Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The literary dialect of Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson goes relatively unnoticed by scholars since it does not seem as interesting as the literary dialect of his masterpiece Huckleberry Finn, There seem to be only two distinct dialects in Pudd ' nhead W1.1 son (as compared to Huckleberry Finn's seven to nine); one spoken by the whites and one spoke, i by the blacks. Almost all of the ■b ■ black dialect is spoken by one character, Roxy, the slave woman who is legally black but white in appearance. A closer look at Roxy's dialect can determine language character1stics, along with important matters of characterization .
Roxy is regarded as a flawed character by critics because, of her swift, apparently unmotivated mood changes. If Roxy can be seen as a prototype of the late nineteenth- century sub-genre of tragic mulatto fiction, her character seems more explainable.
Associating the tragic mulatto sub-genre to an analysis of Roxy's dialect not only strengthens Twain's ability as a writet sensitive to linguistic reality, it also considers another characteristic, a mulatto dialect, as a feature of the sub-genre.
After a review of the material already acknowledging Pudd1 ahead Wilson as a member of the tragic mulatto fiction sub-genre, a socio-linguistic analysis rr Roxy's dialect considers the difference between her language and J* L. Dillard’s profile of Black English. This, as well ' ' ■; v■ as a discussion of the differences between Roxy’s language and two similiar Twain characters, .Aunt Rachel from "A True Story” and Jim from Huckleberry Finn, suggest the possibility of a mulatto dialect for Roxy. Her dialect is different from the southern American koine that other speakers in the novel use. Her dialect is different enough from Aunt Rachel’s and Jim’s to suggest that Twain considered her character different from Black speakers. Her pronunciation seems appropriate for Black English, although she does not use some of its characteristics. Her syntax rules are appropriate for black speakers, but she seems to not use some distinct ones. Twain devised a literary dialect for Roxy tha*. would carry out his ironic character i.sation for a :ragic mulatto heroine. VI
Johnson, Mary Frances, "Identity and Language: Roxy in Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson" (1985). Theses and Dissertations. 3314.