Pudd’nhead Wilson

Twain’s book is as macabre and terrifying as anything Poe ever wrote and, since I’ve never read Stephen King, I’d go as far to say that I can’t imagine anyone writing a book as scary or as true as Twain’s ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’, written in 1895.

It was curious then that yesterday’s revelation of a family member’s unwise indiscretions confirmed my longstanding suspicion of this particular person’s hypocrisy and ingratitude without surprising me at all! I’d just finished reading ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’ in which there is no mystery as to the identity of the murderer—the reader knows exactly who dun it—rather the mystery is in the duplicitous behavior of the main character, a twin swapped at birth to become a white person instead of the black person he is, and vice-a-versa. And while telling this tale, Twain poses a larger- than-life-itself question: why do people so often act in ways they believe are beneficial to themselves, when in fact the way they act is poisonous not only to the ones they profess to love but most of all, and most perversely, to the very person perpetuating the act?

Though Nature as we know it might be coming to its end—could we as a species be coming closer and closer to the very first televised apocalypse in much the same way as we were once the generation that was called to witness the first televised war? (Vietnam)—I’ve come to think that human nature never ends, in that it never ends astonishing, surprising, even shocking in its smallness, its petty personal concerns and selfish little rearrangements of the truth made to suit a two-faced narrative. The hypocrisy in the case cited above was both blatant and hilarious: blatant because the perpetrator operated in a way that seemed to suggest she wanted to be caught and hilarious because those of us who were the victims of the false narrative could only laugh at its ultimate ineptitude, in the end feeling nothing but compassion for the one who resorted to speaking from two faces.

Saying one thing to a person and then another completely different thing to another person about that person isn’t a crime, though maybe it should be; it happens all the time in our social, cultural, political, and personal lives. It’s just plain old sad is what it is, as sadly funny as Twain’s old novel, as true a narrative of human nature today as it ever was. In Twain’s telling it turns out that Pudd’nhead isn’t a Pudd’nhead at all: we’re the real Puddn’head’s, saying one thing to one another when we’re really saying another.

Soda fountain at Maggie’s Place, a restaurant in Worland, Wyoming, April 2017.  I tell everyone I know that the milkshake’s at Maggie’s are fantastic and the waitresses are extremely nice. Photo by author.

Soda fountain at Maggie’s Place, a restaurant in Worland, Wyoming, April 2017.  I tell everyone I know that the milkshake’s at Maggie’s are fantastic and the waitresses are extremely nice. Photo by author.