Abstract

The animals in A Horse's Tail populate a singular form of sentimental narrative that ties together animal welfare and the American frontier as a larger story of American national identity. Shelley Fisher Fishkin has called attention to Twain's fascination with animal and human emotions and Twain's associated reversal of human intelligence and animal ignorance in his writing. A Horse's Tale follows this dynamic by offering its horse narrator as a pragmatic commentator on human foibles. But Twain also democratizes human compassion toward animals as a progressive outgrowth of a mythological American frontier, fashioning the horse and other western inhabitants as empathetic characters while casting Old World traditions as artificial and inhumane. Twain's ultimate indictment of Spanish bullfighting at the novella's end thus casts animal cruelty as a hierarchical ritual of social conformity while recasting the American frontier as a foundational myth in the animal welfare movement.

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