Friday, February 5, 2010

Pudd'nhead discussion: the final frontier

Use your posts today to particularly focus on the significance of the ending of the text. Use our warm-up question to help you get started, building with your questions, both comprehensive and analytical.

88 comments:

  1. @Everyone- What are your thoughts when you found out Tom was going to be sold down the river? Do you think he had it coming? Were you suprised?

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  2. At the end of the book we discovered that Wilson figured out the crime by use of finger printing. Do you think there is any significance to this?

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  3. @ Amanda-- I wasn't really surprised and i think it is a fair justice. The slaves of Dawson's landing viewed "Down the River" as Hell pretty much. That is fitting, as that is generally where murderers go.

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  4. @Marie- I think that there is some significance to Wilson figuring it out by finger printing because it shows that although the entire town doubted Wilson his whole life he did have some good things to offer and he is a well-educated intelligent man. It proves how ironic it is when you doubt someone their whole life and they prove you wrong.

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  5. DO you like the ending of this book?

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  6. Marie-
    Like what the disscusion group said, the finger prints showed that one can not change who they are. There is a permnant feature that never changes in all of us.It refinforses the theme of labels and identity because fingerprints are ones label and proves their identity, who they really are.

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  7. Amanda-I personally think he had it coming!! I treated people horrible (beating his mother, killing his uncle)and used people (selling his mother down the river, blaming others for his mistakes). Did he deserve it? I would have to say so, it's karma.

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  8. Amanda-
    I was not surprised that Tom was sold down the river. I actually think it will be good for him. I think that he thought he knew what being sold down the river was like, and he thought it was horrible, but he couldn't quite comprehend just how horrible selling Roxy down the river was. Now, he gets the chance to experience that. He definetely had it coming.

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  9. Marie-
    I do think there is significance to this. It was brand new at the time the novel was written, much like DNA use is today. For someone who is seen as a "Pudd'nhead" to use something like this to solve a murder proves that Pudd'nhead is beyond their time and infact not at all a "Pudd'nhead".

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  10. I believed that when Tom got sold down the river, he deserved it because of how ungrateful he became. Tom turned out to completely change his personality when he found out he wasn't white and I believe that he should have been grateful for what he had and enjoyed his life even more instead of changing almost the whole fabric of his being.

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  11. Amanda - I think it was true irony that he eventually was sold down the river, but it came as more of a shock. For the entire book I knew that he was eventually going to get caught, but I assumed he would be killed rather than sold into slavery. Twain does a good job in hiding the twist in the ending, and makes the reader prepared for something entirely different.

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  12. @Kailyn- I do like the ending of this book because Tom basically got what he deserved. If he had gotten away with it then he would have not been punished for his actions and he wouldn't have learned any important lessons in his life such as this.

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  13. Amanda - I feel like it is one of Twain's ironies. He sold his mother down the river before, and then in the end he is sold down himself. It's karma.

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  14. Even though the town of dawsons landing lives under a mask of honor and social appearences, Wilson proves to them that no one can hide their finger prints. Why do you think this is so important when considering social anxieties?

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  15. @ Kailyn-- Yes, i did enjoy this novel, including the end.

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  16. Amanda-
    I agree with Brian, it wasn't that suprising, the reader knew that something was goiong to happen to Tom. It was just ironic that Roxy was trying to save her son from being sold down the river, yet he still was sold.

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  17. Amanda-
    I think it's ironic that Tom was sold down the river, but at the same time I was not surprised. More specifically, I knew Tom was going to get punished in the end, that was no surprise, but to be sold down the river is ironic because he sold his mother down the river.

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  18. Kailyn-
    I loved the ending of this book! Even though everyone saw it coming from the begginning, I loved when Pudd'nhead finally came out with the fingerprints and how they were going to help define Tom's fate. (and the Twin's fate)Also, it was a good opportunity for Pudd'nhead to redeam himself because he was always made fun of for the fingerprints, and he could finally prove himself.

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  19. How does the "Whisper to the reader" relate to the text?

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  20. Kailyn- I did like the ending of this book because I found it fitting that Puddinhead Wilson was the one who figured everything out. The book started with him losing his credibility and it ended with him earning it back. I thought that the whole book was setting Wilson up for greatness.

