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Never before or since has a novel divided opinion like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. On the surface, it is a light and enjoyable story about the adventures of rogueish youth. However, lurking in the background throughout are the decidedly darker themes of slavery and the outbreak of the American Civil War. Yet Twain's style is masterfully understated, showing the reader the world through the eyes of his impressionable young protagonist, something he had chosen not to do in Huck's companion piece 'Tom Sawyer'. Through Huck the reader is treated to a vernacular style that has since gone on to form the basis of much American literature but at the time was as revolutionary as the novel's scathing indictment of slavery.
Never before has it been more appropriate to declare a novel as suitable for all ages. Reading and rereading the novel at the ages of 10, 15, 18 and then as an adult must surely be mandatory for all who really want to discover how modern American literature was formed.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn has always been widely acclaimed as the first great American novel. Quite often Huckleberry Finn has been seen as somewhat of a children's book by people who have not read it in the past, however, this is most defiantly a misconception. True, the adventures in the book are appealing to a younger audience as they are exiting and fun, but the book deals with many serious issues from the 19th century. The book has been banned numerous times from schools and public libraries in the past in the States for various different reasons. More recently it was banned for it's continual use of the word 'nigger' and was said to be racist. This however is surely taking things too far. Although it may appear racist it was wrote in 19th century America and back then was seen much in the way of a threat through its anti-slavery nature.
But enough about that and more about the book itself! Well Twain wrote this book to follow on from his Tom Sawyer novels. However, if you've read Tom Sawyer in the past don't be fooled into thinking it's like them, as it most defiantly is not. The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer are written for children, whereas as I said, this is not. The book begins with the money Tom and Huck had found previously, 6000 dollars. Huck's drunk dad takes a great interest in this money and adopts Huck in order to get his hands on the money. However, Huck isn't about to hang around with his abusive drunken father. He sets about faking his own death and then setting out down the Mississippi river on a raft where he meets Jim, a runaway slave.
Jim is a very important character in the novel and how he is portrayed by Twain is just as important too. To start Huck simply sees Jim as someone's property and we see him struggle with his conscience helping Jim escape. Though as the book progresses, Huck's views change and they both form a bond. Jim is transformed from a slave into a man, and one of the most respectable and honest men in the book for that matter. It's not hard to see why this would have caused controversy in the 19th century.
The book gives an excellent insight into 19th century American life and what's more is a very interesting and fun read. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good adventure story, or a book that places you in a past world far from our own. I'd also strongly recommend this book to anyone studying American history, or history in general for that matter, as it's insight into slavery is excellent.
This book can also be bought in a 'penguin popular classics' edition from many good retailers for only 2 Pound (E.g. Amazon.co.uk).
Other Books you may be interested in:
The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer - Amazon.co.uk £2.00
The Author Mark Twain is definitely a brilliant satirist and this shines through in Huckleberry Finn. Despite the fact that it has been classified as children's literature, observing the novel deeper shall reveal a deeper more complex meaning. Mark Twain has managed to incorporate lighthearted humour with potential political bombshells. Historical Context When Huckleberry Finn was initially written it was believed that it was pro-black because of the society that existed back them, the images portrayed by Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn were considered positive and complementary of black culture. However, politics and culture have both made blacks more marketable and it is definitely clear that we as a plant have come a long way in tolerating and accepting different races and peoples. As a consequence, Huckleberry Finn and the ideas that in constitutes have been labelled as racist. A Children's Book? I believe that it can serve as a children's book because of the light hearted humour and almost comic sense of literature, but this is on the most basic levels of understanding one can have of the novel. I prefer to believe that it takes an adult, knowledgeable of historical content and the political state of the world to truly appreciate the images and ideas that Mark Twain is attempting to put across about black people. The Plot The story follows the exploits of a runaway child who befriends an escaped slave. The two travel down a river and interact with the world around them to undertake new and exciting adventures. Although the book is labelled as light heated humour and a simple book entailing the adventures of two peoples, it is the pranks and games, which should cause concern for today's society. Race relations have definitely come along way since the novel was written, for people reading the novel years ago, the treatment of black people would be considered rather acceptable, but toda
y, reading Huckleberry Finn may inspire feelings of inferiority for young back children and the insight of Mark Twain into this aspect is nothing short of brilliant. Style Of Literature The literature within the book is definitely shocking. The style of Mark Twain is to provide a book, which can be read on more than one level, and I believe that he has succeeded. However there are parts of the novel which stand out and are rather disturbing. Apart from the overall treatment of the black community, there is a parody of imprisonment towards the conclusion of the novel. One, which I would censor for young children. Humour It is very difficult to judge the quality of humour. It would be unfair for me to say that the novel is unfunny and totally unacceptable because it is not, rather quite the opposite. It is unfair for me to judge a novel written years ago by today's standards. I can understand how the book may have been humorous to a society ignorant of the black race, however, in today's society, where cultures and religions always entwine and socialise, readers may find that the humour is distasteful and unnecessary. I'll let you be the judge of that. Conclusion Huckleberry Finn is a tale that will shock and surprise modern readers who are used to the positive or at least neutral images of other races. However, this does not mean that the book is negative or that Mark Twain is a racist. No, I believe that every child and man or both races involved should read and enjoy this novel, because if we do not confront such texts, then we shall never understand the trials or ideas of our ancestors; and then we can never understand each other.
