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Thread: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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    Registered User SilentMute's Avatar
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    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

    There are few books that I really enjoy. I may find them adequately entertaining and find some merit in them, but I can't say they truly stir me. The few that do are real gems.

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was one of those gems, and I have to say that I am surprised that it is overshadowed by The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer was a good book, though I personally loathed the hero of it. It is probably a book for those who are nostalgic about their childhood, or what they wished their childhood had been. However, I felt that Huckleberry Finn just had so much more to offer.

    First, its two main characters were much more sympathetic and likable. Huckleberry Finn is the sequel to Tom Sawyer. When the book starts out, Huckleberry is just starting to adjust to life with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. At first, he finds it restrictive and uncomfortable, though he is treated kindly. His initial objections are interesting to hear, for anyone who has ever tried to help the truly poor and disadvantaged have often been faced with these exasperating obstacles. The Widow buys Huck new clothes, but he finds them uncomfortable to the rags he usually wears. He finds a bed uncomfortable and prefers to sleep in a dirty hogs shed. He dislikes the established routine of his life--having a particular time to eat, to go to sleep, etc. He also has a problem that his food is too easily gotten. He prefers to catch his own meal. Essentially, Huck loves the freedom and self-sufficiency of his old ways. Yet, his ways cannot build him a future like the ways of the Widow, which conforms to society. Eventually, Huck does start to adapt--and though he misses some things about his old life--he also likes some aspects of his new life.

    His new life, though, is threatened with the return of his abusive, alcoholic father. The father had went missing, and some even thought he had drowned in the river. However, he is "resurrected" by a sure way to call back any missing relative...the mention of money. In this case, he has learned that Huckleberry is wealthy, and he wants Huck's money. He resents his son getting an education, thinking Huck is trying to be better than his old man. Though a custody battle is fought between the Widow and Mr. Finn, Mr. Finn wins because the laws do not like to separate a parent from their child. The judge tries to help Mr. Finn turn over a new leaf, only to learn that Mr. Finn has no desire to change. Once he has custody of his son, Mr. Finn then fights to have Huck's money turn over to him. To get away from everyone, Huck decides to fake his own death. This is when the real adventure begins, but I am getting ahead of myself...for I still have yet to introduce the second character.

    There may be prejudice against this book because how often the "n-word" is used (derogatory term referring to black people). The n-word was used in Tom Sawyer too, but not nearly as frequently as it is in Huckleberry Finn. Of course, the n-word was not always considered derogatory as it is now. At one time, it was merely a term denoting a "dark-skinned person". Also, though blacks were sometimes referred to in Tom Sawyer, I cannot recall that there were actually any characters that were black. In Huckleberry Finn, the supporting character is black...and his portrayal--if you look at it superficially--is an embarrassing look at how white people viewed blacks in this time period.

    I have heard arguments over the years about whether some books and other media should be rewritten (or redone) or some should be banned that depict derogatory stereotypes. As a Caucasian, I may not totally able to appreciate the sensitivities of those who hold this opinion. I have to admit that when you read these books and hear a term so often, it sometimes sticks in your head more, so maybe the concern is valid. However, I generally am opposed to revisions because I feel it inaccurately portrays history--and thus deprives future generations of valuable social lessons and pride over humanity's accomplishments. Yes, Huckleberry Finn can be embarrassing in its portrayal of blacks. This portrayal was actually quite common up until my mother's day. Blacks were often portrayed as comical, foolish, superstitious, and easily duped. If they were not going about saying, "I's too scared to go in dere, masta--dah ghost might get me", they were singing and tap dancing. This seemed to be the extent of the roles of black people in literature and movies for a long time. However, I think it is important that some record of these attitudes is maintained in history...as prejudice is very natural, I think we need these embarrassing reminders to make sure we don't slip backwards and regress. I also think that it shows that we have made improvements. Though the world is not perfect, and prejudice is still around, blacks do have more extended roles in the media and in society. America has a black president, and there are some notable black actors that do incredible work and never tap dance.

