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The book of Mark Twain is a classic, and has proven its worth over a century, which until now provides significance to its readers, hoping against hope that convention is thrown out the window once the book is opened.
“don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of ” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied, one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is and Mary, and the Widow Douglas, is all told about in that book which is mostly a true book ; with some stretch-ers, as I said before.”
With a foreword that warns, the reader is shown to a way which could be bumpy at most, but worth learning and reading with as Huck takes the storyteller seat for the world to revel.
It is not easy to describe Huckleberry Finn as a storyteller. First off, Huck knew nothing about telling a story. He was illiterate. He could have been educated by Widow Douglas’ insistence and with the loads of money he has, but he has chosen to be an illiterate the time he told his story.
And he could not have done it any better if he had been educated.
Huck’s story started when he first attempted to get away from Widow Douglas’ house. Tom Sawyer was already very fond and attached to Huck at that time Tom promised one thing if only to make Huck come back: he would, “start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable.”
Judging from the choice of words, there is the “come as you are” feel on the way Huck tells a story. Huck’s storytelling was awash with respectability, as “respect” has subjective biases in an educated society. Everybody feigns respect so that the most despicable politicians seem to get all the respect which they do not deserve, so, right from the start, Huck’s storytelling show paradoxes, he agreed to become respectable “if” he could join the band of robbers that Tom would start.
Next, the listener/reader is told about what transpires after dinner at Widow Douglas’: “…she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushes; and I was in a sweat […]I don’t take no stock in dead people.” On this portion, Huck provides a much deeper understanding about religion, morality and giving importance to which do not really matter anymore, like the dead.
In the scene where Huck describes a typical day in his civilized surrounding where the widow’s sister: “she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad, then, but I didn’t mean no harm.” Here, we are provided with the transparent thoughts of a restless boy like Huck who is disciplined not to smoke, not to stretch away, or even how to sit up straight.
When told about the good place, or heave where good folks go, Huck inquired if Tom would be there, and when a negative was replied, he thought, “I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together,” showing his innocence despite the deep understanding he has about what he aspires.
There also is the technique of grabbing the opportunity to expound on a topic when Huck had it, as when Jim the nigger slave was first introduced. It was one miserable moment of itch everywhere on the body of Huck as he was about to escape with Tom in the kitchen when Jim came very near the place they hide and Jim waited until he dropped snoring. Tom played with Jim and the reactions of Jim as well as his retelling of witches and deads and travelling all over the world was inserted while Huck was at it, towards playing with Tom in the dark. The nineteenth century frontier had issues about slaves having their rights and political debates about the African Americans at that time. This book essentially provided a personal yet fair judgement that should be passed on the slaves during that time.
Truth, too, was something Huck takes with a grain of salt. As when he was made to believe about the mysteries of old lamps and genies of which he probed into and found the truth, he decided: “So then I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer’s lies. I reckoned he believed in the A-rabs and the elephants, but as for me, I think different. It had all the marks of a Sunday school,” showing how he could be as an atheist.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered as one of the first Great American Novels, or that one of the first major American novels ever written using “Local Color Regionalism”, or vernacular. It is considered a breakthrough, told in the first person by the eponymous Huckleberry “Huck” Finn.
For ages gone and to come, the book will be remembered for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. However, it will be most remembered for the sober and often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, racism, lies, and hypocrisy. In addition, the journey of Huckleberry Finn and his runaway slave friend Jim down the Mississippi River on a raft is perceived as the most enduring images of escape and freedom in all of American literature (Young, 1966). A boy like Huck, who was not educated and a cast out of society, provided good judgment on all the issues mentioned, his dedication for the good of his friend Jim.
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Huck’s life challenged has always been his shiftless abusive drunkard father he called “Pap” as he forcibly gains custody of Huck back to the backwoods where Huck is locked inside the old cabin. At this time, Huck was able to escape from the cabin as well as determined to run away, so he elaborately fakes his own death, and sets off down the Mississippi River of which he encountered runaway Jim in an island.
Huck encounters a lot more unrelated experiences with a lot of different peoples, but through it all, he has developed a familial bonding with the slave Jim. As for ethics and morality, Huck had all in his mind not to mean bad for anybody: “Mornings, before daylight, I slipped into cornfields and borrowed a watermelon, or a muskmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind. Pap always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back, sometime…”
With this, the reader/listener is exposed to the kind of orientation Huck has about stealing although the widow had earlier taught him it was bad. Through these un-seemingly deliberate uses of words, too, we now begin to be comfortable with the vernacular languages Huck used all throughout, shifting if needed depending on the character we are presented, such as the conmen he and Jim have rescued in the river of which they shared they raft. The conmen were pretending to king or a Duke, and Huck thought, “I read considerable to Jim about kings, and dukes, and earls, and such, and how gaudy they dressed, and how much style they put on, and called each other your majesty, and your grace, and your lordship,” providing us a glimpse of Mark Twain’s view of the royalty or the aristocracy.
