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Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain


Book Description
Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. More than a century after its publication it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure story and as a classic of American humor.

From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 06:02 PM Today starts the official discussion of this American classic. I still have about 100 pages to go. This is one of those classics that I somehow missed in my wayward youth. I'm not sure why - probably because I considered it a "boys" book and because I felt overwhelmed at the thought of reading all that dialect. These days it is holding my interest, although I still have some trouble with the dialect, especially when Jim is speaking. Over the years this book has been criticized as an unsuitable book for students to read in school because of the use of racial language and the portrayal of Jim. What do you all think? Is the book more suitable for older readers? After all these years, does it still retain its humorous punch? Ann
From: Dale Short xyzdshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 07:25 PM Ann: I'm at about the halfway point of HUCKLEBERRY FINN, and it's like a breath of fresh air in my reading of late. I know I read this before when I was in my 20s, but I have almost no memory of it, so it's essentially new to me. I hope to wrap up by the weekend and offer my two cents. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 10:01 PM I've read this 3 times, once when I was young, again in my 20s when I read it aloud to my children, and again when I was about 40. I haven't given it a 4th go round for this discussion, but I'll be hanging out here to see what everyone says. It's one of the great novels of the English language, and I think children should read it. My kids were about 7 and 12 when I read it to them. Kids much younger wouldn't be interested. Kids that age can understand what little explanation is needed about racial attitudes. R The English language includes more than 250,000 words. Good combinations are still available. ---David Knoebel
From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 07:30 AM I think I've read this, but I'm not sure. Many many parts seem vividly familiar, and others seem very new. I know several of the passages were performed by Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight, so that explains their familiarity. But it doesn't matter, I guess. It's a great book. I don't understand why schools think children can't understand irony. It's important for them to see first-hand what attitudes were like back then. It will give them a greater understanding of today's world. I'm having a bit of a hard time with Jim's dialect, too, but somehow, when I slow down and say it almost aloud, it makes sense. Also coming from the South helps. Sherry
From: Anne Wilfong annewilfong@comcast.net Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 10:34 AM I'm about half way through this. Like Ann, I don't know how I missed this book in my youth. Maybe because I read the Classic Comic Book, and that was good enough for me. I find it delightful, compelling, disturbing, and fun, all wrapped up together. Jim doesn't bother me as a character--this was pre-Civil War. The way it was. The dialect is easy for me, coming from the south. I can't wait to get back to this book every day. Haven't had a book like that in a long time. How refreshing. Anne
From: Dale Short xyzdshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 10:46 AM Anne writes, I can't wait to get back to this book every day. I agree, Anne. Refreshing, indeed. It just occurred to me that the way this narrative is organized...a little story arc within each chapter, and a teaser at the end...suggests it might have been published in serial form. Does anybody know? I've looked around on the Web and can't find a straightforward answer. I did run across this paragraph, though, that puts Huckleberry Finn into perspective, chronology-wise... In the early 19th century, the novel also enjoyed tremendous popularity in the United States with the works of authors such as James Fenimore Cooper. Around 1850 the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville propelled the American novel to its full power. Later, Mark Twain made the first linguistic break with British tradition using forms and cadences of the American South in his works The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, thus proving that North American English had its own unique literary merit. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: David Moody davidmoody22@aol.com Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 01:39 AM Dale, you might try this site: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/huckfinn/huchompg.html It indicates that Twain generally did not pre-publish his novels in serial form. For Huckleberry Finn he did made a partial exception and did allow publication of excerpts, but it doesn't appear that the whole novel appeared in this format. David
From: Felix Miller felix3rd@americainter.net Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 09:11 AM All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.