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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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Group Reads: Pre-1980 > The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, June 2013

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Jessie J (subseti) | 296 comments I've always thought of Tom Sawyer as candy and Huck Finn as the real meal.

It's been years since I last read HF, though, so I hope I have time to read it *and* Sewerville this month!


Franky | 320 comments Jessie wrote: "I've always thought of Tom Sawyer as candy and Huck Finn as the real meal.

It's been years since I last read HF, though, so I hope I have time to read it *and* Sewerville this month!"


Exactly how I feel too. I reread Tom Sawyer last year and I didn't really see much of a character change. To me, it was just too much shenanigans without much resolve. With Huck, though, everything goes so deeper in what he thinks about and experiences with Jim.

Looking forward to rereading Huckleberry Finn. Definitely one of my all time favorites.


message 3: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 658 comments I'm with you, Everitt, on this one. I read this years ago and didn't care one way or the other about it. It's definitely time for a re-read now that I've "matured" and can see what the fuss is about. I recall enjoying much of Twains other writing.


Sonali V I've been meaning to read this for many years now. So I shall be happy to join in.


Christopher (chriswinters) This is one of my favorite books and one of the few that I've read multiple times. I think it strikes the perfect chord of being humorous and profound and meaningful.

If anyone is looking to listen to a good audio version (there are dozens of versions), I can recommend Patrick Fraley's narration. He does the voices very convincingly.

One more thing: I think Louis C.K. does a really hilarious bit on Huckleberry Finn. You can watch it here. (Beware many uses of the n-word and other cusses.) I disagree with Louis, though. I think that Tom is a little punk and Huck is the good'n.


message 6: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
 photo FinnFirstEd_zps4ea3ba21.jpg

First Edition, published by Chatto & Windus in England, 1884 & by Charles L. Webster in the United States, 1885.

For an excellent reference site on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn visit the Huck Finn Homepage maintained by the University of Virginia at http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/huckfin... .

Mike S.
"Lawyer Stevens"



message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 658 comments Thanks for that Mike. I will give it a look.


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
I was nine the summer I first read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I immediately begged for a trip to the bookstore to pick up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

It only took a few chapters for me to realize that Mr. Twain was far beyond my understanding. Not daring reveal that I did not understand what I was reading for fear my bookstore trips might be ended, I plugged on and on until the last page.

I never admitted I was totally unprepared for the novel at that young age. It would be years later that I would return to Twain and realize the importance of the work.

Not only is it the beginning of American Literature as many have stated, it was also a ground breaking work of Southern Literature as well.

Appearing only twenty years following the bloodiest conflict on American Soil, Twain boldly dealt with the subjects of slavery and racism in a time when many Southerners were reeling over "The Lost Cause."

But we must remember that Missouri was a state which allowed slavery. The Missouri Compromise was an act of Legislation upon which both the North and South could agree on the extent that slavery would be allowed to spread in a growing country.

Bold work from a bold man. So it is with some trepidation that I raise the current state of this novel's place in the Canon of American Literature. Is it a classic that needs to be cleaned up?

Professor Allen Gribben of Auburn University, located in Alabama, thinks so. He produced a revised version removing every "N" word and replacing it with slave. Should it be? Or not?

For an interesting look at the controversy, see Cleaning up a Classic: ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Revised
Harvard professors weigh in on the revision of Mark Twain’s seminal work, BARBARA B. DEPENA,staff writer, The Harvard Crimson, February 1, 2011 at http://www.thecrimson.com/article/201...# .

You'll find it a most interesting article. And while I consider the target word a most vile appellation, I wonder what other well meaning academics might set their sights on. Do our sensitivities need that much protection?

The ugly past of racism in our country cannot be erased by the sanitation of a literary book. We must consider Twain's use of the word to portray a time other than our own. Nor can I conceive that Twain used the word out of a sense of demeaning another race. I wonder what he would think today when many black Americans have reclaimed the N word as an insider's source of identity.

Truly, this is a sensitive topic. I sincerely hope that I have not offended anyone by the nature of this post. However, the perceived need to clean up Mark Twain's language seems to me to be a denial of the past. And a denial of racism that exists in this country even today.

The relationship of Huck and Jim remain as important today as it was in 1885.

Mike S.
"Lawyer Stevens"


message 9: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 658 comments Excellent article Mike and I would agree with the majority opinion expressed. The novel should be left as written. The difficulties of language and race need to be addressed, not avoided and swept under the rug.


message 10: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 658 comments Thanks for the link Everitt. That really is perfect.


message 11: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 3964 comments Mod
I don't believe one single word of any work of literature should be changed to fit modern sensibilities. I even have a hard time accepting another author "continueing" the story of a great work, such as "Scarlett" by Alexandra Ripley, and others that come to mind. There have been some excellent books by contemporary authors using characters from famous novels to create an entirely new point of view, and I have read and enjoyed some of them, but that, too, gives me pause. Mark Twain wrote his characters in Huck Finn using the southern dialect of his time, and intelligent readers can see through the language used to Huck's sense of truth and honor regarding the goodness and humanity of Tom, even if he had to go to Hell for it, in his words. I remember my daughter throwing this book across the room when she had to read it in high school, because of the dialect. She had to learn to get beneath the language to the story inside.