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  21. Marie, like was said in the inner circle, I think it was irony on Twain's part on how Wilson figured out the mystery. You can change your hir, your clothes, your personality, and anything else about you, but you can't change your fingerprints. They make you unique from eveyrone else, and set you apart from the rest of the world. His whole life, Tom was living in a world where he did not legally belong. He was a slave living in a white world, but no matter how hard he tried, or what he did, he would always be a black slave. The irony in this ending was used to show the reader that even though we can be changed by ourselves or by the world around us, we can never change the identity we were born with.

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  22. Ben, can you please rephrase your question?

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  23. Amanda, that is a good point, but I really didn't like it. I feel that Twain was trying to show, at the beginning, that there was no difference between the two characters besides the name, and then at the end I felt that Twain was saying that once a slave always a slave.

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  24. What significance is it that Tom was sold down the river instead of hanged?

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  25. Ben- I think that with the fingerprints, Twain is trying to prove that you can't hide who you are.
    Also @everyone, do you think that your enviornmnet shapes you? What about in Tom's case?

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  26. Kailyn- I liked the ending,everyone got what they deserved. Tom was sold down the river, Chambers became free, the Twins left, Roxy becomes modest. Everyone who did something wrong thus had to pay the price and those who where good thus got all of the good things they deserved.

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  27. Meg, I have to agree I liked the fingerprint thing, but I really dislike that he was sold back into slavery

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  28. Paige - So do you think that there may be another side to our identity? The first side being what we are born with (DNA), and the second side being how society sculpts us....

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  29. Grant- the significance is that instead of letting Tomjust end his miserable life, he instead gets to live with what he's done.

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  30. What is the importance of an unchangable finger print when comparing it to the social mask that the town of dawsons landing wears?

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  31. @Sarah- I think the "Whisper to the Reader" just relates to the text because in the beginning it is saying how everything law referenced is right and I feel like Twain said that just to convince the reader of feeling like this trial was almost real and trying to make you imagine yourself there.

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  32. Grant- I believe that, to Tom, being sold down the river was much worse than facing death. Tom lead a very good life and he grew up thinking that selling a slave down the river was the worst thing that could be done to them. And it is for that reason that being sold down the river was the worst possible thing that could have happened to Tom.

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  33. Alex, I agree that everyone got what they deserve but I feel that it went completely against any ideal of freedom

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  34. Meg-
    To me, Toms personality seemed to be shaped by his enviroment when he was a child, but then once he learned that he was a slave, he became who he was through his actions. The rich white enviorment did not force Tom to gamble or steal, it was his own independent thinking caused those actions.

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  35. Grant- good question. I think that in a way, it tortured Tom more that he was sold down the river instead of hanged. Because he went from being an intelligent, free white person to a slave, someones Property(!) being sold and treated like an animal. He was rejected from society and had to work the rest of his life as a slave. I think he would have like to be hanged more. Because he never valued life to begin with. He killed his "uncle," mistreated Roxy and "chambers" etc..

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  36. @ Meg-- I absolutely think so, especially in this book. In Tom's case even more so, because with each change in his circumstances he changes some as well. However, his core personality is the same, he is a vicious, cruel, selfish person.

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  37. Megg-
    I do believe that your environment shapes you to a certain degree, but your own genetics hold you down from certain evolutions from the environment. This is seen in Tom's case, where his environment shaped him as a rude, self-centered jerk but after realizing he was 1/32 black he starts to see certain traits he possessed all along.

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  38. @Grant- The significance of being sold down the river instead of being hanged is the fact that he originally sold Roxy down the river first. Mark Twain does this to put a twist in the story and to put a certain irony on Tom's fate.

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  39. So, what does Mark Twain teach us? Or what is the moral of the story?

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  40. Kailyn- What do you mean the ideal of freedom?

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  41. Ben,
    You pose a good question. It is important to consider the reputation of Dawson's Landing to really see the true significance of the social anxieties underneath. This city can be related to something as close as Arapahoe High School. We have a reputation for being a nationally recognized school who has really high SAT/ACT scores, and is well known for being a school of excellence. But underneath the blanket, its not all fame and glory. We still have our troubles and issues just like every other school. They are covered up by the blanket of our reputation. Dawson's Landing is the same way. They are known for being great, when underneath, they are not. One cannot truly understand the significance of their underlying problems without knowing the whole story. Twain makes an effort to really connect the reader with both sides of the story, from the outside and the inside. Social anxieties have a whole new meaning when one can see the perspective from where they come from, rather than just seeing the blanket reputation that covers them.

