How To Tell A Story And The Celebrated Jumping Frog

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

download word file, 2 pages 1.0

Downloaded 998 times

Explore the artistic style of Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog"¦by using How to Tell a Story"¦ Mark Twain clearly states what he considers to be the most important facets in the telling of a story, a "humorous" story to be specific, in How to Tell a Story. Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog is an excellent example of the style he preaches.

Twain explains that the distinguishing factor in the telling of a humorous story as opposed to a "comic" or "witty" one is the manner in which it is told, not the matter (p.238). He goes further to explain that the storyteller "does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it."(p.238) Another important detail that Twain provides is that the humorous story is most often "rambling and disjointed."(p.238) The Celebrated Jumping Frog follows Twain's formula closely. The narrator hears the story of Jim Smiley while trapped in the corner of a bar by Simon Wheeler. There is no evidence that Simon has any intention of being funny or humorous. In fact, the narrator points out that Simon "never smiled", never "betrayed the slightest suspicion of enthusiasm", and told the story with "earnestness and sincerity"(p.233). So Simon clearly finds nothing funny about the story. The narrator does not interrupt Simon, but acknowledges that he is trapped and bored and does not offer any hint of a reaction that would lead the reader to believe that he found the story funny. Simon (who is really the second narrator, for he tells the story within the story) has no intention of being funny and the narrator is not entertained in the slightest. However, the reader finds the story funny and is entertained because the are several humorous moments. Based on information provided in How to Tell a Story, this is a very important factor of the humorous story. There is no announcement or proclamation of humor and the characters certainly give nothing away that would imply humor.

The whole scenario is humorous to the reader, due to the fact that the narrator is searching for information on Leonidas Smiley, but ends up cornered in a bar listening to the story of Jim Smiley. The story he hears is long, rambling, and pointless, which of course is another important factor in the telling of the humorous story according to Twain. Simon's story is in fact "rambling" and "disjointed". He offers approximately fifteen different examples of things that Jim had placed wagers on before he's done with his story and is still trying to tell more when the narrator escapes.

It would almost seem that Twain was basing his How to Tell a Story on The Celebrated Jumping Frog due to the fact that there are such clear examples of all the factors that Twain mentions. Twain is unquestionably trying to give the reader a good chuckle, but does not reveal this fact in any sort of a concrete manner, thereby perfectly capturing the style which he professed.