-from Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway. That homage from Hemingway to Mark Twain is famous, and on the mark. Before Huck, characters in fiction in this country talked in dialect for comic effect, or in crude parody of language as it was really spoken. Reading some of the passages in Huckleberry Finn, especially the descriptions of rafting on the river, show the debt to Mark Twain that Hemingway acknowledged. I notice that several folks are reading this book for the first time, and may not have finished it before they read my post, so I will alert them to: There is this further comment in Hemingway's book, making another excellent point. Hemingway says: If you read [Huckleberry Finn] you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. This is the real end. The rest is just cheating. From the capture of Jim to the end of the book, the writing turns farcical, harking back to Tom Sawyer, which was a wholly different sort of book. What was in character for the earlier book is much out of place in the story of Huck and Jim. In a literature class long ago, a professor told us that at that point, Jim being captured, Twain fell into a bad case of writer's block. Twain turned aside from Huck and Jim, and wrote other things. It took seven years before the story of Huck and Jim was completed. The disjointed parts of the book result from this long pause. I think Hemingway was wrong in saying that Huckleberry Finn was truly ended at the point of Jim's capture. I think that had Twain been steeled enough to show what really would have happened following the capture, the book would have ended as a tragedy. If not lynched, Jim would have been returned to the Widow. I doubt, also, that manumission would have been Jim's reward in a realistic ending. Huck, disillusioned, would have "lit out for the territories," I am sure, sickened by the cruelty and hypocrisy that doomed Jim. Twain was unable to do this to Jim and Huck, so the "cheating" that offended Hemingway. But that is quibbling, and Hucklebery Finn is a great book. I have read it though several times over the years, and still pick it up occasionally just to read some of the wonderful passages, especially the descriptions of life on the river. Felix Miller mightymarvell.com The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 11:53 AM Good point, Felix. There is definitely a "turn" in the book after Jim's capture. And I agree, it's the weakest part of the book. R The English language includes more than 250,000 words. Good combinations are still available. ---David Knoebel
From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 12:58 PM But I agree with Felix. If it were a tragedy, somehow I doubt the book would have been as much of an icon as it has become. Even if plotwise it was weak there, at least it suffuses the book with a kind of hope. Whether that hope is realistic or not is an arguable point, but at least it's something one can strive for in this often hopeless world. Sherry
From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 02:10 PM It's not the note of hope that rang wrong with me though. It's the Three Stoogesism. R The English language includes more than 250,000 words. Good combinations are still available. ---David Knoebel
From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 02:28 PM I see what you mean, Ruth. Tom Sawyer and all his weird machinations to get the escape done right. I thought that was kind of lame. But maybe kids would like that part. Zany. Sherry
From: Felix Miller felix3rd@americainter.net Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 02:55 PM It's the Three Stoogesism. Heh. Exactly, Ruth. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck, Huck. Felix Miller mightymarvell.com The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, June 03, 2004 11:03 PM I am just finishing Tom Sawyer...thought I better read it first. This is so good. I love all the notes here, and I agree, it is really refreshing to read this. I also LOVE the vernacular(just wanted to throw out a big word) or dialect. Love it!!! Can't wait to get to Huck Finn. I read Classic Comics too.
From: David Moody davidmoody22@aol.com Date: Friday, June 04, 2004 09:54 PM The wild escape plan did go on a bit too long, but it had plenty of parts that left me chuckling. Reminded me more of Don Quixote than the Three Stooges. I can't imagine this novel ending unhappily, Hemingway notwithstanding. The whole thing is just one long, unbridled lark; why introduce reality at the end of it? I wonder if Twain's difficulty in ending the book was related to Huck's ambivalent attitude toward slavery. David
From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, June 05, 2004 08:33 AM Where's Rasmussen when you need him? It would be fascinating to know why he had such a hard time ending it. Maybe he thought it really should be a tragedy but couldn't bring himself it make it one. Sherry
From: Dale Short xyzdshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, June 07, 2004 10:01 AM Sherry: Kent R. might not be here, but I've got the next best thing...his incomparable reference book, MARK TWAIN A-Z. Even the first line of the "Huckleberry Finn" entry points out something I didn't know..."Huckleberry is 19th century slang for an inconsequential person." As to the novel's structure and ending, Kent writes thusly: *** As is the case with most of Mark Twain's books, the structure of Huckleberry Finn is flawed. Its problems reflect Twain's uncertainties about what kind of book he was writing. He begins it in the same light spirit as Tom Sawyer, whose sequel he initially intended it to be. Then he shifts to a more sober tone as he sends Huck and Jim down the Mississippi River. Finally, he returns to the light mood of the beginning with a long--and now much reviled--concluding sequence. The novel's greatest strengths lie in its central chapters, set on the river. Despite its structural inconsistencies, the book achieves greatness through Twain's decision to tell its story through the voice of a simple, uneducated boy. It is the first major American novel written entirely in an authentic vernacular. School officials and librarians regarded the book's language as unnecessarily coarse and banned it for this reason, as well as for its presumably objectionable morals; however, the book's language has come to be appreciated as the core of its realism, and as a feature that makes the book a valuable document of its time. It should be noted that the full title appearing on the title page and cover of the first edition of this book is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade). E.W. Kemble's illustration for the half-title page that opens the first chapter reads "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"; however, "The" is not properly part of the book's title, though it has been used more often than not in reprint editions. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Ginn Tsai ginny2005@msn.com Date: Monday, June 07, 2004 12:35 PM Hi to everyone. This is my first time here. I hope I can join your discussion soon.
