Huckleberry Finn: A Naive Reading

I picked Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the first book on my American reading challenge for the simple reason that it was the first new book I’d ordered to arrive through the door. When I opened it up it looked as fresh and tempting as a slice of hot buttered toast, and by all accounts it’s a seminal novel, marking a distinct break between the literature that had gone before and the works still to be written, which could never now be free of its influence. I should also say that it feels very strange to be writing my reading of the novel here in my blog, which has never before entertained such proximity to the work of the day job. Stranger still because the reading I have to offer is one that is ignorant of critical opinion, something I would never dream of attempting with a classic literary novel under normal circumstances. And so I find myself in an unusual position in relation to writing about a book: ‘je ne sais pas sur quel pied danser’ as the French usefully put it. I don’t know which foot to dance on, the academic or the informal, and in consequence I can only term what follows a naïve reading, child as I am in relation to the immense family tree of American literature.

But it struck me that a naïve if ambivalent response to the text was not such an inappropriate thing, for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains perpetually divided between the optimistic cunning of the child and the ugly knowledge of the adult, caught as it is across the genres of the picaresque and the social realist novel. My initial response was to sense a great wave of Romanticism lapping at the shores of that serene and wondrous river, building its camp with Huck and Joe and marvelling, Thoreau-like, in the plentiful bounty of the great American countryside. Perhaps the landscape itself was going to work its magic on these mismatched yet oddly similar travelling companions, cancelling out the inequality of race by uniting them in their common plight of powerlessness, and awakening in both of them a newfound respect for each other’s tenacious desire to survive. But it is impossible to read the novel with such a simple focus. Repeatedly the hope of a utopian idyll is undercut by brutality and violence of a kind that struck me as visceral and shocking, particularly in what I had mistaken for a children’s novel. Even descriptions of the river bank that seem initially to celebrate the pastoral turn their lingering attention onto something disgusting. It’s comic, yes, and disturbing because the reader doesn’t know ‘sur quel pied danser’ either. Do we embrace the searing social critique of the narrative, or allow ourselves to be assuaged by its endearingly childlike creativity?

But this is after all a polyphonic text, a text of many voices, and what voices they are! When I first started to wade into Jim’s speech patterns, I did not know how things would turn out between us. For all its varied accents, the literature of the British Isles tends to sprinkle phonetic spelling across a text with a light hand. Most of us reading Thomas Hardy just skip the tedious paragraphs of Yorkshire dialect, doubting whether anything of value is being said. But once I’d become accustomed to the sheer rhythmic musicality of Jim’s voice, not to mention the voices of dozens of other characters whose vocal patterns are reproduced faithfully, I felt a surprising intimacy with them. It gave the narrative a striking immediacy, a scent and flavour of the South that brought the episodic scenes vividly to life like a series of dramatic vignettes. I’ve often found it to be the case with polyphonic texts that there is no ultimate coherence, no overarching moral or symbolic meaning. Instead the different voices offer a clamouring chorus of perspectives that retain their heterogeneity to the very end, undermining the possibility of a neat and tidy reading. The episodic structure only enhanced this discontinuity for me. As the story worked its way through its adventures, I felt that the longer the text lingered in one location, the Grangerford’s house, or Aunt Sally’s for instance, the more fraught the text became with its inner contradictions until it could only restore harmony by moving off again, by embracing the rootless freedom of the vagabond. My knowledge of American literature is patchy to say the least, but I wondered whether the overlap of innocent, adventurous childishness with dark violence and prejudice is identifiable in the fascination some modern authors display (and I’m thinking here of Joyce Carol Oates and Bret Easton Ellis) towards the beastly potential that underlies the smooth, complaisant, domesticated, or perhaps I should say ‘sivilized’ surface of society.