    The supporting character Jim, despite how ridiculous he seems in the beginning, is actually a very noble character with his own brand of wisdom. I find it unfortunate that because initially he is introduced in a stereotypical way, it may cause people to overlook this. I was confused at first of when this book took place. It seemed to be after the Civil War, and yet slavery still seemed prevalent. It turns out that though blacks were technically free after the Civil War, the reality was that slavery still continued to exist for quite a while after. Blacks were still sold like chattel. Why this should surprise me, I don't know. After all, even in this day and age--long after slavery has been considered illegal, human trafficking still exists like a dirty little secret. Illegal immigrants, orphans, and foster children are frequently victims of trafficking.

    Jim runs away from his owner Miss Watson after a slave dealer offers her money for Jim. He meets up with Huck after the boy has faked his death, and the two start their adventure together. Though Huck helps Jim escape, he often is conflicted in doing so. Huckleberry, after all, is white--and he has been ingrained with prejudices. Helping a slave to escape their owners is immoral and one of the lowest things you can do as a person. It is worse than even regular stealing. Huckleberry feels guilty because Miss Watson helped him learn how to read, and here he repays her by helping her slave escape. In the eyes of God, even, he is certain he is damned. It is an attitude that is hard to wrap your mind around when you come from a time where slavery is considered immoral (even if it still goes on).

    We get a better look at Jim as the story develops. In the beginning, Jim is stereotypical: foolish, a bit full of himself, superstitious, has big ideas for someone in his situation, and is easily duped. Though Jim is superstitious, many of his superstitions actually seem to be true. His superstitions seem to be based on acute observations and an instinct about human nature. Jim is loyal and has a good heart. He sacrifices his freedom and even puts his life in danger to help Tom Sawyer--whose selfishness actually has put Jim in a bad situation. Jim's priorities are always right. The story about how he learned about his daughter's deafness is heartbreaking.

    What adventures these two have! REAL ADVENTURES too, not fake ones that Tom so often has. I found this book thrilling! Huck fakes his murder, crossdresses to learn information, explores a wrecked ship, just to name a few! I was often breathless with some parts, and some parts are hilarious! On the way, he meets many people and encounters many situations that show social problems and ridiculous concepts. For example, he gets adopted by a family called the Grangerfords--and this part of the story has a "Romeo and Juliet" subplot going on. This family is at war with a neighboring family over a grudge that nobody can remember, and yet it doesn't stop them from killing each other. They both go to the same church, where there is a temporary truce inside, but outside they shoot each other again.

    Tom Sawyer has a thankfully small role in this book (I have already mentioned that I loathe this character). I don't know how old this kid is supposed to be, but I still maintain he is a little sociopath and totally lacking in any concept of reality. Though children don't always understand consequences and can be inconsiderate, I still think Tom is too extreme to blame it on youth. His inconsideration of other's feelings goes beyond normal. We blame television for giving people unrealistic concepts, but Tom manages to be heavily influenced by books (though I am surprised the boy reads at all). In his obsessive desire to do things like people in books do them, he puts his friends in horrible danger and causes everyone a lot of distress.

    The ending of the book was a little ridiculous, and I felt it was perhaps taking a bit too much artistic license. I had a hard time believing that Jim would put up with what he did and stay in a prison that he could escape out of. Jim is good-natured, but he seems to be lacking good sense at the end that he has shown throughout the book. However, it does give him the chance to show his goodness.

    I haven't read enough of Mark Twain's books to know if I consider this to be the best of his works. I just know that I prefer it to Tom Sawyer. Apparently, he really struggled writing it. It took seven years. Others who have remarked that the ending is disappointing believe that he rushed it just to be done with it. He wrote several adventures featuring Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. It seems that he often used these books to highlight issues in societies, but apparently some stories did not get finished because he could not maintain the light-heartedness that he seemed to make a must for these books. For instance, there was one story about a pioneer family who gets killed by Indians--and the story did not get finished because he has one of the kidnapped daughters being raped. Other stories didn't get finished because perhaps they broke other rules. There was one where Tom and Huck are old men reminiscing about their lives...and apparently, people didn't want these characters to age (though I believe they did grow up to be men in some completed stories).