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John | 533 comments I am not sure it translates very well and maybe all river books share something in common. I was watching
Apocolypse Now and kept thinking of Huck Finn


message 13: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah (misslupinelady) Everitt wrote: "There is an interesting relationship between fiction and history and the use of narrative in creating our understanding of the past. I believe when we decouple history from literature we sever (decontextualize) the links binding great works in the canon of literature from their true rubric. That is a tragedy not just for fiction but for the past. As the process continues we find ourselves in an environment in which everything means nothing and nothing means anything. It's a cultural schizophrenia. That's what the world feels like sometimes, to me at least."

Just wanted to note that I particularly appreciated this point you made, Everitt. My first semester of college, I took a seminar on the "History of the Present" in which we read and wrote narratives and theories that were trying to make sense of things currently happening. Something the professor said that has stuck with me deeply was that in writing about ourselves, that writing would become part of that self understanding, and I found that to be true.

On that note, for reading about a world where nothing means anything and everything means nothing, Jean Baudrillard's ideas about the decoupling of signifiers from signifieds (first encountered in that seminar) was interesting reading for me.


Franky | 320 comments Great posts Mike and Everitt, and you make fantastic points about the controversy surrounding this novel. Everitt, I love the point about how we shouldn't change a novel just to make it more "comfortable" to read. I think the whole idea of reading something is to take a step back and reflect on the context is which it is written as well as its deeper message or themes.


Jayme I also agree that you shouldn't change a novel to conform to modern society; however, I will admit as a first time reader of Finn, I'm two thirds in, that I am finding the use of the "N" word very distracting, and I am an "older than dirt" history teacher.


Jessie J (subseti) | 296 comments Everitt wrote: "There is an interesting relationship between fiction and history and the use of narrative in creating our understanding of the past. I believe when we decouple history from literature we sever (decontextualize) the links binding great works in the canon of literature from their true rubric."

I had real trouble with this, when I was starting college, ages and ages ago. As an upper classman, my small undergrad school didn't mind if I researched a single topic and then modified it for both a literature class and a history class. I perceive this inability now as a fault and not necessarily a bonus! The rest of the planet seems to want more focus instead of a worldview.


message 17: by Franky (last edited Jun 07, 2013 10:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Franky | 320 comments The more I reread this book, the more I think about how it is a bildungsroman from the standpoint of Huck. He changes, but only after encountering the harshness of the world right in front of him (slavery, abuse from his father, the Grangerford and Shepherdsons fued, scoundrels and conmen like the Duke and the King trying to take advantage of people). There is a deep level of irony from his point of view also, because he often rationalizes that something is "bad", like being an abolitionist, when in fact it is good. To me, his conscience about the world takes a 180 degree turn in this book from point A to point B because deep inside he knows what is right. I think that is such an important aspect of the book. Thoughts?


Heather Fineisen | 64 comments Reading this again. Cringe worthy use of language, but that represents the time and racism. That said, I introduced my nine year old daughter, with mixed feelings, to Tom in annotated kids version, when she was six. Maybe we need to reminded of this sometimes?


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Franky wrote: "The more I reread this book, the more I think about how it is a bildungsroman from the standpoint of Huck. He changes, but only after encountering the harshness of the world right in front of him (..."

I think you are exactly on point. The Widow Douglas' definition of the "good" providence sunk into Huck more deeply than he initially realized. (view spoiler)

Mike S.


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Heather wrote: "Reading this again. Cringe worthy use of language, but that represents the time and racism. That said, I introduced my nine year old daughter, with mixed feelings, to Tom in annotated kids version..."

Oh, yes. We need to be reminded of many things found in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I can think of a great many politicians who need to have a copy shoved into their hands.

Mike S.


Heather Fineisen | 64 comments Reading this as an adult is a different experience. Glad we are discussing this.


Beverly | 190 comments I have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before. It is one of my favorites. I thought it might be fun to listen to an audible version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn this time around. Although this link says an Audible CD, I actually downloaded it from Audible.com which said it was published in 2010, but the picture on the book is the same. There were many good narrators from which to choose but in listening to several previews, I liked this one the best and so far it has been quite an enjoyable experience.


message 23: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
The Historical Context of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The growing rift between North and South was developing as early as the Presidency of Andrew Jackson.

Henry Clay was the architect of the two great "compromises" reached in the halls of Congress in 1820 and 1850. Huck's adventures are painted against the history of those legislative acts.

For an excellent summary of the political maneuvering leading up to the Civil War, PBS offers an excellent site from its series Africans in America.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2... which spells out the impact of the Compromise of 1850 and The Fugitive Slave Act.

Mike S.
"Lawyer Stevens"


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Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Beginning Chapter XL. I am overcome with a desire to slap Tom Sawyer, and Huck, too, for listening to him. Poor Jim. At the mercy of a Tom Sawyer plan.

Mike S.


message 25: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Done! Now to review. Oh my. I'm about fifteen books behind.

Mike S.


message 26: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 658 comments Finished yesterday. Loved it (much more succinct than my review). So many levels there. I'm struck by Twain's love for Huck and Huck's essential goodness.


Franky | 320 comments I've glad this one was chosen this month. Although I've read it numerous times, there is always something new to learn from Huck's story.


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