When P. T. Barnum needed to move dawdling spectators out of his museum, he posted signs over the exits that read, “This Way to the Egress.” Standing suddenly on the street, Barnum's gullible patrons were left with two choices: pay for reentry or choose to see the world as the grand spectacle, the ultimate humbug. Barnum's sly redirection of his audience is re-created in Mark Twain's writing. Like Barnum, Twain challenges the boundaries of the joke, the fiction, the text. What begins as a romantic spectacle of fiction bleeds into the more inscrutable (and participatory) spectacle of its context: reality. This article examines this literary tactic in three texts: Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins, The Mysterious Stranger, and Mark Twain's Autobiography. Here, the humbugs of society, self, and celebrity stand under close scrutiny. The exhibition of the Barnumesque real-or-manufactured marvels forces us to the exit without ever admitting that the show is over.

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