I don’t want to talk about the racial aspect of the text as I daresay it’s been done to death. But I did find a somewhat fanciful reading constructing itself in my head as the novel progressed. I couldn’t help but see the text as an apprenticeship for Huck in the art of narrative. It’s not that Huck begins the text a poor narrator and ends it a competent one, oh no, although Huck’s closing words ‘if I’d a knowed what trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it’ seem redolent with intent to me. But rather that his journey through his adventures bring him into contact with all kinds of different forms of tale telling from which he must construct a new form of narrative. He shows his inherent natural talent with the fictional reconstruction of a murder in the cabin in order to escape his unpleasant Pap and thus start off on his travels; he knows verisimilitude is the key, but throughout this account, verisimilitude is all he will have. Essentially, Huck’s relation to narrative is purely mimetic; he remains an honest recording device for all that he experiences, removing his subjectivity from the frame by the relentless passivity of his stance. Tom, by contrast, embodies the force of narrative drive, with his amoral hunger for plot. As soon as he appears on the stage, he instantly takes over the direction of the story, demanding ever more excessive embellishments and digressions. Jim, in this model, becomes the central hinge of literary narrative in the way that he provides an alternative knowledge, an alternative reading to bring to bear on the events that occur. Jim is the force of defamiliarisation within the narrative, the original vision that forces us to question the ‘naturalness’ of ideology and the all-too-well-known world. His new take on the judgement of Solomon: ‘He as soon chop a chile in two as a cat. Dey’s plenty mo’. A chile er two, mo’er less, warn’t no consekens to Sollermun, dad fetch him!’ shows how he can create new meaning from the old. Many of Huck’s encounters, and I’m thinking particularly of the Duke and the King, rehearse a variety of different uses to which story telling can be put, how narrative can function as a means of conning people, as a form of survival, as a poignant critique of ideological complacency, as a means of subterfuge (when he dresses up as a girl), and as a vital if reckless embrace of the unknown. The odd final section seems to me a warning of what might occur if narrative is allowed to become unbalanced. Tom’s desperate quest for sensation leads Jim (meaning) to be locked out of sight while Huck is left recording distress and uncertainty. Tom has to be hobbled in order for some kind of harmony to return. As I said, it’s a fanciful idea, but I couldn’t shake off the impression of Mark Twain setting out a stall of narrative ingredients available to the author on the brink of a changing world, and wondering whether the power of Huckleberry Finn lies in the multiple, contradictory possibilities for narrative that the novel embodies.

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28 thoughts on “Huckleberry Finn: A Naive Reading

  1. I so enjoyed this! I don’t read novels from an academic perspective anymore — after my stint in English graduate school I pretty much swore that off. But this interests me very much, particularly what you say about the various narratives. I like Mark Twain a lot and agree with you that his use of dialect really works. In other fiction (the Grapes of Wrath comes to mind) this sort of thing is just awful –terribly distracting and condescending. What’s up next on your American reading list?

  2. I’ve just started The Great Gatsby… It’s got a lovely cover (shallow as a teaspoon, me). I’ve also just discovered a copy of the short stories of Dorothy Parker that I didn’t know I had, and it’s tempting to interweave. I know, Dorothy Parker didn’t make it onto the original list, but you know how it is when something just falls in your path!

  3. I think your post title is a bit misleading — this isn’t naive at all! But I get the point that you’re new to American lit — and I like the project you’ve set out: to familiarize yourself with American fiction. It’s another project of the sort I wrote about on my post today — picking an author to read everything he or she has written. I love big projects! I just rarely follow through with them. I’d be interested in what you have to say about Parker, as I’d like to read more short stories, and I haven’t read her at all.

    I like your point about Twain rehearsing narrative forms — it’s somehow satisfying to see the ways authors contemplate form itself, even through narratives that seem pure story (if there is such a thing).

  4. Very interesting- makes me want to reread Huckleberry Finn as an adult. I missed so much of the context and reasonance reading it at school. I didn’t for example realise the feuding families who wipe each other out were like the Hatfields and McCoys- which I know is not an especially literary way to read the work but I probably have more of a historian’s sensibilities these days. Also interesting you didn’t find the dialect too tedious. I do wish the Brontes had never attempted it.

