Why Jim Blaine

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade April 2001

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Twain uses Jim Blaine, in the story of the Old Ram, as a tool to elevate the social status of the common man. This is accomplished by using Jim as expert story teller, making Jim a worthy literary subject, and making him a hero with an audience.

The Story of the Old Ram starts out, "I don't reckon those times will ever come again. There was never a more bullier ram than he was"¦(Twain)" Then the story begins to ramble. It jumps between random characters and events with no obvious connection. On first read, the story is extremely confusing. One gets the feeling that they are missing the point, but that seems to be Twain's exact point. The content of this story is meaningless, and actually unnecessary. The old ram is never mentioned past the first few lines, even though the reader is led to believe the story will center on it.

Twain takes the readers focus off the actual story, and puts it on the storyteller. Jim Blaine becomes the focus and necessary character of this story. After the story rambles for about two pages it ends with, ""¦on it and put-put on-put on it-sacred to-the m-e-m-o-r-y-of fourteen y-a-r-d-s-of three-ply-car---pet-containing all that was-m-o-r-t-a-l-of-of-W-I-l-l-i-a-m-W-h-e-.(Twain)" It becomes obvious that Jim's way of telling the story is what matters. Twain uses Jim as narrator to make a point. He is a common, poor, uneducated man- but no other man alive could tell this story like he can. As Twain himself puts it, "for I have been almost daily in the company of the most expert story-tellers for many years(How to tell a Story, Twain)." Twain elevates the social status of the common man by using him as an expert storyteller.

Jim not only is a unique character with a story, but he is worthy to be put in print. In the past, literary stories focused on the rich upper class and idealized themes. Twain elevates the social status of the common man by making him a worthy literary subject. In the Story of the Old Ram, we become acquainted with Jim Blaine. He is described more than anything else in the story. ""¦he was sitting upon an empty powder-keg, with a clay pipe in one hand"¦his hair was tumbled; in general appearance and costume he was a stalwart miner of the period.(Twain)" He sat on an empty powder-keg, not a throne or even a chair. Jim smoke a clay pipe, not a silver-tipped cigarette or cigar. He even had messy hair. Jim was a miner, not an aristocrat or scholar. Jim was the most common of men, and Twain makes sure this point gets across. The other major detail concerning Jim, is his drunken state. ""¦he was tranquilly, serenely, symmetrically drunk-not a hiccup to mar his voice, not a cloud upon his brain thick enough to obscure his memory.(Twain)" Twain even finds Jim's quirks worthy of print. It is not a spectacular thing for a man to be intoxicated, but in this case it makes the story worth reading. Jim is a common man, doing an unspectacular thing-but Twain makes his story worthy to be written about.

Jim isn't only a worthy literary subject, but Twain also gives him an audience for his story. This elevates his social status by making him a kind of hero. In the Story of the Old Ram, the Narrator hears about Jim by word of mouth. ""¦the boys used to tell me I ought to get one Jim Blaine to tell me the stirring story of his grandfather's old ram"¦(Twain)" Jim has become somewhat of a legend for his storytelling abilities. The narrator is forced to wait till Jim is properly drunk to hear the story. He seems to long to hear the story. "I never watched a man's condition with such absorbing interest, such anxious solicitude; I never so pined to see a man uncompromisingly drunk.(Twain)" Jim Blaine's story has become such a legend that the narrator is practically jumping out of his pants with anticipation to hear it. When the time finally comes to hear the story Jim has quite an audience. All the boys come and crowd in just to hear the legend told. Jim is famous for his storytelling, this is shown by the authority and respect granted by his listeners. ""¦and the other [hand] raised to command silence"¦Sh-! Don't speak-he's going to commence.(Twain)" Jim Blaine has a group of men hanging on his every word, nothing in the world matters more to his audience at this moment. As the story is told, the narrator becomes totally consumed with it. His surroundings seem to fade. Jim has the group's complete attention. In the end, when his story is told, his audience is more than satisfied. "The tears were running down the boys' cheeks-they were suffocating with suppressed laughter"¦(Twain)" Twain makes a common man, Jim Blaine, a legend in his own time.

Twain uses Jim Blaine as a tool to elevate the social status of the common man. He shows that a common man can be an expert storyteller, a worthy literary subject, and a legend with an audience. He elevates the common man and shows that his worth equals that of any upper-class scholar.