Joanna's Reviews > The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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Jan 17, 2011

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bookshelves: books-read-2011
Read from January 17 to 20, 2011

Huck Finn is a great character, and this book is maybe the laziest adventure story ever written. Every chapter is packed with action, but most days of the adventure, Huck and Jim are just camping out or floating along on their raft.

Some people have theorized that the grammar and dialect of the book make it inaccessible for modern readers, and that is why it is being taught less and less in schools; or that the frequent use of words like nigger and injun' (both of which were common use at the period the book was written) cause too much discomfort for the political sensibilities of today. But I think the real reason this book isn't being read as widely anymore is because in the world of modern technology, Huck Finn himself is becoming quite a period piece about boyhood. He enjoys watching lightning storms, making up stories, and swimming naked in the Mississippi River. Parents barely let their kids walk to school unaccompanied anymore, so the thought of a boy being resourceful enough to saw his way out of a log cabin and fake his own murder to evade his drunken father, camp in the woods building his own fire and hunting his own food, then taking off on a raft to sail the Mighty Mississippi - it's increasingly hard to fathom. Which is a shame, because I feel that's where a lot of the charm of this story comes from.

Huck Finn is a first rate character - especially because he's still growing up and is in a constant state of figuring out what kind of fellow he wants to be. That dynamic makes his inner journey as interesting as the ride down the Mississippi, and it's always at work. He plays a childish trick on Jim, and then is man enough to apologize for it. He tolerates the schemes and rascality of the Duke and the King for ages, but then acts on his own initiative to try and save the orphaned sisters from entirely falling prey to their scheme. And, for a boy who so often seems to be guided by the nearest or most convenient principle, he concludes of his own accord that helping to free Jim from slavery is the right thing to do, and runs many risks to try and see that plan through.

Twain had an indisputable knack for creating memorable characters, and these pages are full of them. One character that I wish it was not so full of is Tom Sawyer. Although they are good friends, and although Huck certainly has learned a good deal of tricks from Tom, I dislike Tom Sawyer for pretty much every moment he is in this book. All he does is create insane difficulties and hoops for Huck and Jim to jump through. Huck is obviously a loyal friend, but I kept wanting him to stand up to Tom and insist on doing things in a less complicated way. The fact that Tom knew, all along, that Jim had already been freed, but let Huck and Jim both risk life and limb to break him out - it shows him to be a self-absorbed jackass who is completely careless of the lives and well being of those around him. I especially disliked the way he gave Jim $40 at the end of the book, to compensate him for being a prisoner for all those unnecessary weeks. What an entitled little tool. The best thing that I can say about him is that he made me appreciate Huck all the more.

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01/17/2011 page 47

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