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The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County


by Mark Twain

Analysis: Three Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I

The narrator enters a saloon and asks about the Rev. Leonidas W. Smiley. Instead, old Simon Wheeler corners him with a tall tale about a man named Jim Smiley, who loved to gamble.

Act II

Simon Wheeler tells us about Smiley’s old mare, who never looked like she could win a race but always gathered enough stamina towards the end to beat her competition. Then he tells us about Smiley’s old dog, Andrew Jackson, who also didn’t look like much and wouldn’t win unless there was money on the table. Then he’d beat the other dog easily. Then Wheeler tells us about Smiley’s frog, Dan’l Webster, and how Smiley trained that frog for three months to jump faster and higher than any other frog you ever met.


One day, Smiley bets a stranger that his frog Dan’l can beat any other frog. The man agrees to the bet, muttering that there doesn’t seem like anything special about Smiley’s frog. While Smiley is out catching another frog, the stranger fills Dan’l with quail shot. Smiley loses the competition. He doesn’t realize he’s been cheated until the man has left and he picks Dan’l up. Wheeler is interrupted telling his story and walks away. When he returns, the narrator has had enough of the storytelling and escapes.

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