Romanticism to Realism in The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Romanticism to Realism in The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

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     The Victorian Age; the Industrial Revolution and the Civil War in America, all played a role in the shift of literary styles from the Romantics to the Realists. At the time preceding the Civil War, realists wrote about the apparent human condition in fiction and non-fiction form, portraying an accurate depiction of the people and events of that time. Along with this literary form, there was a new style of writing that became known as Regionalism. This new style used local "settings, customs and dialects" (Bedford 331). This regionalism depicts the life and times of a less educated, common, lower class fragment of society. One such writer of this style was Mark Twain, who wrote from a regionalist's standpoint in his depiction of the American Old West of California. He wrote as a western humorist, detailing out-of-proportion tales and folklore, of people indicative of the new territory. Twain's creative use of western colloquial diction heightens his reader's sense of region in his writing entitled "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County".

     One account of western colloquial diction can be seen when Twain (being the first narrator), transfers the "monotonous narrative"(184) over to his character Simon Wheeler. Simon's use of bad diction as he describes Jim Smiley as being the "curiosest man"(184), reveals to the reader Smiley's uneducated colloquial vernacular.

The second narrator Smiley continues to reveal this language as he depicts the story of the "15 minute nag"(184). He describes the old nag as "fetching up" to the other horse in the old nag's supposed race for money. The old, worn-out nag and diction adds color and simplicity to the readers, further indicating Twain's ability to portray the characters as almost child-like and common.

     Another account continues as Twain's narrator Simon persists with the use of his diction, as he describes the "monstrous pride" that Jim Smiley has for his newfound frog. Smiley states that he "ketched a frog"(185), and named him Dan'l Webster, who was a well-known mountain man of that time period. Mark Twain uses Dan'l Webster as the talented, but rough mountain man who would fit right in with Simon's (the narrator's) descriptive inference. He also uses the slang "ketched" to add color and infer Smiley's lower class and uneducated upbringing, typical of what Twain wants to portray of the Americans in early California mining camps.

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     Finally, the story written by Mark Twain of the "betting man" who uses the whimsical talents of a common frog, a common nag and a bull-pup to portray the simple and common lifestyles is truly entertaining. His portrayal of a mining camp mentality truly illustrates Mark Twain's genius through the use of colloquial diction, in capturing his idea of regionalism in early California mining camps of the 1800's.

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