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  42. The experiances that you have affect who you are more than you think. Your entire life is made up of events that you have participated in. What you do and what happens to you totaly effects your future.

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  43. Kailyn- why did you not like him being sold back into slavery. In your opinion, would it have been a better ending if he was hanged? Do you think that the intentions behind not hanging him were motivated by grace, and a second chance at life, or for bad intentions, to see him as property and see him get what he deserves.

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  44. Going off of what Hailey Johnson said in the discussion circle I think the reason for Twain choosing this title and then having Wilson be "the savior" in the end is to show that not everyone fits into their stereotype and certain aspects can make that person stand out.

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  45. @ Ben-- I think that the significance to the town is mostly symbolical. As has been stated previously, it shows that although circumstance can change a person on the surface, their central character stays the same-- like a fingerprint.

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  46. Alex--The moral of the story is that you are stuck with who you are. This may sound morbid, but there is no escaping it. Roxy may have tried to change Tom's fate and hence her own financially, but it was inevitable that Tom would be a slave. He was born black. Nothing can change that.

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  47. Marie-back to your first question, I think that there was a lot of significance to the fact that Puddnhead figured it out with the finger prints. Everyone in the town thought that he was really weird and eccentric, and the fingerprinting added to that. It was kind of justice for him too that he solved a huge crime by means of something that everyone

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  48. I agree with what Alli Coan is saying in the discussion when she says that racism is something you can't fully prohibit by law. There are people that will have prejudices against others because of their skin color and race. Anyone else agree? Or do you think this book is pro slavery or anti slavery?

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  49. We haveing been tossing this idea around for a while but not come to a concrete conclusion: Is Mark Twain racist, not racist, or something else?

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  50. All-
    Do you think Twain's views on slavery were normal for his time? What is the significance of portraying Roxy as 1/16 black but still a slave?

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  51. Sorry. typo. We have been tossing

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  52. Amanda- I agree with you that you cant prohibit slavery. It is essentialy making it illegal to think for yourself. Even though most people agree that racism is a bad thing, you have to make that decision yourself. Our country is based on freedom, and one of those freedoms is the freedom of thought, and that cannot be taken away.

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  53. Grant- I think that this view on slavery wasn't normal for its time period. I feel this because Twain really wasn't pro slavery and I think that most of the people back then were so that is a big difference. And the significance of saying that about Roxy is to show that even the littlest thing can make you a slave or make you black and is showing the irony of that.

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  54. Grant - I think that Twain made Roxy 1/16 black because he really wanted to make a point that people are not slaves because they are black, they are "black" because they are slaves. They are treated badly because of where they are in life, not necessarily because of their color.

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  55. Marie-
    I don't believe Twain is a racist, just because the way he portrays blacks in this story is not solely based on stereotypes, like the pop culture of the later years in our country. Also, he potrays them as humans and they are critical parts within the story.

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  56. Amanda-
    I agree with Alli, there is still racism today even though the law prohibits segregation. After reading the book, I feel that this book was anti slavery, but in a very subtle way. Twain doesnt really show any extremeness in either pro- or anti-, but he does show how crazy slavery is through little things and actions.

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  57. Marie- I believe that Twain falls somewhere between racist and not racist. I think that he rote about a lot of things that could classify him as racist but at the same time he could have just been writing these things in order to make a good story. I believe that Twain also had moments in the book where he spoke well about black people, therefore I believe that he walks on the line, rather than being on one side or the other.

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  58. Marie - I would definatly agree that we are born with our DNA, but society also sculpts us to be who we are. Today's society has standards of what's acceptable and what's not. Our identity can often be altered by society's standards and can change who we are. We have a harder time being ourselves in today's society because of the expectations we have to live up to. In Twain's time, it appears to be somewhat different. It was easier to get away with being someone who you are not, and to be an individual. Chambers and Tom got away with being someone they were not, one a white who lived the life as a slave, and one a slave who lived the life as a white. They were given their identities based on what society made them to be, even though their DNA proved that they were someone else. How/why do people alter their personalities to fit the standards of society?

