The Californian’s Tale

by

Mark Twain

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The Narrator Character Analysis

The unnamed narrator of “The Californian’s Tale” is a gold prospector who recounts his experiences thirty-five years prior, when he searched for gold in the region near California’s Stanislaus River. The narrator’s background is a mystery: the reader learns nothing about his own personal history beyond his status as a former gold prospector. His observational skills are his most prominent trait. He acts as a guide for readers, who, through the narrator’s descriptions, learn about the people and environment around the Stanislaus. Unlike the other characters in the story, the narrator is keenly aware that he must leave the desolate region, lest the destruction wrought by the boom and bust economy drive him to depression and madness. Throughout the story, the narrator describes in vivid detail the scarred landscape and the hopeless existence of the broken men who still call it home. The narrator is a stark voice of reason in contrast to the delusional Henry. Although Henry’s cottage appears idyllic and his marriage downright blissful, the narrator’s penchant for observation tells him that all is not right in Henry’s world. Thus, the narrator becomes the window through which the reader gradually views Henry's unfolding madness. By the end of the story, the narrator is the only character who escapes the tragic pull of Manifest Destiny.

The Narrator Quotes in The Californian’s Tale

The The Californian’s Tale quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of The Californian’s Tale published in 2005.
The Californian’s Tale Quotes

It was a lovely region, woodsy, balmy, delicious, and had once been populous, long years before, but now the people had vanished and the charming paradise was a solitude. They went away when the surface diggings gave out.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry
Page Number: 317
Explanation and Analysis:

In the country neighborhood thereabouts, along the dusty roads, one found at intervals the prettiest little cottage homes, snug and cozy, and so cobwebbed with vines snowed thick with roses that the doors and windows were wholly hidden from sight.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

Round about California in that day were scattered a host of these living dead men—pride-smitten poor fellows, grizzled and old at forty, whose secret thoughts were made all of regrets and longings.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Tom, Joe , Charley
Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

That was all hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation, but here was a nest which had aspects to rest the tired eye.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

“I've seen her fix all these things so much that I can do them all just her way, though I don't know the law of any of them. But she knows the law. She knows the why and the how both; but I don't know the why; I only know the how.”

Related Characters: Henry (speaker), The Narrator, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 319
Explanation and Analysis:

I was feeling a deep, strong longing to see her—a longing so supplicating, so insistent, that it made me afraid.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

[A] loving, sedate, and altogether charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with a postscript full of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and Charley.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 321
Explanation and Analysis:

Charley fetched out one hearty speech after another, and did his best to drive away his friend's bodings and apprehensions.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

Joe brought the glasses on a waiter, and served the party. I reached for one of the two remaining glasses, but Joe growled, under his breath: "Drop that! Take the other." Which I did. Henry was served last.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:

Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when that time of the year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here, three days before she's due, to encourage him up.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Henry, Henry’s Wife, Tom, Joe , Charley
Related Symbols: Henry’s Cottage
Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Californian’s Tale PDF

The Narrator Character Timeline in The Californian’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator appears in The Californian’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Californian’s Tale
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
An unnamed man, the Narrator, recalls the time thirty-five years ago when he prospected for gold on California’s Stanislaus River.... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
As the Narrator travels through this “lonesome land,” he observes the lifelessness around him: the region no longer... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
When the Narrator enters the cottage, he becomes overwhelmed with delight at its lovingly decorated interior. In contrast... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Henry brings the Narrator into a bedroom to wash his hands at a sink. Like the rest of the... (full context)
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Henry tells the Narrator that his wife is visiting friends about forty miles away, but she will return in... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
Finally, Saturday arrives and the Narrator and Henry wait for the first sign of Henry’s wife. The Narrator becomes increasingly impatient,... (full context)
Manifest Destiny vs. Reality Theme Icon
Masculine vs. Feminine Space Theme Icon
Madness Theme Icon
...him to come and drink with them. Joe passes along several glasses and rebukes the Narrator for taking a drink reserved for Henry. Soon, Henry is drunk and the miners put... (full context)