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Three Times the Fun

"Then he jumped up in the air three times and cracked his heels together every time."
~page 144 of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

In two pages, this detail was mentioned four different times in various ways; three of those times Twain specifically mentioned the character did this three times. This immediately sets the character up to appear as an entertainer. Much of this chapter deals with the story this character is telling the others on the big raft. I couldn't help but wonder if there was something more to it other than that since it was mentioned so many times. It is possible that this was just a way to characterize this character and that this number was chosen simply because it is a common number to use. According to a wikipedia article, there are several "3-way Philosophical Distinctions." In the social distinctions (according to David Reisman), the three distinctions are tradition-directed, inner-directed, and outer-directed. In a sense, all three of these distinctions apply to this character. A footnote applied to this character's speech indicates this is a portrayal of an oral tradition. The inner-directed distinction applies as this character is more or less boasting about himself. The outer-directed distinction applies as he is entertaining his audience. As a side note, a little further down on the Philosophical Distinctions list there is a section giving Mark Twain's distinctions on lies.

These were just some thoughts on this passage. Does anyone else have any other ideas on this?

Comments (2)

It could also be another pass at the superstitious side of things that Twain uses throughout the novel. Third time's a charm :)
I like your analysis of it though, I would not have thought to research the number of times a character did something, I usually just assume it is something the character does.

Jennifer Prex:

Thanks, Heather! And I agree with you about the superstitious angle. Twain does seem to use superstitions quite a bit throughout the novel.

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