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  59. "Roxy's heart was broken. The young fellow upon whom she had inflicted twenty- three years of slavery continued the false heir's pension of thrity- five dollars a month to here, but her hurts were too deep for money to heal...In her church and its affaris she found her only solace,"(Pg. 139)
    From this quote do you think Roxy was sad about losing her son or the idea of her son and the position he had?

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  60. In my opinion, Twain was not racist and was deffinatly ahead of his time. Puddnhead was a book that lead people to realize and accept the idea that the color of skin doesn't matter. Slavery and racism is only in the minds of society.

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  61. Kaeli- Do you think that abolishing slavery helps diminish the feeling of racism, even if it doesn't completely get rid of it, or do you think that racism is ultimately a choice, and no law will help or hurt you feelings towards that subject?

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  62. Grant:

    I think that Twain's views on slavery were normal. During the time, it was normal for people to believe that blacks were slaves, that they were almost bad and lower than the white man. The significance of Roxy may have been that even if you are some small percentage of black, you will always be black, which kind of goes back to the ideas of Hitler and how he killed everyone who was part or whole Jewish. It didn't matter how much you were of that certain type of race or religion, if you were still part of it and say in a someone who is part Jewish but does not believe in the religion, you are still guilty be conformity of the superior who says that it is bad.

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  63. @ Alex--
    I think she is partially sad that her son was found out and expelled from his position of wealth, but also because she thought the judge was a fairly good person and because "Tom" was sold down the river.

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  64. I feel that Twain was against slavery and was not racist. A big piece of the story that leads me to that conclusion is the fact that Roxy is only 1/16th black. She doesnt look it, and yet she is a slave. The reader realizes how ridiculous this is, and how unfair it is to her and her children that this is the case. I feel like she paints the slaves to be very kind and helpful people for the most part, and I dont think he would do that if he was racist and proslavery.

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  65. Everyone- I find it interesting that the discussers have established that Tom is the "nimph" of this story. Why do you think that is?

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  66. Ben-
    Regarding your thoughts, slavery was abolished by the time he wrote this book. So people were already starting to realize that the color of your skin doesn't matter. So was he really ahead of his time, or a product of his time. Personally, I think that the time he lived in shaped him, not that he shaped the thoughts of the people in that time.

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  67. Grant- I think Twain's idea of Roxy was a little bit controdictory, she looked like she was white (because she was only 1/16 black) yet she didn't act at all like she was white; she had the accent and surling of words that black people used. I think that it would have be posible for Roxy to have completely hidden the fact that she was 1/16 black and could have made a different life. No one noticed that Tom was 1/32 black.

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  68. Paige - Good question. Have you ever seen The Dead Poet's Society? There is one scene where Robin Williams tells 3 boys to walk around in a circle. At first they start out with different rhythms and beats to their walks, then after a while their foot steps are in sync. Williams points out with this analogy how easy it is to conform and that it is part of human nature to do so. He then challenges the boys to walk to their own beat in everyday life.

    The point is one downfall of human nature is we want to be loved and accepted, so we will conform, whether we are conscious of it or not.

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  69. Amanda, Tom is sneeky and mysterios just like any mythological creature.

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  70. Alex-

    I think it is that Roxy is upset on the idea of her son and the position that he had. She put up a great fight in order to possibly make his life better, however, he was able to mess it up somehow. Thus saying that as a mother, she made sacrifices time after time in order to make his life some what better but still failed to make his mom proud of him. She thought that he would make her proud, but he later became a disgrace. So she was upset on that aspect from the motherly side.

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  71. Ben brings up a valid point:
    Twain shows that skin color isn't influential of a persons character. "Tom" was a white person, yet still capable of terrible deeds, and Roxy was "black" but obviously very intelligent and somewhat moral. He shows that color is completely insignificant. This book, is not anti-slavery, which was already abolished, but anti-racism. He is most definitely not racist.

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  72. Amanda-
    I think they established that Tom is the nimph because a nimph is a "mischevious creature", and the way Tom is described with his gambling problems and his major debts and his willingness to sell his mother down the river, the worst spot for slaves to be sold, I see him as extremely mischevious.

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  73. Brian- Who do you think she was the most mornful for? Herself (she lost money that she could have had, possiblities of a livehold through her son), her son ( she wouldn't ever see him again, he was put into this life that was impossible to get out of), the Judge (because he shouldn't have been killed and could have possibly helped her son with future problems.