    I do recommend this book. The character development, the societal portrayals, and the exciting adventures make it a worthwhile read. I believe it has something for everyone, and I think it can appeal to a wider audience.
    I don't care if the glass is half full or half empty, I'm just glad to have a glass.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    It sounds like you enjoyed it. I remember reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a boy and liking it, but I could not get on with Hucklebury Finn. It was too long and sprawling.

    Regarding racial prejudice in books: I can see there is a case for editing out derogatory terms and stereotypes in children's books. You wouldn't want to upset black children, or possibly spread racist attitudes to white children, or give ammunition for taunting black kids. I don't think it right to censor racism from adult books, especially those books written at times when those attitudes were more common. Sometimes that makes for uncomfortable reading.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User SilentMute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    It sounds like you enjoyed it. I remember reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a boy and liking it, but I could not get on with Hucklebury Finn. It was too long and sprawling.

    Regarding racial prejudice in books: I can see there is a case for editing out derogatory terms and stereotypes in children's books. You wouldn't want to upset black children, or possibly spread racist attitudes to white children, or give ammunition for taunting black kids. I don't think it right to censor racism from adult books, especially those books written at times when those attitudes were more common. Sometimes that makes for uncomfortable reading.
    Your comment reminded me of something embarrassing that happened to my mother. She had never read much as a child, but when she married my father, she took an interest in reading the classics. She read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and found it the first book she was able to understand. She didn't really have good reading comprehension. She wanted to read Huckleberry Finn and asked the librarian where she could find it. The librarian sniffed and said, "Oh, that is in the juvenile section." I suppose it is considered juvenile literature, though really...I think the social commentary in itself makes it worthwhile for adults to read.

    As for children, I think the rule with books should be how it is with movies. You wait until a child is at an age where they can understand when something is acceptable or isn't--and preferably, an adult should talk about it with them.
    I don't care if the glass is half full or half empty, I'm just glad to have a glass.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SilentMute View Post
    Your comment reminded me of something embarrassing that happened to my mother. She had never read much as a child, but when she married my father, she took an interest in reading the classics. She read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and found it the first book she was able to understand. She didn't really have good reading comprehension. She wanted to read Huckleberry Finn and asked the librarian where she could find it. The librarian sniffed and said, "Oh, that is in the juvenile section." I suppose it is considered juvenile literature, though really...I think the social commentary in itself makes it worthwhile for adults to read.

    As for children, I think the rule with books should be how it is with movies. You wait until a child is at an age where they can understand when something is acceptable or isn't--and preferably, an adult should talk about it with them.
    I think words, whatever they are should not be erased. Under the proper use and context, it is only the racist that can't take them.

    Regarding the so-called summary, it is quite rich, quite a luxury, far more than a summary.
    Last edited by cafolini; 09-15-2013 at 12:37 PM.

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    I read this recently a hugely enjoyed parts of it. The ending was very poor though, and I also felt other bits could have been cut; they seemed to have been written separately then jammed into the novel. The whole time I was reading him I was comparing him to Dickens. Like Dickens he was a good-humoured, deeply humane man with progressive, mid-nineteenth century views, who hoped to alter attitudes and behaviour in some small way. But he just doesn't have Dickens' extraordinary imagination (and I mean imagination, not fantasy).

    I loved Huck himself though. He is easily my favourite character in all American literature (and one of my favourite characters of all time).

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    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES View Post
    I read this recently a hugely enjoyed parts of it. The ending was very poor though, and I also felt other bits could have been cut; they seemed to have been written separately then jammed into the novel. The whole time I was reading him I was comparing him to Dickens. Like Dickens he was a good-humoured, deeply humane man with progressive, mid-nineteenth century views, who hoped to alter attitudes and behaviour in some small way. But he just doesn't have Dickens' extraordinary imagination (and I mean imagination, not fantasy).

