Wiki Rationale

As in any well-written piece of literature, the writings of William Dean Howells and Mark Twain are vastly filled with interesting characters, dynamic plot-lines, and interwoven pieces of historical background. The authors masterfully created writings that, even today, are considered "works of art," and will be read by individuals for years to come. Although, for our project, we chose to study the works of these authors for their unsurpassed writing style and narrative abilities, our intended purpose ties much deeper into the text than simple writing style can portray. In studying Howells' An Imperative Duty, and Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson, we were looking to analyze the intended purposes the authors had in writing these novels and, moreover, were interested in providing links of commonality to be analyzed in these famous works of literature. Analysis allowed us to determine that both authors, through their writing, are on opposing sides of the nature versus nurture spectrum. Twain masterfully creates a scenario that analyzes the level nurture's effect has on an individual by having a Caucasian and African-American boy raised in settings contrary to the societal standards of their heritage. On the other hand, Howells analyzes the level an individual's natural characteristics have on their overall behaviorisms by creating a setting allows the breeding of an African-American under white standards.

Ultimately, studying these texts allowed us to decipher that different conclusions can be derived on the issue of nature versus nurture, depending on which author's writing you choose to advocate. We selected passages throughout both of these books that addressed the setting, treatment, and breeding-qualities that were imposed upon both African-American and Caucasian individuals in the books, and, essentially, how these factors effected their behaviors and determined their personalities. Focusing on these points allowed us to draw parallels to how the characters were treated, while also depicting how each author asserts their opinion on what determines one's overall being.

Initially, we approached the project as would any individual searching for a point of analysis; we deeply read and analyzed the texts of these two authors, while more broadly searching and identifying other sources and works previously published on the authors and texts that might serve as beneficial. Once information was gathered and textual data was dissected, it seemed a clear and pointed argument had taken form, and a pathway for our project was essentially placed before us. With a foundation of historical background framing the 19th century (the time these two authors lived), much comprised of racist beliefs and concerns with heritage, it seemed to be no coincidence that each of these books was written for the purpose of racial analysis. Twain, commonly known to have an obsession with twins and similar identities, wrote a novel that depicted the lives of two similar-looking boys, though one of Caucasian descent and one of African-American descent, swapped after birth and destined to live each other's lives. Yet, as the plot of the book thickens, it seems Twain's emphasis is not based on his harboring obsession with similar identity, but instead works toward one that is highly concerned with society's view and treatment of racial differences. Throughout the book, Twain creates a number of characters who find themselves in situations that are largely due to the social standards of their racial background, and struggle with the inevitable effect these standards have on their lives. Howells, in An Imperative Duty, seems concerned with the same societal effects that are imposed upon individuals of African-American descent. Yet, the closer we analyzed the texts of Twain and Howells, the more we noticed the opposing approaches on the issue; Twain seemed to be asserting that the form of nurture an individual received determined their behavior, while Howells was solely concerned with atavism, and the idea that heredity is impossible to escape. Interested in the contradicting opinions of these two prodigious novel writers, we chose to create a Wiki which comparatively analyzed these two stances.

When drawing from sources that related to our topic and would benefit our Wiki viewers, we encountered three sites that suggested our visitors would need in order to gain a more in-depth analysis of what is already covered in our Wiki. Essentially, it is imperative to understand the time period that Twain and Howells were writing in; thus, we created our 19th Century History Background page. This page gives what the reader an explanation of the types of events and ideals that were present during the 19 century, and allows readers to understand the context surrounding our Wiki. Although there are other historical facts that are pertinent to the time-period, comparing the writings of Howells and Twain in the context of race only required specific facts. By supplying the viewers with these facts, then providing a link to Innercity.org, readers are able to more extensively view all significant events of the 19th century, allowing them to have the opportunity to start from beginning of 1800, venture to end of the century, and see the progression of events that take place during the time period that Twain and Howells were writing from. Visitors who gain access to this site can cover more in-depth information if they feel necessary, yet, are not bombarded with unnecessary information as they visit our page, as it may not pertain to the topic of nature versus nurture. Furthermore, this site, when compared to others, included more history that is significant to our discussion than many of the other sites; other webpages excluded significant dates and laws that were passed that pertained to race. Yet, in the end, the timeline feature of Innercity.org was the deciding factor for inclusion in our Wiki project. Other sites that talked about history in a paragraph fashion did not portray the events in the useful and efficient manner as did this site. Ultimately, all sites used in our Wiki were selected for efficiency and information-reliability.

When providing background on the authors or the texts chosen, we chose sites that rendered information both factual and useful to our purposed topic. The site purposed for Howells' information provided information which allowed us to focus less on his general biography and more on facts that were significant to our topic. Knowing that Howells did not focus all of his work on the nature versus nurture question that An Imperative Duty addresses, we chose a site that addresses the topic, as well as analyzes other pieces of his work that pertain to similar ideas that he addresses in this book. By providing this site, the reader is able to gain better understanding of Howells' works that do coincide with our thesis, and has the opportunity to dive deeper if desired. Ultimately, the site that Dr. Campbell created was chosen because it portrayed the information in a clear, informative, and concise manner, contrary to the other options we considered. The website listed as an informational outlet for Twain's page was selected for similar reasons to that of Howells; we included important pertinent to our topic on our Wiki, and provided a link that allows the reader the option to further inquire if desired.

Essentially, Mark Twain and William Dean Howells were innovators. They took a topic of controversy and dismay during their time period, and transformed it in a way that allowed readers to question the very standards that were imposed upon their daily lives. Although the two revolutionary authors were in obvious disagreement on what they believe an individual's race implies, it can be gathered that they were looking ahead to a time when race was a candid topic, as opposed to one which is rarely discussed. Through this Wiki project, we were not only able to better understand each of these authors stances, but were able to acknowledge the progressive strides societal standards have taken since the 19th century, and can better appreciate what the continuation of modernism may bring.