Monday, May 30, 2011

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain

Published: 1884
Read: 2011
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Small towns along Mississippi River in mid 1800's
Rating: 5
Lists:  1,001 books
Review: Goodreads

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn picks up the story of Huck and Tom from where we find them at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Having read the two books back to back, the difference is marked.  Twain tells the stories of Tom and friends with a third person narrator, whereas Huckleberry Finn is told from Huck's point of view, putting the reader in the mind of an adolescent boy.  Additionally, in Huckleberry Finn, Twain uses several different dialects in the many scenes of dialogue.  While I typically find this tends to slow the story down, it was not the case in this book.

Between the two boys, I am more drawn to Huck.  I like him, despite his coarseness and aversion to becoming civilized and respectable.  He is honest, genuine and can see right through falsehood and hypocrisy.  He is a good judge of character, resourceful and quick on his feet. These traits come in handy while floating down the Mississippi on a raft with a run-away slave named Jim.  It is interesting to see the relationship develop between a slave with a bounty on his head and an uneducated boy.

Lest we forget, Huck is no angel for he does lie, cheat and steal but as a reader, I am sympathetic.  He only takes what he needs and tells lies to protect Jim.  The one time, however, he did lie to Jim as a joke, and saw how much it hurt him, we read:

It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterward, neither.  I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't done that one if I'd 'a' knowed it would make him feel that way.
Through a series of event, Tom comes back into the picture and boy, did I not like him.  At all!  He said he would help Huck free Jim, but tried to heighten the "adventure" factor by recreating aspects from  every prison or jail break that he had read in books.  What should've been a simple and fairly straightforward task was exponentially complicated by Tom's involvement.  By the end, things work out but those were some very frustrating chapters to read!

Favorite quotes and why:

When the widow was teaching him the Bible:
After super she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.

The matter-of-fact way that Huck described the abusive relationship with his father, Pap:

But by and by pap got too handy with his hick'ry, and I couldn't stand it.  I was all over welts. He got to going away so much, too, and locking me in.  Once he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful lonesome.  I judged he had got drownded, and I wasn't ever going to get out any more.  I was scared.  I made up my mind I would fix up some way to leave there. 
How Huck described Emmeline Grangerford and her room:
Poor Emmeline made poetry about all the dead people when she was alive, and it didn't seem right that there warn't nobody to make some about her now she was gone; so I tried to sweat out a verse or two myself, but I couldn't seem to make it go somehow.  They kept Emmeline's room trim and nice, and all the things fixed in it just the way she liked to have them when she was alive, and nobody ever slept there.  The old lady took care of the room herself, though there was plenty of niggers, and she sewed there a good deal and read her Bible there mostly. 
My thought - Josh's new bed is being used by his sister, but everything else is in his room.  I have set up a desk, reading chair and bookcase.  This is my place to read and write - although I don't use it as often as I thought I would.  Not sure why. 

Huck's moral dilemma - to send a note to Miss Watson that said where Jim was being kept or to try and free him.  Based on everything Huck knew from society and church, he would be giving up his soul to help Jim escape again. 
It was a close place.  I took it up, and held it in my hand.  I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.  I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: "All right, then, I'll go to hell" and tore it up.  It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said.  And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.
Final thoughts:  Why does this story resonate with me?  Because it is about a teenage boy trying to figure his way through life, towards maturity?  Trying to navigate through the sometimes silly rules laid down by well-meaning adults in society, school and church?  Adults who have forgotten what it is like to be a kid; when imagination runs rampant and all issues/situations seem bigger than life, when reasoning is crude and immature, but honest.  Is it because I ache to get "into" the mind of a teenage boy and by doing so, may get more insight to what was going on in my beloved son's head that fateful night? 

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