The King went on to speak such as, “Like as not we got to be together a blamed long time, on this h-yer raft, Bilgewater, and so what’s the use o’ your bein’ sour ? It’ll only make things uncomfortable. It ain’t my fault I warn’t born a duke, it ain’t your fault you warn’t born a king so what’s the use to worry ? Make the best o’ things the way you find ’em,” showing the kind of representation that even current cultures should consider about. As they went on about, “…Jim and me was pretty glad to see it. It took away all the uncomfortableness, and we felt mighty good over it, because it would a been a miserable business to have any unfriendliness on the raft ; for what you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards the others.”
With these kinds of sublime thoughts in seemingly trivial, even funny situations, we see here a boy who longs for harmony as well as equality. Huck avoids complications brought upon by unperceived, vague cultures such as the royalty and having to deal with them in manners that un-initiated minds should.
Now as four fugitives fleeing farther south on their raft, the King soon find an opportunity to “capture” Jim and sell while Huck is away. AT this instance, we find a dedicated Huck, a friend who has decided to rescue Jim and decidedly, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell!”
Huck unfolds the stories in a way that every reader connects and learns about the characters as they are. Jim was sold for forty dollars to Silas Phelps, Tom Sawyer’s uncle. Silas’s wife, Aunt Sally, mistakes Huck for Tom, and Huck plays along as he finds a way to free Jim. However, Tom arrives for a visit, and instead of letting the truth out, agrees to join Huck’s scheme, pretending to be his own half-brother, Sid Sawyer.
The royal play was suddenly put to hold when Jim revealed the true identity of the conmen where the ton folks lynched them. But since Tom Sawyer has arrived, and ever the accommodating friend, Huck gave way to Tom’s schemes, with elaborate escape plans to free Jim. Secret messages, hidden tunnels, a rope ladder sent in Jim’s food, a note to the Phelps warning them of an Indian tribe stealing their runaway slave were set, and Huck and Jim went along with the plan until Tom is shot in the leg during a pursuit.
It was said that Twain wrote in the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Leonard, 1992) of a tale that centered on freedom. So that in a language that almost defied convention, Twain the Huck aimed squarely against racial prejudice, segregation, lynching, and against the generally notion that blacks were sub-human. In the end, we find that Jim was blameless, capable of loving and caring a nobody boy like Huck, a gentleman.
All throughout, Huck is perceived as between a moral conflict with the evident values of the society he lives in. He is at most unable to consciously refute those values even in his thoughts, but he made moral choices based on his own evaluation as well as in consideration of Jim’s friendship and human worth. As admitted by Mark Twain himself, the book is “a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience,” and goes on to describe the novel as…a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat,” (p 193).
It is also a great oversight not to mention Huck’s sense of humor. In many cases, the story-telling could elicit laughter and a pause to momentarily savor what is being told and what is beneath the story, between the lines. He presents in chiding manner popular cultures at that period as such when the royal brothers, “So the duke he told him all about who Romeo was, and who Juliet was, and said he was used to being Romeo, so the king could be Juliet.”
“But if Juliet’s such a young gal, duke, my peeled head and my white whiskers is goin’ to look oncommon odd on her, maybe.”
“No, don’t you worry, these country jakes won’t ever think of that. Be-sides, you know, you’ll be in costume, and that makes all the difference in the world ; Juliet’s in a balcony, enjoying the moonlight before she goes to bed, and she’s got on her night-gown and her ruffled night- cap. Here are the costumes for the parts.”
In the end, we find Huckleberry Finn probably one of the most compelling storytellers of all time. While his was not the easiest to digest nor to understand, using incomprehensible words, vernacular and twisted thoughts, we can dig deeper to a boy who is at most innocent and warm, one who looks forward to a better life for most of the individuals he encounter, and mean it for himself, too. Here, we find a boy who longs to be considered important, a boy who wants to feel needed, who gives importance to the bond within a family or friendship, and he has done it well through his uncivilized storytelling manner.
Young, Philip (1966). Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration. Penn State Press.
Leonard, James S.; Thomas A. Tenney and Thadious M. Davis (1992).
Hutchinson, Stuart, ed (1993). Mark Twain: Critical Assessments. Routledge.