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Evidence Paragraph Exercise


Evidence Paragraph Exercise

Jean Feerick

Use as many of the following textual passages as you can to construct an evidence paragraph supporting one of the three following theses. We will take a vote and discuss how you interpreted these passages when you are finished. If you notice contradictions between the passages, you might try to accommodate them in your thesis. REMEMBER, YOUR PARAGRAPH MUST HAVE A SPECIFIED TOPIC AND DIRECTION.

Sample Theses:

a. _Pudd'nhead Wilson_, Twain's story of racial imposture, calls into question the notion of racial determinism by demonstrating the extent to which characters make themselves not only through their own application but through the tools that society imparts to them.

b. _Pudd'nhead Wilson_, Twain's story of racial crossover, demonstrates the extent to which people inhabit racially-fixed identities that are imprinted at the moment of birth and unavoidable even through the rigors of social training and personal application.

c. _Pudd'nhead Wilson_, Twain's story of racial identity, interrogates at the same time as it reinstates the notion of racial determinism by allowing small victories for society's role in shaping the individual's identity while ultimately upholding the notion that the body is really the final arbiter of the matter.

Sample Evidence to select from:

1. "To all intents and purposes Roxy was as white as anybody, but the one sixteenth of her which was black outvoted the other fifteen parts and made her a negro. She was a slave, and saleable as such. Her child was thirty-one parts white, and he, too, was a slave and, by a fiction of law and custom, a negro. He had blue eyes and flaxen curls like his white comrade; but even the father of the white child was able to tell the children apart -- little as he had commerce with them -- by their clothes" (64).

2. "'Tom' was a bad baby, from the very beginning of his usurpation. He would cry for nothing; he would burst into storms of devilish temper without notice, and let go scream after scream and squall after squall, then climax the thing with 'holding his breath . . . The baby Tom would claw anybody who came within reach of his nails, and pound anybody he could reach with his rattle" (76).

3. "Chambers was strong beyond his years, and a good fighter; strong because he was coarsely fed and hard worked about the house, and a good fighter because Tom furnished him plenty of practice -- on white boys whom he hated and was afraid of" (78).

4. "He remained at Yale two years, and then threw up the struggle. He came home with his manners a good deal improved; he had lost his surliness and brusqueness, and was rather pleasantly soft and smooth now; he was furtively, and sometimes openly, ironical of speech, and given to gently touching people on the raw, but he did it with a good-natured semiconscious air that carried it off safely, and kept him from getting into trouble . . . Tom's Eastern polish was not popular among the young people" (84-85).

5. "[I]n our case it was merely misfortune, and nobody's fault. Our parents were well to do, there in Italy, and we were their only child. We were of the old Florentine nobility. . . . When we escaped from that slavery at twelve years of age, we were in some respects men. Experience had taught us some valuable things" (90-91).

6. "[S]he would be independent of the human race thenceforth for evermore if hard work and economy could accomplish it. When the boat touched the levee at New Orleans she bade good-bye to her comrades on the Grand Mogul and moved her kit ashore. But she was back in an hour. The bank had gone to smash and carried her four hundred dollars with it" (100-101).

7. "If he met a friend, he found that the habit of a lifetime had in some mysterious way vanished -- his arm hung limp, instead of involuntarily extending the hand for a shake. It was the 'nigger' in him asserting its humility, and he blushed and was abashed" (118).

8. "Pudd'nhead Wilson was suddenly become a man of consequence. When asked to run for the mayoralty Saturday night he was risking defeat, but Sunday morning found him a made man and his success assured."

9. "Dey ain't nothin' a white mother won't do for her chile. Who made 'em so? De Lord done it. En who made de niggers? De Lord made 'em. In de inside, mothers is all de same" (174).

10. "Troop after troop of citizens came to serenade Wilson, and require a speech, and shout themselves hoarse over every sentence that fell from his lips -- for all his sentences were golden now, all were marvellous. His long fight against hard luck and prejudice was ended; he was a made man for good" (224).

[Quotations are taken from Mark Twain, _Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins_, ed. Malcolm Bradbury (New York: Penguin Books, 1986].