English and Modern Languages
Master of Arts (MA)
Mark R. Harris
Primary Subject Area
Literature, General; Literature, American; American Studies
Alexandre Dumas, doppelganger, Mark Twain, nineteenth-century literature, racial discrimination, social stratification
Dow, Virginia Payne, "The Doppelgänger Tale and the Masquerade of Race: The Enduring Influence of Dumas` Iron Mask and Twain`s Switched Heroes" (2010). Masters Theses. 154.
Although separated by the Atlantic Ocean, nineteenth-century authors Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) and then Mark Twain (1835-1910) separately created narratives involving the doppelganger motif which both challenged the accepted social ideals and spawned a plethora of imitations. These tales of switched identities served to critique social stratification and racial discrimination.
Given the current influx of interest in the doppelganger paradigm within the media, and particularly in light of rising cultural studies involving race, class, and social stratification, the main novels of this study--Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask and Georges, and Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson--warrant ever-increasing interest due to their discourse in the inequities of the caste system. Though written in the nineteenth century, the novels contain thematic elements that continue to plague societies throughout the world: discrimination, mistreatment, and warped variations of racism. For the authors to address the inherent evils within the marginalization of the subaltern, whether through caste systems or discrimination, is both relevant and productive.