The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Mark Twain

Mark Twain was born in 1835, two weeks after Hailey’s Comet passed Earth in its 75-year-long orbit. He was raised in Missouri as the sixth of seven children. Twain’s father died when he was eleven, and he left school to become a printer’s apprentice when he was twelve. Slavery was legal in Missouri when Twain was a child, and Twain himself was an ardent supporter of emancipation, a perspective that appears in some of his works. As an adult, he lived next-door to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the famous abolitionist, in Connecticut. He also had many hobbies and passions, such as a fascination with electricity—he was a close personal friend of Nikola Tesla. Throughout his life, Twain worked as a printer, typesetter, riverboat pilot, miner, journalist, writer, and author. It is widely acknowledged that “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” jumpstarted his career as a humorist author, as it brought him international acclaim. Twain is also famous for penning The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He outlived his four children and wife of 34 years and died the day after Hailey’s Comet passed in 1910, just as he had predicted.
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Historical Context of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

When “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was first published on November 18, 1865, its readers were still recovering from the American Civil War, which ended on May 9, 1865. Accordingly, the story’s theme of regional differences across the country would have struck home with the hundreds of thousands of people who had sacrificed greatly in order to keep the United States united. Indeed, in the story, the protagonist names two of his pet animals after Andrew Jackson and Daniel Webster, diametrically opposed politicians who were at the height of their careers two decades before the story was published. This nod suggests a respect for the differing forces that made up American culture. By employing a light-hearted tone and advocating for the cohesion of the country in spite of regional divides, the story played to its contemporary audience and brought laughter to a dark period of mourning.

Other Books Related to The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Mark Twain published “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in 1865 and reprinted it in 1867 as the first story in a collection of twenty-seven stories that had previously been printed in newspapers and magazines. The collection bore the name of this first story, which was widely popular when it was first published in The New York Saturday Press and other subsequent publications. The book of short stories entitled “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” only ran 1,000 copies in its first print run and is a valuable collector’s item today. In 1952, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that also addressed regional divides in the country. While Stowe’s work served as a powerful and heavy testament against slavery, Twain’s short story sought to celebrate and preserve the lighter aspect of cultural differences existing within the country, like Wheeler’s distinctively Western dialect and mode of storytelling. Throughout his literary career, Twain was fascinated with regional subcultures found across the United States. His later book, Life on the Mississippi, published in 1883, chronicled his travels on the Mississippi River as a young man before and after the American Civil War. Like the unnamed narrator featured in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog,” Twain was an outsider who observed the people he came in contact with as he passed through various towns and communities along the river. With this viewpoint, he recorded his experiences and created an anthropological study of people he discovered.
Key Facts about The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
  • Full Title: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”
  • When Written: 1865
  • Where Written: San Francisco, California
  • When Published: November 18, 1865
  • Literary Period: Realism
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: A tavern in a mining town called Angel’s Camp in California
  • Climax: The stranger cheats in a frog-jumping contest by filling the protagonist’s frog full of heavy quail-shot and consequently runs off with Jim Smiley’s money.
  • Antagonist: The Stranger
  • Point of View: First person and third person

Extra Credit for The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Instant Success. “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was hailed as Twain’s first great literary success and brought him international recognition. He heard the story of the jumping frog while he was in the Angel’s Hotel at Angel’s Camp, California while he was working as a miner.

What’s in a Name? The story was originally published as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” in The New York Saturday Press. It has also been published under the name, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”