotation contains a video)
The constable's reaction reveals that he is ____________. 
Which of the following statements best summarizes the scheme that the men come up with? 
A pawnbroker is someone who buys items from people who need money. People can then purchase back their item from the pawnbroker if they earn enough money before the item is sold.  
What about Roxy's character is revealed by her smashing her whisky bottle? 
The fact that Tom was robbed of his plunder is an example of irony. Watch the short video below to learn more about irony in a text.  (This annotation contains a video)

CHAPTER 16 — Sold Down the River

Why does Roxy react this way when she realizes that she is being brought downriver? 
Why do you think Twain starts each chapter with an excerpt from Wilson's Calendar? 
The judge's language that he uses to describe the twins is very harsh. He even compares them to an organ-grinder monkey. The image below shows an organ-grinder monkey from a circus act or a side show act that would have been a relatively common form of entertainment around the time this text was written.  (This annotation contains an image)
Roxy's mood has changed throughout the text from hopeful to ___________. 
The river that Roxy is referring to is the Mississippi River. The red line on the map below illustrates the path of the Mississippi.  (This annotation contains an image)
The image below shows a runaway slave advertisement like the one described in this passage.  (This annotation contains an image)
Roxy is unable to _________. 
Why does Roxy say that her word means more than Tom's? 
The judge and his late wife never had any children. During this time period, it was rare for a couple to not have children. Pay attention to the conclusion made about the impact that this had on their judgement of Tom.  
As a result of Tom's action, Roxana is now ________. 
Think about what the highlighted statement reveals about gender norms during this time period.  

CHAPTER 20 — The Murderer Chuckles

"Their counsel" refers to their attorney. In other words, nobody from the town except their attorney is visiting the twins. What does this fact reveal about the overall view of the town towards the twins? 
The courtroom was ______________. 
The tone of this passage is excited and creates a mood of anticipation. Watch the short video below to review how to identify tone and mood in a text.  (This annotation contains a video)
Why did Wilson have "no appetite"? 
Compare the description of the court setting to court settings today. What similarities do you observe? 
As you read recall that this text was written far before advanced crime scene investigation techniques were developed. Think about the way that the evidence is presented in the novel. Do you think that the evidence presented is legitimate? 
The "assassin's natal autograph" refers to his ______________. 
Every human fingerprint is different. Therefore, fingerprints are excellent sources of evidence for crimes. The image below shows a typical set of fingerprints.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why did Roxy switch the children in the cradle? 
An "ashen face" reveals that the character is under enormous stress. As a result of this stress his blood has drained from his face, resulting in an ashen color.  
Quiz #3