This essay examines the relationship between Mark Twain’s treatment of race in Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894) and Francis Galton’s investigations into the relative effects of "nature and nurture" in his influential 1875 twin study. While many readings of Twain’s novel assume a shared logic underlying Twain’s literary twin plot and Galton’s scientific study, the essay analyzes the terms and conditions of both to establish critical and meaningful points of disjuncture between the two plots. It argues that the differences between the functions of look-alikes in Twain and Galton provide more insight into each author’s thoughts on race than the presumed similarities. Both thinkers approach questions of the relationship between underlying character and physical appearance through the use of look-alikes, but while Galton’s study of biological twins brackets racial difference in order to prove the heritability of underlying human character, Twain obscures the inherited natures of his changelings in order to dramatize the explanatory appeal of the illusion of race. And while a unified "nurture" during childhood was critical for the longitudinal comparison of Galton’s twin study, Twain employs a changeling plot to dramatize the social difference that race makes. Ultimately, Twain’s "twins" tell us little about the relative effects of "nature and nurture," but the narrative set in motion by their virtual twinship dramatizes the thin difference upon which race is constructed.
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