    I loved Huck himself though. He is easily my favourite character in all American literature (and one of my favourite characters of all time).
    Ridiculous. There, in Huckleberry Finn, is the place where Mark Twain hoped the least. He absolutely knew that he had written The American Novel and said so later. The day anyone lets you play this game and moderate Twain, it will be a cold day in Hell. Twain had USA eternal views in this novel, not just mid-nineteen century ones. Good Day.

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    Registered User SilentMute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafolini View Post
    Ridiculous. There, in Huckleberry Finn, is the place where Mark Twain hoped the least. He absolutely knew that he had written The American Novel and said so later. The day anyone lets you play this game and moderate Twain, it will be a cold day in Hell. Twain had USA eternal views in this novel, not just mid-nineteen century ones. Good Day.
    Dang, cafolini!

    I have to say, I'm always surprised how passionate people can be about books. I don't mean disrespect by this comment. Passion can be admirable, but I do wonder if people who feel so strongly about things will burn themselves out. The world is a difficult enough place to live in and will certainly provide enough trauma to get upset about. I sometimes like the idea of joining a book club, but I have to say I find it a little intimidating. Not liking a book someone else likes and saying so can be the equivalent of saying their child is ugly or spouting, "Hitler was right!" You can get into so much trouble!
    I don't care if the glass is half full or half empty, I'm just glad to have a glass.

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafolini View Post
    Ridiculous. There, in Huckleberry Finn, is the place where Mark Twain hoped the least. He absolutely knew that he had written The American Novel and said so later. The day anyone lets you play this game and moderate Twain, it will be a cold day in Hell. Twain had USA eternal views in this novel, not just mid-nineteen century ones. Good Day.
    Sorry, I don't recall you being appointed arbiter of literature, so I'd be keen to see the edict where that happened.

    Wickes is as welcome to make comment on Mark Twain as he is on Shakespeare, Steinbeck or Solzhenitsyn.

    Even better, what he says is quite correct; Huck Finn is written as a series of anecdotes stitched together. Then again, so's the bible, I hear, and that's pretty highly rated. (not by me, I hasten to add)

    Twain himself was a horrible character - mean & bigoted (not against blacks) and superstitious while atheist. The man was a loon who gained & lost fortunes on spurious whims. I love the man and his life, but I wouldn't wish him on anyone.

    Wickes is also correct that Twain has nowhere near the richness and detail of a Dickens, but I don't see why he should, or even why that's a good thing.

    Huck Finn the book, like its namesake boy, is magnificent, not flawless.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
    Sorry, I don't recall you being appointed arbiter of literature, so I'd be keen to see the edict where that happened.

    Wickes is as welcome to make comment on Mark Twain as he is on Shakespeare, Steinbeck or Solzhenitsyn.

    Even better, what he says is quite correct; Huck Finn is written as a series of anecdotes stitched together. Then again, so's the bible, I hear, and that's pretty highly rated. (not by me, I hasten to add)

    Twain himself was a horrible character - mean & bigoted (not against blacks) and superstitious while atheist. The man was a loon who gained & lost fortunes on spurious whims. I love the man and his life, but I wouldn't wish him on anyone.

    Wickes is also correct that Twain has nowhere near the richness and detail of a Dickens, but I don't see why he should, or even why that's a good thing.

    Huck Finn the book, like its namesake boy, is magnificent, not flawless.
    LOL Stop piggybacking on well-known idiocy. Watch what you say and start making sense. It's absolutely obvious that a bigot like you would like to make Twain a lovable bigot like you. Twain was not an atheist. He was far from stupid. He never said he was an atheist. But he understood atheism well enough to mock it anywhere. Besides, I don't see why Wickes could need your dumb help on this.