From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, June 07, 2004 01:09 PM Welcome, Ginny. We're delighted you found us. Feel free to join in any discussion you'd like. Ruth
From: Dale Short xyzdshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, June 07, 2004 01:17 PM Ginny: Welcome! If my memory serves me, you may be our first Constant Reader from China. Hope you'll make yourself at home, and post whenever you like. >>Dale in Ala. http://www.writerstoolkit.com
From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 07:12 AM Welcome from me, too, Ginny. Why don't you go up to the "Welcome" conference and tell us about yourself. As Dale said, I think you are the first person from China to join us. This is very exciting. Thanks, Dale, for posting that excert from Kent's book. It sheds a lot of light on things. I had wondered about the name "Huckleberry". Seemed like an odd choice of name for a boy. Now it makes perfect sense. Sherry
From: Ginn Tsai ginny2005@msn.com Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 09:37 AM Thank you all. The other day, I was searching some information on George Eliot's Mill on the Floss, and I came across this forum. I think it is great. I like your discussion a lot, it is really interesting. As I am new here, the only thing I've learned up till now is how to paste a message:(, I don't know about other usage yet. I read Huckleberry Finn quite a long time ago, so I'll have to refresh my memory by reading it again. Catch up with you later. Regards! TOP | Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit | Move Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic | Entire Topic Topic: Huckleberry Finn (23 of 32), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 03:12 PM Ginny, there is a so much regional dialect in Huck Finn that even English-speaking people have trouble with it. Did you have a hard time with that, or did you read a translation? I wonder how dialect is done in translations. Sherry TOP | Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit | Move Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic | Entire Topic Topic: Huckleberry Finn (24 of 32), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 09:13 PM Sherry, I can barely read Jim's dialog. I think it would be impossible for someone who was not a native speaker! Did you read it in translation. Ginn? Ann TOP | Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit | Move Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic | Entire Topic Topic: Huckleberry Finn (25 of 32), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ginn Tsai ginny2005@msn.com Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 11:41 PM I think I am ok with the dialect. When I was reading the dialect, I just read it outloud, then the meaning is clear. I think a lot of American writers use dialect a lot. In Toni Morrison's Sula, there are a lot of dialect too, I remember. The only way I deal with it is to read it out ignoring the spelling and stuff. Anyway, I might have misunderstood a lot but I just didn't realize. TOP | Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit | Move Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic | Entire Topic Topic: Huckleberry Finn (26 of 32), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 08:18 AM That's amazing Ginn. You must have read the whole book out loud. That's real dedication. When I was just reading it, I didn't read it out loud, but I did slow down a lot and heard the words in my head. I also grew up the South where a version of that vernacular was still being used. Twain's book really is like a time capsule. He had a real ear for transcribing what he heard. Sherry
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 10:53 AM Hi all-- I'm halfway through the book and in love again. The Modern Library paperback edition has what is to me a mind-blowingly good introduction by George Saunders, and though spotlighting an introduction with a book like this is roughly akin to bringing an airline liquor bottle to a B.Y.O.B. party, I'm gonna do it anyway. The intro has segmented subtitles like: 'Introduction to the introduction/ What's so great about it?/ The ending, oh my God the ending/ Let's ban it, then burn it, then ban it again'. It's also filled with laudably sane observations and well picked quotes like this from F.Scott F- 'His eyes (Twain's) were the 1st eyes that ever looked at us objectively that were not eyes from overseas.'