  5. The dialect wasn’t too bad once I’d got into it – but it was quite heavy weather at first until I began to see it. Your remark about the Brontes made me laugh a lot. I know just what you mean!

  6. Good lord, Litlove–if this is a naive reading, I’m afraid to ask what a sophisticated reading would look like. You’re absolutely right about the “sur quel pied danser” aspects of the text. We are completely thrown off by the many contradictions of competing narratives, narrative styles, and moralities. I’ve read (but would need to go back and look it up to verify all the facts) that Twain himself stumbled around trying to find his footing as he wrote the novel. Once the raft passes one of the tributary rivers (I’m too lazy to find my copy and check which one), Huck and Jim are now trying to escape slavery by heading deeper into slave country, and at this point, Twain realized he’d written himself into a difficult corner and had to set the book aside for a time. How do you write an escaped slave narrative by having the slave go into the really deep south? At any rate, a truly beautiful reading–this shows the true potential of book blogging!

  7. Oh, how fun! I’ve never read Dorothy Parker. I’ll be so interested to hear what you think. I loved the Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald in general. But then I was in my twenties –something about golden people and their lives and their mistakes mattered more to me than it might now. This is one terrific project you’ve set out for yourself. I’ve got a summer reading stack, but right now I’m looking through old recipes that I’ve rescued from ebay. Pretty soon, though, I want to get to some real reading!

  8. Thank you for sharing your analysis. It is such a wonderful book, but I wonder how many readers, like bloglily, have been turned off reading by the way in which a work is taught in school. When my son was 11, he was required to read Huck Finn for school. For a number of reasons, he had been placed in a middle-school reading class. Barely age-appropriate for many 13-year-olds, I really thought it’d be way over his head, precisely because it isn’t a children’s book. And, because he didn’t have the school experience yet, he couldn’t really write a theme paper on this like the other students. He also had to do a visual aid (Did I ever roll my eyes at that assignment!). So he created a raft out of pretzels. I was concerned that he’d never read Huck Finn again and would only remember the stupid food-based visual aid that Mom refused to assist with.

    A few weeks later I overheard him playing in his room, using the pretzel raft and his Star Wars lego figures. Had the raft become some intergalatic vehicle? NO! It was Huck & Jim, and Luke Skywalker & Han Solo, floating down to Cairo, evading a host of river characters and space creatures with bows & guns & lightsabers. In his own way, once he got beyond the teacher talk about the book and trying to understand what teacher meant by the plot, conflict & narative structure, he could understand it on some basic 11-yr-old level. Maybe an innocently sophisticated level that understood the similarities between Huck Finn and Star Wars. I recalled a professor talking endlessly about the Bildungsroman genre and boring a room full of college students, (most future teachers). Maybe if they first had read the work ‘naively’ as you put it, let it wash over them — enjoyed it as readers — then a more interesting discussion would have taken place on a critical level.

    Although your post may not have been informed by existing critical works, it is informed by the common language of criticism. I’m not suggesting that we abandon criticism. Not at all. In fact, I was lead to your wonderful post by Bikeprof’s post on The Return of the Public Intellectual. I agree with BikeProf that it is exciting to see “deep and, yes, sophisticated contemplation of literature” on litblogs. It’s why I waste so much time on the computer these days. I like the discussion; I like the intellectual challenge, comments about reading, and writing, and specific works that challenge me to think. But, I do wonder if sometimes the student reader’s interest isn’t dampened (or extinguished altogether) by the approaches to teaching a particular work (especially at pre-university levels). Do such practices lead to a further decline in reading because the reader ceases to enjoy reading for its own sake, feeling like he doesn’t “get it”? I don’t know; I haven’t taught in over 15 years, so my only recent experience is what I’ve observed as a parent — some good, some great, some horrible. But, like bloglily, I was burned out by an academic course in literary criticsm. It took awhile for me to return to books as a reader.

