In-Depth Questions


Why did the Narrator’s friend from the East want him to visit Simon Wheeler?

     The Narrator’s friend from the East wanted him to go visit Simon Wheeler because he knew that Simon would talk his ear off with wild stories of what could be truth but not likely.  He did it as a joke.  This goes along with the cultural differences from the East and West back then. The friend was being very stereotypical of a man from the East.  It’s as if he was thinking he was better than the Narrator by playing a joke on him.


What is “Local Color Writing,” and why is the use of dialect and slang so important to the humor of this story?

     According to, “Local Color Writing” is defined as “the use in a literary work of character and details unique to a particular geographical area.  Local Color can be created by the use of dialect and by descriptions of customs, clothing, manners, attitudes, scenery, and landscapes.”  The dialect and slang in the story are important to the humor of the story because it’s almost as if the writer portrays westerners as dumb, more simpleminded than the Eastern people.  It is funny because of the usage of such words like, “feller”, “warn’t”, and “bannanner.”  It’s almost like a whole different world that is secluded in the newly developed Western United States.

     As hard as a Southern accent might be to understand, it’s can be very amusing.  Mark Twain uses a lot of Local Color in this short story, meaning that he’s really trying to show the true tone and dialect of the southern region of the United States.  Not only does the style of writing make it a very American story, but you almost have to have had an interaction with someone from the South to understand it.  Although, if Twain hadn’t used the certain dialect with this story it would have lost all of it’s satire, therefore making it a very plain old story without that southern twist and flavor.


How do you know there are cultural differences between the Eastern and Western regions in this story?

     You can defiately tell there are cultural differences between the Eastern and Westn regions in this story. This story exemplifies the new-born settlements on the West coast.  In those days the East coast was settled in nice and cozy while the Western region of America was just beginning to be settled.  One huge cultural difference you can point out is the language. The East coast was very “normal” talking like you and I but the West coast portrayed a more “hick-like” feature with their pronunciation and word choice. The Easterners were well mannered clean people but the Westerners were opposite, they went out for the gold. The people from the West coast worked in the gold mines; therefore, they are portrayed as “dirty,” uneducated people.


Why did Jim Smiley give his pets famous political names?

     Jim Smiley gave his pets famous political names because he thought their personalities matched up with the famous political figures’ personalities.  His fighting dog, Andrew Jackson, was named after the former President of the United States and war general. The war general Jackson had a nickname, “old Hickory,” because he was so though and fierce in battle, just like the Bull-Pup.  Jim Smiley named his jumping frog after the great american statesman and orater, Daniel Webster. Webster was a brilliant man so Smiley tried to train his jumping frog to be as brilliant as it could be. 


Who are the protagonist and antagonist in the story?

     In this story there are two sets of antagonists and Protagonists.  The first protagonist is the narrator or “I” who is sent by his friend from the East to talk to Simon Wheeler.  Now the Narrator’s friend from the East is the first antagonist because he sent him to Simon Wheeler as a joke.  The friend from the East knew that Simon would talk his ears off.

     The second protagonist in the story is good ol’ Jim Smiley.  He is a good man that has nothing but time and love to give to his pets.  The second antagonist in the story is the stranger who comes to jim Smiley’s town.  When it is time for the frog jumping competition the stranger clearly cheats when Jim is away by putting Birdshot in Dan’l Webster’s mouth so he couldn’t jump.  He cheated Jim Smiley out of 40 Dollars.


Why is it ironic when Smiley loses?

     In this story there is dramatic irony taking place with Jim Smiley and his jumping frog Dan’l Webster. Dramatic irony takes place when we the reader knows something that the character do not.  The dramatic irony takes place when Dan’l Webster lost the jumping compettion.  We know that the stranger filled Dan’l Webster with Birdshot so he was too heavy to jump.  Throughout that whole frog jumping competition Jim was completely oblivious that anything fishy was going on until the stranger left town.


What is the significance of the frog race?

     I believe that the Mark Twain chose to use frogs because of their color. Green is usually the symbol for greed in North American society; therefore, I think it was an excellent choice for Twain to use frog racing to display Jim Smiley’s hunger winning. The fact that Smiley’s greed ends up biting himself in the butt later on is Mark Twain’s way of imply the morality of the story through personalities and symbolism.


Twain also uses Satire in this story.  What specific things/ideas/characters are satirized? 

     I believe the whole story overall is Satire. I believe the pets that Jim Smiley owned were all exaggerated in their abilities, I believe the narrator was satirized because his friend led him to Wheeler, to hear what to him was a pointless story. I believe Jim Smiley was satirized because he was a gambler, someone who is not usually held in high respect, but Wheeler spoke of him with sincerity. I also believe that he was satirized by being such a clever and lucky guy, yet at the end he was outsmarted by the stranger. His need to gamble and find the stranger a frog lost him that bet, which shows the story has irony.


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