From: David Moody davidmoody22@aol.com Date: Wednesday, June 09, 2004 11:16 AM I didn't have a problem with the dialect, but I suppose it's because I normally read somewhat like Ginn, "sounding" the words in my head. Inefficient, I suppose, but it helped here. This can have some odd results. I read this book about 30 years ago in a college English course, and I remember that I kept reading "Nonesuch" as if it had three syllables, like "Non-a-suck". Totally missed the point, of course. David
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, June 10, 2004 08:37 PM I finally finished this today. I think it's a great book, but I wanted to toss Tom Sawyer out of the plot. I did see some humor in his attempt to make Jim act out his literary fantasies regarding prisoners and to contrive an escape that was as complicated as possible. But this part of the book went on interminably! Was Tom Sawyer as ridiculous in his own book? I don't think this book is racist, but I can understand why a black person might not like it. I don't think it should be taught at the junior high or high school level, although I would never discourage a student in that age group from reading it. Ann
From: Anne Wilfong annewilfong@comcast.net Date: Friday, June 11, 2004 03:52 PM Ann, I'm right there with you! I finished HUCK last night. The section with Tom just annoyed me no end, and I wondered if he was that irritating in his own book! None of the issues surrounding Jim and slavery bothered me, except to illicit a sadness for what our country went through during those years. Back to the ending--Tom getting shot, brought back to Aunt Sadie (was that her name) and "spilling the beans" on the whole story just seemed too easy. But perhaps that was Tom's way--make things that are easy seem difficult, then make them seem easy again. Anyway, I'm glad I finally read this book. I suppose I ought to give Tom Sawer a chance! Anne
From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, June 14, 2004 06:06 PM I was enjoying this quite a bit until, as has already been mentioned here, Tom Sawyer made his appearance. Despite this "amicus ex machina" I kept reading but lost interest as Tom wore out my patience. All roads lead to roam. Dean
From: Felix Miller felix3rd@americainter.net Date: Monday, June 14, 2004 07:14 PM "amicus ex machina" Great term, Dean! I will remember it and find it very useful, I expect. Yes, Tom does become very tiresome in the last part of the book. Felix Miller mightymarvell.com
From: Peggy Ramsey xyzashputtle@comcast.net Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 12:05 AM I finished Huckleberry Finn a couple nights ago -- I had forgotten just how much I enjoy reading Mark Twain! Because I had read it ages ago, I didn't bother to stay out of this thread until I was finished. Now I wish I had, because it would be interesting to know how I would have reacted to the tacked-on, Tom Sawyer ending, had I not read the complaints about it here. I think the only part that would have really bugged was how insanely complicated Tom's escape plan was -- you'd think that at some point, a guy like Huck (who has enough sense to get himself way down the river) would point out that Jim could have escaped several dozen times during the course of all their machinations. Though, in Twain's defense, Tom's vivid fantasy world is set up right in the front of the book, when he creates his band of bad guys. But at least those boys had enough sense to throw in the towel when Tom got out of hand. Now I'm poking my way through The Annotated Huckleberry Finn, by Michael Patrick Hearn; just kind of dipping in and out of the text. My favorite thing so far are these quotes from Twain (after he finally got around to working on the ending in 1882): "We have been here on the hill a week or more and I am deep in my work and grinding out manuscript by the acre ....I haven't piled up manuscript so in years as I have done since we came here to the farm three and a half weeks ago...once or twice I smouched a Sunday when the boss wasn't looking. Nothing is half so good as literature hooked on Sunday on the sly." Hearn also covers the controversy over the book, which has existed since it was printed. I was surprised to note that Jane Smiley is one of the novel's detractors -- this is a quote from a Harper's Magazine article from 1996: "the entry of Huck Finn into classrooms sets the terms of the discussion of racism and American history, and sets them very low: all you have to do to be a hero is to acknowledge that your poor sidekick is human; you don't actually have to act in the interests of his humanity." Which is weird, because both Hearn and I think that Huck does act in Jim's interest. I'm getting long here, but I also want to mention the lovely irony of the Mark Twain Intermediate School in Fairfax, Virginia, being one of the schools to ban Huckleberry Finn. And if that wasn't insult enough, one of the administrators, a guy named John H. Wallace, self-published an "acceptable" version for use in schools. Peggy
