“I Want a Real Coon”: Twain and Ethnic Caricature

Henry B. Wonham

in Playing the Races

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780195161946
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199788101 | DOI:
 “I Want a Real Coon”: Twain and Ethnic Caricature

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This chapter explores Mark Twain's life-long fascination with ethnic humor and caricature, highlighting the oxymoronic logic involved in his affection for “the genuine nigger show” and other forms of patently racist entertainment. This book traces the history of minstrel comedy in America and its transformation during the late 19th century into a new set of comedic conventions, including the “coon show” and the “variety show.” The chapter also explores the relationship between Huckleberry Finn's illustrations, which draw heavily on “coon” imagery and the novel's ostensibly “realist” tendencies.

Keywords: Mark Twain; minstrelsy; variety show; coon imagery; illustration; racism; Pink Marsh; Ernest Hogan; Hucklebuerry Finn; stereotype

Chapter.  10331 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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