    Litlove, I’d love to read a post on your thoughts on this. And the thoughts of your readers, both those who have studied literary criticism and those who are just avid readers.

  9. Can I make a request? Please? I’d really like to read your blog but the lines are too long. Can you please make the lines shorter? It would really help with the actual reading process of your blog. I can’t tell you much I enjoy reading blogs that have short lines.

    Thanks. From Sydney, Australia.

  10. I love the Great Gatsby. I don’t want to prejudice you but if imagine that empty, hungover feeling you have at 7am the morning after a May Ball, that exqusite blend of a longing having been fulfilled and sadness now that your goal’s been taken away, and made into a book, that’s it.

    Though I was 15 when i read it so it’s equally probable I was just thinking about pretty 20s girls with bobbed hair and fst cars and didn’t pay that much attention to the words.

  11. I’ve never read Twain. (Aside: I find it desperately interesting how American school children read literature – like Huckleberry Finn – that is considered “formative” for their country and also, therefore, for their national selfhood. We don’t seem to have the same thing in the UK – do you suppose English-teaching is more didactic in the States? Admittedly I think that the pre-16 English syllabus here is in shambles – I took my GCSEs in 1999 and didn’t have to read a single novel for them. Shocking!) Anyway, back to your post. 🙂 Your analysis made me smile with how it struck out straight away into academic territory – narrative structures and stylistics; the semiotics of storytelling. And I found this interesting:

    “Stranger still because the reading I have to offer is one that is ignorant of critical opinion, something I would never dream of attempting with a classic literary novel under normal circumstances.”

    I haven’t written about a “canon” classic at Eve’s Alexandria yet, but I’m sure I would feel…uncomfortable?…simply responding to it as a reader, with my opinion and my impressions, as I would to a novel written in the last 30-40 years. I’d be inclined to read some crit first and to swim around a bit in “expert” readings…but I wonder, to what extant, that’s just my UK literature students fear that none of my initial ideas are worth expressing? It seems to me that this is another difference between American and British English teaching… There were a good number of Americans in all my lit classes at St. Andrews and they approached texts very differently. We “A” levellers went to the library even while we were reading the book to “find out what it was about”, while most of the American students prioritised their own opinions. In seminars there was a definite cultural-educational divide between Americans, who prefaced their points with “I think” or “It seems to me…”, and Brits, who more often started “I read somewhere that…”. We’re much more inclined to an authorative rather than a responsive mode of reading I think. Then again undoubtedly I’ve felt my reading skills enhanced by reading criticism, and puddling about in minds that are greater and more experienced than my own. Perhaps you’re idea of an intitial “naive” (and therefore immediate) reading is best, followed by more thought and additional reading?

    Goodness, I’ve rambled on and on today. Forgive me, I’m procrastinating wildly. 🙂

  12. Cam and Victoria – you speak straight to my heart. I’m obsessed with discovering what really works when teaching literature and what it is that makes people never want to pick up a book again. I’ll post on this topic later today and quote some of your comments, if you don’t mind. Frances and bloglily, I’m looking forward SO much to Gatsby after your comments. I think I’m going to adore it. And Dean, I’ll have a go and see what I can do, only please understand that I am hopeless with computers. The line length seems to come out naturally shorter on my oomputer in work as opposed to my computer at home, but I guess that doesn’t help you much. Anyhow, I’ll have a go over the next few days. Bikeprof and Dorothy, as ever, such insightful remarks from you about Twain. I’d love to read more criticism of the story now, but you’re right that I have done this before – 15 years or so of literary analysis to be added to my other offences, m’lord. And I get annoyed that I can’t shake off the academic discourse I’m so used to – the best I can do is play with it a bit…

  13. Litlove, by all means, you may quote me. I look forward to reading your post and the continued discussion on this.

    Frances — love your summation of Gatsby. Yeah, that’s it. Can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