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 07:45 AM Peggy, Although I don't think that H.F. is "racist" because you have to consider literature in its historical context, I definitely do NOT think it should be taught in the public schools. It is not difficult for me at all to see why black people would be offended by this book. Jim is a good soul, but not that bright and he is very passive. For example, he bought the stories of the "king" and "duke" hook, line, and sinker, and although he protested aspects of Tom's ridiculous escape plan, he did go along with it. He is willing to let two young, incompetent boys decide his fate, rather than doing his utmost to get out of there as soon as possible. I realize, of course, that this is a satire and that most of the characters are mocked in different ways, but, in my opinion, this book touches on too many racial nerves to be a good choice for teaching. On the other hand, I would definitely want it in the school library. For those of you who have read Tom Sawyer, does Tom behave like this in the earlier book as well? Also, has anyone seen Big River, the musical based on this? I think there is a revival of it on Broadway now. The music is excellent and it is a very good show. Jim comes off better in the musical than in the book. He is much more dignified. Ann
From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 11:24 AM Tom's on much better behavior in his own book, Ann. Still, to me it's much more of a children's book than HF. R
From: Kent Rasmussen arkent@prodigy.net Date: Friday, July 23, 2004 01:30 AM Well, here I am, again. As usual, a day late and more than a dollar short. I think I knew earlier in the year that Huckleberry Finn was on this year's reading list, but I didn't remember when it was scheduled until I just now signed on. I see that the last posting in this thread is dated June 15, so I suppose that I've arrived too late to contribute anything. However, if anyone wishes to hit me with a specific question about the novel, or about Mark Twain, please feel free to do so. Maybe I can contribute something that will move someone to read some more of Mark Twain's work. I don't really mean to stay away from CR for such long periods, but I seem to get into cycles of work when I find it nearly impossible to break away and do the things I most enjoy, such as boring the rest of you. I signed on this evening with the idea of posting a note bringing you up to date on what I've been doing, but after finding this Huckleberry Finn thread, I decided to post a note here, instead. If anyone is interested in hearing more, I'll post a fuller note in CR Salon. For now, I'll merely mention that my most recent writing projects include Mark Twain for Kids, which is now out; a revision of Mark Twain A to Z, which will come out next spring as Critical Companion to Mark Twain; and Critical Companion to George Orwell, which was originally to be called George Orwell A to Z. How these titles got changed is a long story, but it has something to do with the publication delay in my Mark Twain reference book, which I thought was finished some months ago, after I had written more than 100,000 new words and added a ton of new illustrations, appendices, and other features. Anyone interested in my recent publications will find them listed on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/ref=s_sf_b_as/103-5287281-4364636 My Salem Press work has also been keeping me busy, and that has been the main reason for my absence from CR. Happily, I'm finally getting over the hump, so I should find time to be a bit more social soon. Despite all these projects, I have managed to squeeze in a couple of vacations--both for occasions that no power on earth could have stopped me from attending. First was meeting my new grandson, Zane, in Delaware in March; the second was my stepdaughter Noelle's wedding in Manhattan last weekend. If I could remember how to upload photos here, I'd put some in this note. Instead, I'll merely give you a link to one of the many pictures of Zane that my son Christopher has posted: http://vision.cis.udel.edu/~cer/zane/feb26_mar25/slides/P3241107.html Baby lovers will find clicking on that link well worth while, as Zane is an extraordinarily beautiful and charismatic baby. (The downside is that I'm in the picture, too.) That picture was taken in March, when Zane was three months old. He's now more than twice as old and even cuter, as I can attest after seeing him again in New York last week. Incidentally, Noelle's wedding gave me one of the great thrills of my life: the honor of walking a daughter down the aisle in her wedding. As a stepparent of 16 years standing, I can assure you that there were many years during which the possibility of having such an honor would never have occurred to me. This is enough for now. I'll try to look in again here before not too long. I'm eager to share a little anecdote about my Mark Twain for Kids book that may amuse some of you. ... growing mellow in his old age
