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Cultural Division Between the East and West Coasts in the United States

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Luis Aldana

Professor Snowberger


February 6, 2013

Cultural Division Between The East and West Coasts in the United States

        Mark Twain uses a great deal of satire and humor in his literary writings.

In “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” Twain pokes fun and brings to light the grand cultural divide in which the United States was experiencing at this time. “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” highlights several differences of late 19th century American culture and society.

The culture clash introduces the theme of the overall story in which Twain makes fun of and challenges the stereotypes that the Western United States had for Eastern people and to this day, some of those stereotypes still exist.

        In the story “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” Twain depicts many aspects of the East and West, the settlements in which the main characters were set in, and the language that each one uses. The story was published in 1865, during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Most of the economic development had begun in the East Coast, but despite the increasing amount of growth westward, Americans still had a psychological divide between the eastern and western parts of the country. During this time period the West was thought to be rough and populated by survivalists. The East on the other hand was assumed to be more advanced, educated, and polite.

Twain uses language and punctuation to highlight the differences between the characters. The narrator is portrayed to the reader as a well educated, knowledgeable man who speaks using proper English and complex sentence structures. “In compliance with the request of a good friend of mine, who wrote me from the East, I called on good-natured, garrulous old Simon Wheeler, and inquired after my friend’s friend, Leonidas W. Smiley, as requested to do, and I hereunto append the result.” The opposite main character, Simon Wheeler is depicted as more of a West Coast settler. As he tells the story he states “There was a feller here once by the name of Jim Smiley, he was the curiosest man about always betting on any thing that turned up you ever see, if he could get anybody to bet on the other side; and if he couldn’t, he’d change sides.”

        The satire is clearly shown when the narrator was explaining his thoughts about Mr. Wheeler and he states “I have a lurking suspicion that Leonidas W. Smiley is a myth; that my friend never knew such a personage; and that he only conjectured that, if I asked old Wheeler about him, that it would remind him of his infamous Jim Smiley, and he would go to work and bore me nearly to death with some infernal reminiscence of him as long and tedious as it would be useless to me. If that was the design, it certainly succeeded.” This paragraph portrays the Eastern narrator as arrogant, know-it-all, and pretentious. Likewise Wheeler is revealed to be a good hearted man with much experience in storytelling, which enables him to fool the narrator in a satirical twist. Recently, the CEO of Facebook, West Coast resident Mark Zuckerberg went to the New York Stock Exchange dressed in a casual hoodie when Facebook became public, and ignited a well known controversy contrasting the East Coast’s more formal and traditional style to the West Coast’s laid back culture.


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