The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

American Realism

American Realism is a literary movement that took place in the United States from around the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the early 1900s. Think of it as a reaction against the earlier Romantic movement, which focused on emotions, imagination, and the extraordinary. Instead, realism aimed to portray life as it truly was, with all its imperfections and complexities.

Realist writers wanted to show the everyday experiences of ordinary people, often focusing on the middle or lower classes. They were interested in the social issues of their time, like poverty, industrialisation, and the struggles of immigrants. To create a sense of authenticity, they used simple, direct language and avoided overly dramatic or sentimental descriptions.

One of the most famous American realist writers is Mark Twain, whose novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn depict the lives of young boys in the American South. These stories are filled with humour and adventure, but they also touch on serious themes like racism and social injustice. Other notable realist writers include William Dean Howells, Henry James, and Edith Wharton.

Interestingly, American Realism shares similarities with British Realism, which also emerged in the 19th century. Both movements sought to depict ordinary life and social issues in a truthful and objective manner. However, American Realism often focused on the specific challenges and experiences of American society, such as the aftermath of the Civil War and the rapid growth of industrialisation. In contrast, British Realism tended to explore the class system and social conventions of Victorian England.

American Realism is important because it changed the way literature was written and read in the United States. It encouraged writers to focus on the present and the ordinary, rather than on the past or the extraordinary. This focus on real life made literature more relatable and relevant to a wider audience, paving the way for many different literary styles that came after.

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" - Mark Twain

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is a short story by Mark Twain, a famous American author. It's a humorous tale set in a gold-mining camp in California during the Gold Rush. The story is told by a narrator who is looking for information about a man named Leonidas W. Smiley. Instead, he meets Simon Wheeler, a talkative old-timer who tells him a long, rambling story about Jim Smiley, a gambler who loved to bet on anything.

The story's highlight is Jim Smiley's pet frog, Dan'l Webster. Smiley trained Dan'l to jump higher and farther than any other frog. One day, a stranger tricks Smiley by filling Dan'l with lead pellets, making him too heavy to jump. Smiley loses the bet but realises the trick too late.

The story is full of humour, exaggeration, and colourful language. It captures the spirit of the American West and its eccentric characters. Although it seems like a simple story, it explores themes like trickery, competition, and storytelling. It also showcases Mark Twain's unique style of humour and his ability to use regional dialect and slang to create authentic characters.

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is a classic example of American literature. It's a fun and entertaining read, but it also offers insights into the culture and values of 19th-century America.

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" 

Source: The University of Virginia 

"Smiley he stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan'l a long time, and at last he says, "I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw'd off for I wonder if there an't something the matter with him he 'pears to look mighty baggy, somehow." And he ketched Dan'l by the nap of the neck, and lifted him up and says, "Why, blame my cats, if he don't weigh five pound!" and turned him upside down, and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketchd him. And-"

Discussion questions