  14. Here’s a vote for long lines …

    I must contemplate what you all are saying about academic and general reading — it’s so fascinating. I’m in a bit of a bind on my blog, because I’m trying not to get too academic over there, but sometimes that direction is the thing that most interests me. I suppose what’s great about a blog is that it’s a place where one can work on integrating oneself — I mean, a person can work to find a way to combine the general reader, the amateur, enthusiastic reader, with the trained, academic one. That’s what I want for myself, at any rate. In strictly academic writing, I can’t write personally, and a blog is a place to work through some ideas and topics that are intellectual in nature, but touch on the personal too. The best intellectual, academic thinking, or at least the stuff that interests me the most, is that which has some personal, individual relevance, that touches on what I think really matters in life — that’s where I get most excited. And, thinking back on my undergrad classes, those teachers that found a way to combine the intellectual and the personal were the ones whom I respected the most and learned the most from. I didn’t see any of that in grad school, and I missed it.

  15. Wow. My head is swimming from your post and all the comments–I am not even sure I can formulate what is in my mind! I seem to come from the other end of the literature spectrum. I find all sorts of blogs interesting–both the academic ones and those that are more from a reader’s perspective–if that makes sense as we are all readers. I read by and large for pleasure–I am most definitely a lay person. When I approach a book I read for the story and the characters primarily–I want to enjoy the book. But sometimes (lately) I question if I am doing it right. Of course enjoyment is first and foremost, but I do find now that reading criticism, or blogs like yours that are more analytical can also enrich my reading. I am still stubborn however–I always want to read it after the fact. I don’t want any surprises given away that will ruin the surprise of reading it. I want to discover what the author is trying to tell/show me on my own. Of course this would mean rereading for all the little details and tricks the author employs would be good or criticism after or reading it in a group so you can share what you discovering. This leads me to a question. Since I am purely a reader–I have no experience how an author is approaching his work (and maybe I need to start reading more about authors…)–how do you think they write? Do you think they writing a story just to tell their story? I am sure they must be responding to what they have read. Or do you think they write(and probably they are?–is this a stupid question–maybe this is what sets the great authors apart from the mediocre ones)purposefully and knowingly–employing all those tricks you picked up on? This is a lot to ponder on a Friday morning! By the way, I have yet to read Huck Finn. I have only read the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which seems far more playful and less dark.

  16. So much to respond to on this blog, as ever – will probably post only to have the new discussion already started. Oh well. I do the best I can with my lunch break. I should preface by saying I grew up in a small town very fond of banning books and Huckleberry Finn only made it back into curriculum when I was 14.

    1. I read Huckleberry Finn under duress – in 11th grade American Literature by a teacher who wore camoflage to class and often canceled class in order to go hunting. We spent nearly half a year on Moby Dick and by the time we got to Huckleberry Finn I was so sick of Walden, of the Deerslayer, of all this masculine americana thrown in my face that I can honestly say much of my undergraduate and graduate school curricula was a direct rebellion against this man – discovering Virginia Woolf was like learning how to breath again. So Huckleberry Finn did not move me the way it could have and I think I’ll return to it this summer. That said, I always thought Huckeberry Finn served for American boys much the same way King Solomon’s Mines did for the British – does anybody else see this at all, or am I off my rocker?

    2. I don’t think shorter lines on the blog are necessary – isn’t that an individual computer setting? It’s fine on my computer…

    And I want to respond to two comments from Victoria:

    I find it desperately interesting how American school children read literature – like Huckleberry Finn – that is considered “formative” for their country and also, therefore, for their national selfhood. We don’t seem to have the same thing in the UK – do you suppose English-teaching is more didactic in the States? —

    I think English teaching in the US USED to be more didactic – 20 years ago books like Huck Finn (and the Deerslayer, etc.) would have been used to develop our sense of national selfhood – ie, we are INDIVIDUAL, we are adventurers, we are at one with nature and ourselves and very busy chopping down trees and killing bears and rejecting organized religion. And George Washington couldn’t tell a lie and the Civil War was actually fought, originally, to free the slaves. These stories and myths certainly did, and still do, invade our schools and work to form a kind of national identity. But now you are likely to see books like Things Fall Apart, Disgraced, Beloved, Woman Warrior, etc on our readings lists…we still work on developing the national identity in primary schools, but actively questioning and and deconstructing it from then on.