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  74. Amanda -
    I agree with what you said about Ally's comment. Since the government can't control our thoughts, they can't stop anyone from being racist. One can still have prejudiced views, even if they don't share them aloud, and since we are the only ones who know what we think, racism is something that will forever be a part of our society. Also, I think the book shows a pro-slavery perspective, especially seeing how Tom what eventually sold into slavery. Twain shows the reader both sides of the spectrum, but tends to lead towards the pro side in the end. Tom is the character most focused on in the book, and he is ultimatley the one who goes back into slavery, causing the reader to think that Twain is more pro-slavery. On the other hand, like Paige said in the discussion, Twain leaves the reader wondering about both sides. One could interpret the ending to show the reader that being sold into slavery is one of the worst humane things possible, and should only be used on true criminals. By punishing Tom by sending him into slavery, he could be showing he is anti-slavery because Tom is the antagonist and gets the worst out of the deal.

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  75. Amanda-
    A Nymph is a fairy like thing, which I do not see Tom as. I think Roxy is more of the "nymph" of the story because she is able to do things and get away with them (for example swicthing Tom and Chambers without any one knowing) .

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  76. Elaine- Please see my comment to Brian, and then which do you think she was still sad about?

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  77. Paige-

    Why do you think that the idea of racism will always be part of our society?

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  78. Meg-that is a really good point. I think that it depends on the person. Some people will change their opinion if slavery is abolished, because they see a different side of things and maybe begin to think about their opinion. But then others, who are very stubborn, will never change their opinion one way or the other, because they are set in their ways.

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  79. Megg, during the 1890s, slavery was abolished but those styereotypes about slaves were still their. Twain, through his books, was trying to covince the population that those styeroetypes are wrong.

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  80. @ everyone...
    So ultimately, in Puddn'head Wilson, who is the satirical target? What is the satire about? Why did he chose to present his ideas in the form of a satire?

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  81. Everyone- Just like in the inner circle, what do we think of the chapter's titles? They didn't always relate with one another.

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  82. Ben- so do you think Twain's book is anti-slavery, or anti-racism?

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  83. Alex-

    I don't necessarily think she was sad about what you listed. I think she was more sad about how she had to sell her freedom in order to help her son get out of debt. But her fear in the beginning was her son being sold down by the river, which in the end of the book. He was sold down by the river. I believe, possibly taking it from the motherly view, is that a mother will always be sad about the loss throughout the fight when the fight was lost. She tried so very hard to possibly make her son better. To make him look better even though he was black. She wanted to make sure that HER son had the better life. Not the judge's son. I also believe that she was upset that he didn't take his life for granted. He ruined it and destroyed the possibilities that he could have had for greatness. For she wanted her black son to be great. To be different. Therefore be one of the part black man to succeed in the white man's world.

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  84. Meg-- The satirical target was at the behavior of white people, particularly people who carry themselves higher than slaves. This satire is presented in the way they act and how they think about themselves.

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  85. @ Alex--
    Honestly im not sure. She still recieved the money, so that doesn't seem it, she almost loved her son but not really, because she saw him as a selfish, cruel creature, and not the judge because she was sad he died before the trial but still was determined to keep up the charade.

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  86. Marie, good point. I agree that it is natural human instinct to want to be accepted, and so we do what it takes to do so, even if its changing ourselves to fit in. Tom and Chambers fufill this statement as well. Growing up, they alter who they are to fit into who society says they are. Chambers takes on the role of Tom, a white slave master, and Tom takes on the role of Chambers, a slave. On the other hand though, once we find our own "rhythm" it is hard to go back. For example, once Tom finds out that he is a slave, his actions become more slave like rather than slave holder like. How does this compare to how society can change us?

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  87. Alex- I believe that the chapters where ways for Twain to give off what he was thinking in a way that did not directly relate to the text. I think that a few of the titles were written in order to explain what was happening in the story.

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  88. Paige-

    I agree with you on how Tom and Chambers changed due to the environments they grew up in. Society can change us in general. Stereotypes are set up to go against some races. To disgrace some races. Once stereotypes are set, people start agreeing to those stereotypes knowing that they are true. So then they set up and spread the word... then spreading the word in which then the whole world can agree on. Such stereotypes are typical. It is the evil of conformity that makes people want to follow through. Such that in Tom and Chambers case, they were raised in a certain type of environment to believe that they were sometime they were not. So it can relate to the same thing to today's society.

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