Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Or, Birth Control for Southerners

The controversy last year (or whenever the hey-hah it was) about removing the n-word from Huck Finn or order to protect the sensitive squishy minds of college students everywhere gave me a swift kick in the butt about re-reading this.

But I didn't. The kick, it was not swift enough. Also? I read this in middle school and HATED it. This was back when something like personal preference about not liking to read dialects still influenced my opinions of a work as a whole (this is still how it is [for I am still 12]). Yes, my friends, it's true. I eye-rolled and huffed my way through it not because I didn't like the story or the characters, not because there were too many commas and not enough paragraph breaks, but simply because reading a written accent gave (gives) me a headache.

AUDIOBOOKS TO THE RESCUE! Why didn't I think of this a bajillion years ago? I'm from the south, baby, and no audible drawl will make me flinch! What genius! So. Off to the library I trudged, and into the CD player went the Twain. Success! I HEART IT'S FACE! Right? It's so sarcastic, how could I not love it? I will admit that driving around town listening to a loud CD that kept saying the n-word over and over (without the accompanying heavy beat that somehow makes it ok) made me a little self-conscious, but I got over it.

ANYWOOT. Thing I Did Not Like: Uh, the end? I felt like it trivialized slavery, and Jim's separation from his family and desperation to see his family, to have Huck and Tom f*ck around for weeks and weeks trying to recreate the escape from The Count of Monte Cristo. Of course, this just showed how desensitized the children were to the evils of slavery (and how ridiculous the "kind master" crap is), but I really just wanted to take them out back and make them pick a switch, if you get my drift. And I think you do (MY DRIFT IS THEY NEED A SPANKING).

Things I Did Like: Everything else. The King and the Duke parts were especially entertaining, probably because they reminded me so much of a Dickensian group of characters (the King, Duke, and victims). In fact, the whole thing sorta gave me an Oliver Twist Down on the Mississippi feeling, what with the grotesquely absurd villans and the not-so-hidden moral and the resourceful, scrappy, classless and lovable main character. In fact, I would say Twain is an excellent alternative for those who want classic social satire without the length, and with more sarcasm.

Summary: crazily funny, Dickens for the lazy, those boys need a beating, listen to the audiobook

Four stars out of your mom


  1. Kinda excited to read this one. I've never read anything by Mark Twain (well, except for one short story.)

  2. I read Huck Finn in high school and loved, loved, loved it. I even wrote my big final paper comparing Huck Finn with Holden Caulfield (and got an A, thank you very much). I'm glad you revisited it and had a better feeling toward it this time. :)

  3. Have you read this Hemingway quote from his Paris Review interview? It's pretty interesting considering your thoughts on the ending:

    "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn.' If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating."

  4. I HATE reading dialect too! I just finished Gone with the Wind (luckily there wasn't much), but it was making my brain hurt. I need to get on the audiobook bandwagon. That would most definitely help me with my issues. I also need to read Huck Finn again. I think I was 16 so it was a looooong time ago.

  5. I was traumatised by this book in secondary school. I'm British and we read it when I was 12. My English Lit teacher would make us all read it aloud in horrible mock-Southern accents and then humiliate us if it didn't sound authentic enough :/

    Nothing against Mark Twain himself though!

  6. I've read this one three tiems. Frist time, was like pulling-teeth trying to finish. Second time, tottally liked it. Third time, LOVEYOUFOREVERANDEVER. Of coruse, I'm a huge Twain fan but, honestly, I couldn't agree mroe with Hemingway's take on this book. It established American Literature as an actual presence in world literature and culture. If I remember correctly, you're not a big fan of Twain, right? Of course, I am - huge. I wrote a response to that argument in favor of censoring Huck Finn back in the day - pretty heated but, for good reason.

    I don't nkow what to say - Twain is incredible, this book is incredible. Perfect in every way (particularly in the ways which irk us, because Twain was doing it on purpose).

    Oh, and, the dialect. I typically hate reading dialect too, because most writers suck at making it work & most writers only include different dialects to show "characterization" - not good enough. Fortunately, Twain's a rockstar. :)

  7. And all those typos are brought to you by "trying to comment on blogs quickly because I am at work and have to look over my shoulder constantly..."

  8. James- YES. Hemingway stole my thoughts. Wait.

  9. I just reread this last month, and I was struck by how Twain immediately juxtaposes three belief systems: the insane justification of slavery (including twisted religion), the folklore of Jim's people, and Tom Sawyer's fiction-besotted brain.