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Clemens Uses Three-Layered Lesson

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In Samuel L. Clemens' short story entitled, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", he reveals to us that he believes that everyone is susceptible to gullibility. Using not only humor and characters in the story, Clemens actually makes his point by drawing the reader into the story as unwitting victims as well. The story illuminates gullibility on three separate levels. First, the main character of the story within the story, Jim Smiley, is a victim to his own misguided ways. Then, the narrator of the story is shown to be gullible as well. Finally, the reader of the story realizes that they have also been somewhat duped by the whole experience. This theme of Clemens' story is an interesting one in that it is unique, but it also is successful on multiple levels.

The first person whose gullibility is revealed in the story is Jim Smiley. The narrator is told by a friend in a letter to go to Simon Wheeler, the narrator of Smiley's story, and ask about a friend if his named Leonidas W. Smiley. Wheeler says that he does not know anyone by that name, but instead knows a man by the name of Jim Smiley. He goes on to talk about this odd Mr. Smiley. He discusses the fact that Smiley could never resist either side of any bet, and he almost never lost. Wheeler goes into a story about a fighting hound that Smiley used to own named Andrew Jackson. The dog is described as appearing somewhat worthless but being extremely effective in fights. Andrew Jackson's technique was to grab on to a hind leg of the other dog and grip tightly until the other dog surrendered. Smiley once put the dog in a fight against another dog without any hind legs. Andrew Jackson was confounded by this and ended up being badly injured and dying as a result of the fight. Being gullible means being easily cheated. For Smiley to put his dog against another without hind legs was him being gullible. Unless Andrew Jackson completely changed his tactics, there was no way he would win the fight. This event is just a precursor to the gullibility that Smiley exhibits when he challenges a stranger to a frog jumping contest. The stranger says that he would put up any frog against Smiley's frog, Dan'l Webster, but that he just does not have one. Smiley gives him the box that holds Dan'l Webster and asks the stranger to wait while he finds him a frog. While gone, the stranger fills Dan'l Webster's stomach with quail shot. When Smiley returned with another frog, Dan'l Webster had no chance of winning. Smiley's gullibility leads to his defeat.

The next person whose gullibility is highlighted by Clemens is the narrator of the story. His name is never revealed, but we do find out plenty about this character. He is obviously of a different social class than Simon Wheeler and considers himself to be more socially refined. The first sign of the narrator's gullibility is revealed when he expresses in the first paragraph that he believes he was tricked into asking Wheeler about Leonidas Smiley, with his friend knowing full well that the question would lead a long yarn about Jim Smiley. Right after that revelation, the narrator also reveals that he never once stopped Wheeler from telling his story about Jim Smiley, even though that was not the person that he asked about. In the story of Jim Smiley, many strange details are revealed that would lead almost anyone to believe that the story was fabricated. The story of Andrew Jackson and his fight with the two-legged dog is one of the earliest parts of Wheeler's narrative, and it is the first sign that the story itself may be a stretch. The naming of the animals, after famous politicians of the time, added humor to the story, but also added doubts as to the validity of the whole thing. When Wheeler gets to the frog jumping competitions, the



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