    We “A” levellers went to the library even while we were reading the book to “find out what it was about”, while most of the American students prioritised their own opinions. In seminars there was a definite cultural-educational divide between Americans, who prefaced their points with “I think” or “It seems to me…”, and Brits, who more often started “I read somewhere that…”.

    Just wanted to stand up for a minute for Americang graduate education…this is not always the case… I went to the University of Pittsburgh for my MFA in writing and had to take several lit courses..if I had ever even responded once with “I feel” I would have been completely ridiculed. Pitt forces students to primary text and then to theory for class discussion. I sometimes think schools, when accepting graduate students, should look at the undergraduate pedagogy they received (oh, they probably do, I don’t know…) but there are schools that don’t allow that touchy feely sort of discussion. And I just did NOT want my colleagues or myself lumped into the great generalization of “all americans, in all classes…” – I worked too hard and Kant and Derrida and Foucault haunt me too much for all of that. that said, this same graduate school waged a war over the title essay of my thesis, “Haunted by Hemingway..” almost didn’t graduate…

    All that said, my friends and I have recently been having conversations about the recent rash of movies retelling the 9/11 attacks – these movies which are essentially cementing a particular version of these attacks, in essence – truly trying to AMERICANIZE the stories before the aftermath has even really happened. Amazing in this country how many people accept story for truth, and are more than willing to see it immortalized without questioning it.

    Ah well – my husband is applying to teach law in France for two years – just in time for a presidential election year. I can only hope.

  17. Danielle, I have to say that when I read you writing about the books you’ve read I wish I could express myself with the freshness and lucidity you bring to the review. I’m hoping that blogging will tone down the academic discourse, but I find myself locked into it as soon as I get near writing about a book. But you raise a very interesting question about authorial intention. It’s just my opinion, but no, I don’t think authors write being aware of the possible interpretations their works might provoke. I think they just set out to tell wonderful stories. There’a a good anecdote about Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote a play while in a prisoner of war camp that was supposed to challenge religion. When it was performed to the inmates, several decided to convert to Christianity. So authors can’t really control the reception of their texts, even with the best will in the world. I think there’s immense creativity on either side of the situation, with both readers and writers coming together in this thing we call literature, and that’s where the fun really begins.
    Courtney, I’m just so interested in all that you have to say. It is so fascinating to compare teaching experiences either side of the Atlantic. I think there are posts for both of us in all of this for many days to come.

  18. For a long time, I’ve been uninterested in literary criticism. But something I seem to have forgotten is that I wouldn’t be the reader I am if I hadn’t been taught how to read by literary critics.

    I was an English major at Yale in the 1980s. I wasn’t a sophisticated reader. I just loved words and stories. At Yale, really committed professors showed me how to read carefully, to think about words, to look at things in context and to look at them close up. And when it came time to write, what mattered was clarity and having a point. No one read literary criticism before they wrote a paper. It wasn’t expected or necessary. Instead, you talked about what you had discovered right in front of you.

    This training did not put me off in the least. The people who taught me had enormous passion for the poetry and novels and plays they taught. Those things were never texts, by the way. I couldn’t have read Chaucer if I hadn’t been required to memorize the prologue to the Canterbury Tales and recite it to my professor in her office the first day of the term. She seemed so pleased to be hearing it, although every person majoring in English who was doing this required bit of memorizing had been in her office already that day.

