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By Linda A. Morris

Twain bothered gender in a lot of his differently conventional fiction, depicting teenagers whose sexual identities are switched at start, tomboys, same-sex married undefined, or even a male French painter who impersonates his personal sister and turns into engaged to a different guy. Morris examines and translates Twain s exploration of characters who transgress gendered conventions whereas tracing the measure to which subject matters of gender disruption have interaction with different topics, reminiscent of his critique of race, his predicament with loss of life in his vintage boys books, and his career-long preoccupation with twins and twinning. Morris exhibits that Twain depicts cross-dressing occasionally as comedian or absurd, different occasions as darkly tragic yet that even at his such a lot playful, he contests conventional Victorian notions concerning the fixity of gender roles. Twain is aware that gender, like race, is a social development and specifically a functionality.

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Extra resources for Gender Play in Mark Twain: Cross-dressing and Transgression (Mark Twain and His Circle Series)

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As Laura Skandera-Trombley suggests, Twain’s purpose in having Huck cross-dress is “to assist him in gaining insight into Jim’s dilemma,” presumably the dilemma both of being a slave and of being a runaway. “Before Huck can understand Jim’s plight, he must experience what it means to be powerless. 10 While the “powerlessness” Huck experiences is limited compared with Jim’s obvious and deeply embedded powerlessness as a slave and as a fugitive, there is an exchange that takes place here that is crucial for the actions that will follow.

Although he was a lowly member of society, a boy on the margins of society, he was white and male, and hence privileged. He nonetheless donned female dress and linked his fate to that of a fugitive slave. In Huckleberry Finn, cross-dressing, then, is more than a signal of a category crisis, and more than a sign of Huck’s (and Jim’s) vulnerability; it is also firmly associated with death. Literally, for instance, the calico gown Huck wears as Sarah Mary Williams was taken by Jim and Huck from a floating house that contained the naked body of a murdered man.

Peter Messent has found “Bakhtin’s notions of carnivalization . . a useful model to apply to ‘The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg’ and ‘Stirring Times in Austria’” (The Short Works of Mark Twain: A Critical Study, 171–72); and he has made a cogent argument for Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia illuminating critical moments in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New Readings of the American Novel: Narrative Theory and Its Application, 204–42); Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 9. Misplaced Sex 25 reading Twain, whose literary cross-dressing challenged the “prevailing truth” about gender norms and prohibitions, and did so primarily in a celebratory manner.

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