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, July 23, 2004 08:20 AM Kent, I'm delighted to see you here again! I've told Beej a couple of times when she worries about people disappearing that they always come back. Who could resist our scintillating conversation?!? Seriously, though, it will be even more scintillating with you around. I can't access your picture of your grandchild and I was looking forward to it. Did anyone else have the same problem? Is this the first time you've done something on George Orwell? I don't remember you discussing him before. The number of posts here have been down a bit lately, typical summer stuff. Don't drift away again because you think we are folding up! Barb
From: Sherry Keller xyzshkell@starband.net Date: Friday, July 23, 2004 09:23 AM I would love to hear about some of your anecdotes in the Salon. For the Twain topic here, I'll ask how the Tom Sawyer section was received when it was published. We all thought it a bit inane and not as good as the first part of the book. We know he waited many years to finish it. Is there a good story in that? Sherry
From: Kent Rasmussen arkent@prodigy.net Date: Friday, July 23, 2004 07:34 PM I always seem to get such a warm welcome when I return to CR after an absence that it makes me feel guilty for having stayed away for so long. Anyway, thanks for your encouragement. I'm writing this note from my office and consequently can't spend too much time on the web, so I'll be brief here (by my standards, anyway) and try to return later to provide fuller notes--on both my recent doings and Huckleberry Finn. One thing I'll need to do is read all the previous postings in this thread more carefully. I merely skimmed through the first part of them late last night. For now, I'll merely confirm Sherry's suspicion that there is something majorly wrong with the last chapters of that novel. That section is generally known as the "evasion" chapters. I'll explain that term later, but you can find an explanation in the novel. I think I also have an "evasion" entry in Mark Twain A to Z. Scholars are constantly debating the meaning of those last chapters--essentially those in which Tom Sawyer makes his reappearance and changes the entire tone of the book. I don't know many people who like those chapters, except, perhaps, young children. Once Tom Sawyer takes over, the story really ceases to be Huck's. Ernest Hemingway recognized this in the famous remark he made about the novel. I think someone may have quoted Hemingway's remarks about Huckleberry Finn in an earlier posting, but I don't think the entire quote was given: "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. But it's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." Note that Hemingway alludes to the moment that Jim is stolen from Huck (he says "the boys," but the incident occurs before Tom appears) as the "real end" of the book. He then adds that "the rest" (i.e., the evasion chapters) "is just cheating." He also suggests that we stop reading the book before Tom reappears. It just so happens that a scholar named John Seelye rewrote Huckleberry Finn in a fashion that conforms to Hemingway's suggestion. He called his version The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1970, I think). I strongly recommend his book. Seelye's version is not a wholesale rewrite; he salvages most of Mark Twain's original text with few changes. However, he also removes the portions that are most out of character with the rest of the book and strengthens other sections with tougher language and less squeamish descriptions. For example, the king and the duke (the two scoundrels who take over the raft) are portrayed as really nasty characters. The king is particularly nasty. He threatens to cut Huck's throat once or twice, and one is inclined to believe that he would do it. He also plans to sell the Wilks sisters to a brothel in New Orleans, where he intends to be the first customer. Not the sort of stuff that Mark Twain would commit to print. Seelye's book does a nice job of dismissing Tom Sawyer. He modifies Mark Twain's early chapters on Tom Sawyer's gang by having the boys meet in the cave to form the gang. When the other boys realize that all that Tom has in mind is a make-believe gang, they beat him up and leave him in the cave. That's Tom's last appearance in the book. I need to get back to work. I expect to busy through the weekend, so I can't promise a quick return, but I'll try. ... who would like to evade some of his responsibilities
From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net Date: Saturday, July 24, 2004 10:13 AM Thanks, Kent. That's great information. Robt
From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, July 24, 2004 11:49 AM Yes Kent, I'm sorry you weren't here when the discussion was hot. But glad you came in here now. And glad to hear I'm not alone in disliking that last section of the book. R
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, July 24, 2004 01:15 PM Good to hear from you, Kent. I found the Tom Sawyer section extremely tedious, although I enjoyed the earlier parts of the book. Ann

 
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