    When I went to graduate school in English — this time at UC Berkeley — I discovered that I couldn’t write about books I loved in the voice of an academic. It seemed to do a great disservice to the wonderful things I was reading to write about them in what seemed to me to be such tortured ways. That sort of writing seemed to partake almost not at all in the pleasure to be had in reading. I was not good at it, and my heart was not in it, so I went on to do other things.

    Now, if I were asked, I’d say that the writing about literature I prefer is that which most closely mimics the voices of the people who taught me so well how to read — well informed, accessible, smart, playful, and delighted to be able to share something they love so much. Why so little academic writing comes from that place is a topic for another day, of course. But it could be that blogging has become the forum for that other voice. Best, BL

  19. Wow! Inspiring! I studied Huck Finn in my American Lit course, and your “naive” reading surpasses anything that was said in my class. I think you’ll love Dorothy Parker. She is hilarious, and tragic all in one.

  20. Huckleberry Finn was a fairly quick read for me. The most prominent thing I noticed about it were the controversial issues mentioned: Slavery, gangs, and alcohol.

    While I understood that the book takes place in a time and location where slavery is normal, it took me a while to get used to reading “The N Word” on every other page in today’s world. I think that otherwise Twain did a good job of showing what slavery was like without getting too detailed and gruesome, however. He went into the mind of an escaped slave and talked about how the slave missed his family and had to escape dogs and being sold to his former owners, which I think was a successful tactic in making readers understand a little more about slavery.

    There were also a lot of alcohol and gang references. Huck’s dad was an alcoholic, the man in the circus was an alcoholic, etc. I liked that it showed how much alcohol can really ruin lives… and a whole family, for that matter- it caused Huck to run away! And the gang references weren’t all that powerful, but present nevertheless. It kind of saddened me to see the little boys forming a murder gang, even though they didn’t actually harm anyone.

  21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a great book. There were many controversial issues raised in this book. Some of those include slavery, violence, and drugs.

    The first one that was very prominent was the slavery issue. Mark Twain put the reader in the life of a slave and tried to make the reader understand what he wanted. It took me a long time to get adjusted to reading Jim’s dialect. The way that it was written was very clever, but a little hard to understand.

    Throughout the whole book, it showed a lot of violence, whether it be unnecessary or needed. The biggest one was the feud that the Grangerfords had with the Shepherdsons. They were fighting and hating each other and most of the family did not know why. In the end they all died, so Mark Twain tried to show that violence only leads to bad things. Huck’s dad was very violent toward Huck. Also, Huck and Tom were surprisingly violent also. They wanted to kill people and steal from them. The fact that even children were violent is very disturbing.

    Drugs were readily available to many people in the story. Huck had tobacco at many times throughout the novel and he also had access to alcohol. Later in the novel, he met people that had chewing tobacco and they were asking for more. This shows that people usually had some kind of drugs with them at all times, even children.

  22. I enjoyed the post you put up, but I must comment on one thing in this book that I did not approve of. Huckleberry Finn had so much racial controversy surrounding it, and I found it at times, offensive. I understood that Mark Twain had to capture the stories of slavery, in order for the reader to get the whole picture and not be mislead in thinking that slavery wasn’t that bad, but some of the sentences in the book, or the stories that Huck Finn told were grusom. The line in the story where Huck says that Jim, “allowed we was white folks and knowed better than him” made me see how inferior the black people were to the whites. Another thing that did not sit right with me was when Jim spoke of getting his children back and buying his wife back, and Huck reffering to him saying that as being a “lowering” of him. For someone to refer to a man wanting to steal their children back who were already wrongly taken away from them as being a “lowering” of them is absurd and quite stupid. This part in the book did make me question Huck’s morals.

    The word “nigger” was also used a little too much in this story. The only classification of a black person in the book was in fact, “nigger”. The line in the book saying, “give a nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell” gave example to that totally! The characters in this book talk of black people as if they were another species. The fact that black people were thought of as being inferior to the white people makes me cringe, so I would understand why people would post things such as,”racially sensitive be warned” or things off that matter.
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was indeed an amazing book, but the extremitites that Mark Twain took to capture the essence of slavery and racial controversy in the book were a little too loose. All I can say now is, any racially controversial naive people, BEWARE!

