Other stories by MT that do not truly end and/or leave readers hanging, in
addition to "Grandfather's Old Ram" (1872), are "An Awful, Terrible
Medieval Romance" (1870) and "A Story without an Ending" (1897), sometimes
published as "John Brown and Mary Taylor" or "A Delicately Improper Tale."
Although it has an ending, *A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court *(1889)
ends in doubt, for the Yankee anyway, a doubt that can extend to the
reader. Even when its unattached ending is attached, the same can be said
for *No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger *(published 1969). As mentioned in my
essay about Mark Twain's use of frameworks, because many of his short
writings are taken from longer works, such as *Roughing It, A Tramp Abroad,
and Life on the Mississippi, *beginnings and endings are not always
the same in various reprintings: e.g., Does "The Bluejay Yarn" (1880) begin
with the narrator's trek through the Black Forest or with the description
of Jim Baker and his relationship to blue jays? Some of Mark Twain's
stories in some anthologies end with more paragraphs than the same stories
do in other anthologies. *Adventures of Huckleberry Finn *begins where *The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer* ends. The unfinished *Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry
Finn Among the Indians, *begun soon after he finished *AHF*, takes its
premise and beginnings from Huck's "But I reckon I got to light out for the
Territory ahead of the rest...," said at the end of *AHF. *Although the
story we read has an ending, we realize that, because the story within
"Cannibalism in the Cars" (1868) is retold multiple times, the number of
people eaten increases or decreases depending on when the teller begins his
tale and when he must leave the train where he tells it, so the endings
within the narrative can vary.
Mark Twain pulls readers in and involves them in his writings, sometimes
perplexing them by unending the stories. The Jumping Frog Story has an
ending, but--like "Grandfather's Old Ram," "Medieval Romance," and "Story
without an Ending," it is a joke--not only upon its narrator but upon the
reader who is left wishing to know more about "a yaller one-eyed cow that
didn’t have no tail, only just a short stump like a bannanner." How does
one bet on this creature? Other stories involve readers in different ways.
For instance, a narrator in "A Curious Experience" (1881) who deliberately
ignores details should lead readers to note them.
Mark Twain was a metafictionist before we knew metafiction.
On Fri, Feb 10, 2023 at 12:13 PM Scott Holmes <[log in to unmask]>
> There is a characteristic in some of the literary influences on Twain
> I’ve noticed. That is that the story is not finished, at least not until
> some later time. I’m thinking of the structure of the Arabian Nights
> tales and Scherazade. I’ve also noted this in the earliest version of
> the Tar baby story from the Gutenberg version of “Uncle Remus: His Songs
> and Sayings” (the second story in the collection). "Dat's all de fur de
> tale goes," replied the old man. "He mout, an den agin he moutent. “Some
> say Judge B'ar come 'long en loosed 'im—some say he didn't. I hear Miss
> Sally callin'. You better run 'long."
> Harris doesn’t pick the storyup again until the fourth story. I can’t
> recall Twain ever directly employing this technique except for possible
> vestiges in such as Grandfather’s Old Ram or the Ascent of Mt. Vesuvius.
> This is a part of “the framework structure” of story telling. I’ve been
> reading John H. Davis’ article, “The Shape of the Story:…” but I’m
> curious about Twain’s possible use of this one technique. I’ve read
> through the Oxford Edition but that doesn’t mean I’ve retained all that
> /Unaffiliated Geographer and Twain aficionado/
John H. Davis, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of English
Distinguished Professor of English, Retired
Department of English
One University Place
Murfreesboro, North Carolina 27855
252.398.6240 [log in to unmask]