Huckleberry Finn just didn't do it for me. I'm pretty open-minded about literature -- I enjoy everything and what others find boring, I usually find interesting or even exciting. But while Huckleberry Finn had its moments of humor and interesting adventure, I felt like it was more of a waste of time. The characters seemed so outdated and simply uninteresting, the dialogue was a bit difficult to understand, and the plot line just isn't interesting. I've read Tom Sawyer before and wasn't too thrilled with that novel either, but I think it's ten times better than this one. If you have to choose a classic to read for school or for fun, don't be drawn in by Mark Twain's reputation. With so many good books to read out there, my advice is: unless you have to, don't waste your time with this one!
When Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn, it was considered a revolutionary text because it was so clearly pro black. In the eyars since then, culture has changed no end, as has the status of black Americans. The book is now considered racist. When first published this book was considered a piece of children's literature, following in the wake of the more tame Tom Sawyer. I would suggest that it isn't perhaps as suitable for the modern child, as the unpolitically correct elements would take a lot of explaining. twain is a great satirist, and much of his criticism of society would be lost on younger readers. His comedy is not jsut comic, it does also have some very important points to mak. it is not comfortable reading, nor, I suspect, was it ever meant to be. Reading Huckleberry Finn offers real insight into how race relations were perceived in the past. It is an intensly disturbing read - especially the hidious parody of imprisonment at the end. Once a children's classic, it is now most often to be found on undergraduate literature courses. Things have changed a lot for Huck Finn. To outline the plot, a boy runs away from home and picks up with an escaped slave. They travel down the river where various adventures overtake them. There are many characters and little tales within the tale, some of which are quite funny (a wonderful take off of Shakespeare) many of which aren't - The treatment of black figures in the book is disturbing by modern standards, the scams and games are worrying rather than amusing. This book really does illustrate how much we have moved on and how much more aware we are of other people as people. It says a lot about how humour has changed, and also provides a record of the mindset of a period. It is hard, reading the book from a modern persepctive, to know to what extent it was intended to shock, and how far Twain consdiered the content acceptable. Not knowing, we must make of it what we can
. I think the best advice I can give is, read this book thoughtfully, be aware that is written in a different era, don't be afraid to laugh with it, and expect to feel uncomfortable for having laughed.
If you're interested in censorship and how it's developed in the last few centuries, it's worth reading Huckleberry Finn and trying to fathom the extreme reactions to the book in various times and places. There's no doubt that many of those who denounced it were afraid of its power to suggest (as with Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye'). This fear is so great because of the book's many and shifting identities - is it a children's book? a travel log? a crime story? a buddy tale? If a book and its author can't be pinned down, they're threatening. As far as I'm concerned, these kinds of tension are what make the book enjoyable. There's something wily and admirable about balancing cartoonish capers with hugely relevant reflections on slavery, emigration and American identity.
Quite simply, a work of real beauty. Stepping away from the jolly but trivial boys' own adventures of Tom Sawyer, this novel enters the head of the considerably more complicated Huckleberry Finn, an instinctively decent, instinctively anarchic kid, constantly being lured into normal conventional life, and constantly rebelling against it. In this novel, he ditches society and with his friend Jim, a former slave, makes a long and complex journey down the Mississippi, dodging slavers, con men, and Huck's own father. It's a superbly written evocation of the South, with elements of satire and social comment. Despite controversy over the racial elements - some say that Jim is a stereotype, and the novel does contain words now very much taboo - but the extent to which Huck accepts Jim as his equal, as a friend over whom he has no superiority, makes this an anti-racist work for me (you are, of course, welcome to harangue me if you disagree). Only the sudden and somewhat unnecessary appearance of Tom at the climax in any way spoils it - this is a beautiful, cherishable book which everyone should read.
Mark Twain's tale of a boy's picaresque journey down the Mississippi on a raft conveyed the voice and experience of the American frontier as no other work had done before. When Huck escapes from his drunken father and the 'sivilizing' Widow Douglas with the runaway slave Jim, he embarks on a series of adventures that draw him to feuding families and the trickery of the unscrupulous 'Duke' and 'Dauphin'. Beneath the exploits, however, are more serious undercurrents - of slavery, adult control - which threaten his deep and enduring friendship with Jim.