By: Rachel Lyle, June 23rd, 2017
The relationship between Valet de Chambres and Thomas Driscoll in Pudd’nhead Wilson is in many ways a symbol of the novel as a whole. This pairing shows many of themes of the novel acted out for the reader. The pair tends to become very significant to understanding the novel as a whole.
Chambers and Tom were both born on the same day to the same man but two different mothers so they were almost twins. The father to both of them was Percy Northumberland Driscoll. In the words of Twain, “ On the 1st of February, 1830, two boy babes were born in his house; one to him, the other to one of his slave girls, Roxana by name. Roxana was twenty years old. She was up and around the same day, with her hands full, for she was tending both babies.” (Twain 3). This is an example of differentiating between the two boys to show discrimination and say one was a basically an illegitimate child and was not acknowledged as a true son to Driscoll. Thomas Driscoll was born to Percy Driscoll and his wife but Valet de Chambres was born to him by Roxana.
Chambers was in danger of being sold a away as a slave because of his mother being part black, “From Roxy’s manner of speech, a stranger would have expected her to be black, but she was not. Only one-sixteenth of her was black, and that sixteenth did not show.” Roxy made plans to kill her child and herself to save them both from being sold away by Percy Driscoll, “‘Dey, sha’n’t, oh, dey, sha’n’t!—yo’ po’ mammy will kill you fust!’” (Twain 13). But as she is getting ready to do it she realizes they look exactly alike so she switch their clothes to trick her master, “She undressed Thomas a Becket, stripping him of everything, and put the towlines shirt on him. She put his coral necklace on her own child’s neck. Then she place the children side by
side,” (Twain 14).
Chambers and Tom were treated very differently because of they were born to different mothers, not treated as equals by anyone because of it, “Tom got all the petting, Chambers got none. Tom got all the delicacies, Chambers got mush and milk, and clabber without sugar. In consequence, Tom was a sickly child and Chambers wasn’t. Tom was ‘fractious’ as Roxy called it, and overbearing; Chambers was weak and docile.” (Twain 19). Since Roxy secretly switched their clothes everyone unknowingly treats a black man as an equal and a fellow white man like a slave, showing the prejudice and discrimination that is so ingrained in the minds of the people of Dawson’s Landing, Missouri in which the events take place, “He told Chambers that under no provocation whatever was he privileged to lift his hand against his little master. Chambers overstepped the line three times, and got three such convincing canings from the man who was his father and didn’t know it,” (Twain 20).
This prejudice and discrimination is even shown to be taught to Tom and Chambers and has an influence over them as well. Tom doesn’t even treat Chambers as an equal be cause of it, “that he took Tom’s cruelties in all humility after that, and made no more experiments.” (Twain 20). Tom was basically raised to treat Chambers like a slave “Tom staked him with marbles to play ‘keeps’ with, and then took all the winnings away from him….. He built snow men and snow fortifications under Tom’s direction. He was Tom’s patient target when Tom wanted to do some snow balling, but the target couldn’t fire back.” (Twain 20). This is symbolism of the thoughts of the townspeople that those of color were not deserving of the many things that white people deserved and received and symbolized the prejudice against Those considered to be slaves because they were of another skin color.
As can be seen the relationship between Valet de Chambres and Tom Driscoll symbolizes the prejudices and discrimination of the townspeople of Dawson’s Landing, Missouri.