Thursday, December 01, 2011

"Huckleberry Finn", the Great American Novel

Yesterday was Samuel Langhorne Clemens' birthday...better known as Mark Twain. In celebration, google's doodle depicted a scene from Twain's most famous novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

I read Tom Sawyer many years ago.It's OK...but my favorite Twain novel is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...I am not alone in this assessment. Many literary critics even consider Huckleberry Finn the great American Novel.

Twain published Huckleberry Finn in 1884. It was a socially significant work, unlike Tom Sawyer. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is filled with philosophical and practical messages. Perhaps the two most significant are the concepts of human understanding and individualism.

I didn't read Huckleberry Finn until I was in my early twenty's. It had a powerful effect on know when you read something or someone says something that hits you like a lightning bolt? That's what The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn did to me.

My favorite passage from the novel is below, but first some background...

Huckleberry Finn and a slave named Jim ran off together (I'm simplifying). During their time together Huck and Jim became close friends, Jim even saved Huck's life...but social and religious beliefs in the 1840's demanded that Huck return the slave to his owner, Miss Watson. Huck was taught it was a matter of right and wrong...a matter of being moral or immoral.

The juxtaposition of what society and religion tell Huck he should do, and what he feels in his heart, creates an enormous moral conflict central to the novel...and actually life itself. Huck gives his dilemma deep thought then decides to return Jim in compliance with the accepted standards of society. He writes Jim's owner, Miss Watson a letter in which he tells her he has her slave. As Jim sleeps and Huck navigates the raft down the Mississippi River he holds the pivotal letter in his hands and says...

"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'."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice Tony. I like it. Derp.