What Is the Theme of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County"?

One theme of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" deals with lies and deceit. While the reader sees how deceitful the stranger is who tricks Jim Smiley, the protagonist, it is also Smiley himself who is deceitful. Smiley tries to trick people into believing the animals he bets with are lame or disabled with no chance of winning the bet. However, he oftentimes wins the bet.

Schmoop says Smiley is "righteously indignant," meaning he is angry in such a way that he feels that is the rightful emotion after the stranger tricks him by putting quail shots in the frog named Dan'l Webster. It appears Smiley is getting paid back for his own lies and deceit, although some say he is just being clever.

The distinction between honest and dishonest cleverness is another theme. Jim Smiley is clever in how he fools others with the animals he uses while betting. Although he is being clever, despite not being particularly well-educated or well-spoken, he is not lying to or cheating his opponents like the stranger does. What this boils down to is morality. Cleverness in and of itself is not dishonest, but the way the stranger wins the frog bet is clever but in a dishonest way.