“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain was discussed today among the BrownBaggers Book group. Most of us have read this book before, but that did not dampen the discussion. We launched right into Twain’s use of dialect having discussed this very subject last month when chatting about Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help.” The majority of us enjoyed the dialect in “Huck Finn” and felt that it allowed the novel’s time and place to flow over us as we read. One member who grew up outside the US said that she felt the dialect made this novel uniquely American and inaccessible to readers of other countries. So is this why “Huck Finn” is considered one of the great American novels?
Another discussion point was of Huck Finn’s tale as a coming-of-age story. As the 13 year old Huck runs away to a life on the River, he matures so that when his friend Tom Sawyer makes his end-of-the-book entrance in a dramatic and farcical way, Huck is able to shed his blind devotion to Tom that began in Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and see him as he is: a crazy romantic with ideas that come from books, not reality. Of course, Huck, without Tom’s advantages in life, must deal with reality.
We laughed a lot today as we remembered the humorous parts of the book: Huck lying his way, mostly ineffectually, through his adventures; Jim, the runaway slave, dressed as sick Arab, and so many other fun parts. When we considered our first impressions of certain passages that appeared serious, we realized that Twain’s irony may well have caught us up.
When Twain’s book came out, it was considered trash by many readers. Louisa May Alcott’s attitude of “Huck Finn:” “If Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses,” she said, “he had best stop writing for them.” Miss Alcott was instrumental in having “Huck” banned by the Concord (MA) Public Library. The book’s characters lacked morality for many of its readers. Christianity was bashed throughout.
“The Tales of Huckleberry Finn” is 4th most banned book in American schools. It is easy to see why with its view of Christianity, the view of African Americans, and its shaky morality. Does the humor and satire win out? If this is an American classic, what does it say about our culture and what does banning it say about our culture?
~ The Reluctant Blogger