  23. I feel that this book was full of conterversy. The entire book was centered around the struggle Jim had to go threw insearch of freedom. Every character excpet for Huck and Tom treated Jim no differently thatn a piece of property. Jim was constamtly having to look over his shoulder because he could expiernce being shiped back into slavery at any time.
    I found it ironic that Huck was having to debate whether helping Jim was moraly “right”. He actually thought that by helping Jim he was doing something awful towards the person who owned him. It showed great currage by Huck to risk having to deal with proesecution (if caught) to save hid dear friend.

  24. I am in complete agreement with your statement “[The] Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains perpetually divided between the optimistic cunning of the child and the ugly knowledge of the adult”. This was the main aspect of the novel that caught my attention aside from the blatant racism.

    The majority of the plot is centered on Huck Finn’s constant urge for adventure and his many childish pranks. This is what it seemed like to me, the reader, in the first 5 or so chapters. However as I read on I began to realize that Huck’s adventures were a haven away from his brutal reality. (I.e. his drunken father and his struggling to be “sivilized”.) The situations that Huck Finn was forced to endure, such as his father kidnapping him, would create a sense of adulthood for himself, which he seemed to cover up with adventures and lies that were more age appropriate. (For instance his lie to Aunt Sally about being Tom, although he thought it to be an appropriate lie in order to save Jim, it was still in a childish manner.)

    Before I even picked up the book I had heard of the racial controversy surrounding “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Therefore, I expected the worst. Granted, my enjoyment of the plot was a bit tainted by the many racial slurs, but the story itself was interesting none-the-less. One conversation between Huck Finn and Aunt Sally especially caught me off guard. The two were discussing a recent explosion on a steamboat. When Aunt Sally asked whether anyone was hurt, Huck replied with “No’m killed a nigger.” What confused me most of all was whether this was a role Huck was playing as an ignorant Southern boy as Tom’s aunt would expect, or if this idea that a black life was worth nothing in comparison to a higher class white man was what Huck was accustomed to and honestly believed.

    Overall, I was pleased with “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Although it was sometimes predictable, I was interested none-the-less.

  25. I think that The Adventures of Huckleberry finn was particularly striking because it shows, frequently through a racial context, the innocence of a smart little kid that has been corrupted by his (unusually bad) experiences woth society. We see that although Huch frequently acts in childish ways, which is to be expected from a child, he becomes a better person when he stops trying to act like a ‘moral’ person from the society that he has been brought up in (reporting Jim as an escaped slave) and starts to follow his conscience.

    At one point in the book, Huck makes the desision that he will follow his conscience and do what he thinks is right – even if he goes to hell for it! Imagine that! A boy thinking that he will go to hell for doing what is right. Huck showed great courage standing up to a society that had betrayed him in the most horrible way.

  26. Since the first day that “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published, it has been denounced with racial controversies. When released to the public, it was banned by different groups, stating the book to be racist and rude.
    The way Twain uses the racial term “nigger” in Huckleberry Finn, is read with offense to some people. In my opinion, reading the story with terms offensive such as “nigger”, made the book more realistic. The book is supposed to make people feel as if they are experiencing the times of Hucklebeerry Finn.
    In chapter 34, the quote “Tom told me what his plan was, and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and maybe get us all killed besides. So I was satisfied, and said we would waltz in on it”, implies that Tom still sees Jim’s worth as less than his own. When Huck accepts Tom’s plan, it surprised me and made me realize that even though Huck beliefs have matured, he still has alot to learn about racial equalities. I vigorously support Mark Twain for the message he was trying to communicate to his readers, through the book “The

  27. Pingback: Ways of reading « Of Books and Bicycles

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