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafolini View Post
    Twain was not an atheist.
    He sure was as regards the gods of religion, which is plenty good enough for me. If anything, he was a soft deist of the Spinoza kind. His writing on the subject is there to see.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Atheist View Post
    He sure was as regards the gods of religion, which is plenty good enough for me. If anything, he was a soft deist of the Spinoza kind. His writing on the subject is there to see.
    Twain laughed at Spinoza's ridiculousness. He would have sent him, like Nietzsche, with a lantern to look for God in the physics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cafolini View Post
    Ridiculous. There, in Huckleberry Finn, is the place where Mark Twain hoped the least. He absolutely knew that he had written The American Novel and said so later. The day anyone lets you play this game and moderate Twain, it will be a cold day in Hell. Twain had USA eternal views in this novel, not just mid-nineteen century ones. Good Day.
    I've re-read your comment several times and can't really understand what you mean- in fact the only bits that make sense are 'ridiculous' and 'good day'. If someone can explain to me what the hell 'having USA eternal views' means I'll be grateful. I have never wished to "play the game" (?!) of "moderating Twain" (?!). I wrote that he held 'progressive views' in the sense that, like Dickens, he was uncomfortable with the injustice and cruelty he saw around him and hoped to build a better society, but that is not the same as 'believing in progress'. You can hope to reduce inequality, dismantle slavery, obtain votes for women etc and still be a pessimist. From what I know of Twain he had a pretty bleak view of the human predicament and probably didn't believe in any kind of utopia. Like so many humane, sensitive individuals he just hoped to 'make things a little less awful', which is still a fairly noble ambition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES View Post
    I've re-read your comment several times and can't really understand what you mean- in fact the only bits that make sense are 'ridiculous' and 'good day'. If someone can explain to me what the hell 'having USA eternal views' means I'll be grateful. I have never wished to "play the game" (?!) of "moderating Twain" (?!). I wrote that he held 'progressive views' in the sense that, like Dickens, he was uncomfortable with the injustice and cruelty he saw around him and hoped to build a better society, but that is not the same as 'believing in progress'. You can hope to reduce inequality, dismantle slavery, obtain votes for women etc and still be a pessimist. From what I know of Twain he had a pretty bleak view of the human predicament and probably didn't believe in any kind of utopia. Like so many humane, sensitive individuals he just hoped to 'make things a little less awful', which is still a fairly noble ambition.
    You are absolutely right. If Twain were here today, he'd prescribe Baptism by Fire. Careful. ROFLMAO.

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafolini View Post
    Twain laughed at Spinoza's ridiculousness. He would have sent him, like Nietzsche, with a lantern to look for God in the physics.
    a lantern? it sounds like very little light for god to be found especially if it is in Physics.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    As for children, I think the rule with books should be how it is with movies. You wait until a child is at an age where they can understand when something is acceptable or isn't--and preferably, an adult should talk about it with them.
    will all due respect to what you are saying but I tend to disagree when it comes to children and adults.
    I think children should be able to read anything and everything an adult writes/makes and vice versa.
    therefore an adult must take it onto their stride to present materials that are suitable to children at all times.
    to tell a child they were not allowed a certain book or film is hypocritical and says a lot about what an adult thinks of a child.
    an adult in my views should take children into accounts whenever and whatever.
    a child must be included in everything society has to offer and therefore it is in my firm views that it is responsibility of an adult to ensure that what he or she is doing/producing/creating/saying/doing is totally child safe or child friendly 24/7.
    a healthy society in my opinions is a society where adults behave in accordance to a child well being. to expect a child to behave as well as be told he or she cannot watch that or read this is in my view hypocritical and says a lot about what adults think of children.
    behaviour is not just about telling it is a lot about showing. when and if an adult behave sensibly because he or she is aware that there are children about then there is no need to tell. the adult leads by example and the child follows. adults behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.
    Last edited by cacian; 10-07-2013 at 08:51 AM.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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