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Group Reads - Fiction > Classic Read Oct/Nov 2017- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This thread is for our classic read for October/November The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

We chose this book as it came very close to the top in a recent fiction poll but the moderators thought it was better suited here so please join the discussion if you voted to read it last month


message 2: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Oh, thanks Heather for creating this thread!

I am going to reread this via audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is narrated by Robin Field. I got this edition back in 2015 so this group read is a good incentive to finally listen to it.


message 3: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13210 comments Mod
Leslie wrote: "Oh, thanks Heather for creating this thread!

I am going to reread this via audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is narrated by Robin Field. I got this edition back..."


Me too, but in a couple of weeks time!


message 4: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I have begun this. I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner.He is a really good narrator. I certainly hope others do join in.


message 6: by Greg (last edited Oct 08, 2017 10:30PM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "I have completed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I prefer Twain'sThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but I like bes..."


Haha, I much prefer The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because I find the themes much richer, racial and otherwise. But variety is the spice of life!

And I can certainly see that for people who grew up in similar environments would find a great nostalgic pleasure in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - I didn't find much of anything in the book to connect to in my personal childhood experience.

What I most react to in Twain is his sharp social satire. I thought The War Prayer was brilliant, and I found much to reflect on in the American social situation of the era in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well.


message 7: by Karin (new)

Karin | 1937 comments I think I like both Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn (the books) about equally.


message 8: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Interesting, we all react so differently.


message 9: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "Interesting, we all react so differently."

I guess it would be boring if we all always felt the same :)


message 10: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
I just read your review Chrissie, and it's interesting you bring up racial issues. This is a book that has been sometimes banned for the racial slurs.

I read it though as very much a work of anti-racism; it seems to me (or at least it did when I read it) that Huck starts out thinking about Jim much as his culture did - since it's from his perspective, in the beginning he assumes Jim is stupid. By the end though, I think Huck breaks completely from that way of thinking. I recall a beautiful passage where he begins to question how to know what is right when the adults and much of his society is wrong. What is behind what is said is much more subtle, rich, and complex in Huck for me. Huck really grows whereas Tom seems still a child even at the end of Tom Sawyer. So at least in those senses, Huck feels a much more "adult" book to me. I don't really think it's about the adventures at all - it's about Huck's coming of age as an adult and about the formation of individual conscience. That's what I got out of it anyway.

I do agree though that Huck has some odd satire mixed in though that occasionally borders on slapstick, especially in the side stories.

I'm curious now to re-read, but I'm not sure I'll have time. I've already read it a few times over the years, once in high school, once in college, and once more afterwards.


message 11: by Chrissie (last edited Oct 09, 2017 01:08AM) (new)

Chrissie Greg, I see the racial issue as more a question of either doing what society regards as proper versus following you heart. I speak of a conflict of conscience versus heart in my review. Huck even from the start liked and saw Jim as a good person. That is the heart side of it. By the standards of the time and where he lived his conscience tells him he should not help a slave flee. That is the conscience side of it,

I do not see growth in Huck; their shared experiences merely brought them closer together and cemented a friendship that already existed. Furthermore Twain takes an easy way out b/c in actuality (view spoiler). I see this as a bit of a cop out by Twain.

Throughout the entire novel slurs are directed toward Blacks; at the same time good attributes are shown too. Three examples of good attributes are how Jim (view spoiler). In my view, Twain is not a man without prejudice, but he is still capable of seeing SOME good qualities in SOME black people too. I noted prejudice also in sections of The Innocents Abroad. Prejudice that we today would consider unacceptable. I see the book more about whether one should following one's conscience or or follow one's heart. Twain skirts the racial issue.

You noted too the slapstick quality of humor in Huck's book. I definitely preferred the humor in Tom's book.

In Tom's book, I didn't feel quite as uncomfortable about racial issues and I found the humor more sophisticated. I find Huck's book much more a simple adventure story for kids, and even then an adult should perhaps be there to discuss the book with them.

I do not think one's own childhood environment should influence which of the two books one will prefer; both of the books occur in the very same place and milieu! They even share the same characters.


message 12: by Greg (last edited Oct 09, 2017 03:08AM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "Greg, I see the racial issue as more a question of either doing what society regards as proper versus following you heart. I speak of a conflict of conscience versus heart in my review. Huck even f..."

I do completely agree with the head vs heart Chrissie, but there was a specific moment in the book where Huck made the decision to place his individual conscience above society's regards. It was beautifully written and felt like a turning point to me. After that point, some of his behavior changed.

Don't you think that it is important to reflect the truth about people's prejudice in the time they describe? To me, when Twain uses racial slurs he is showing exactly how the people around him behaved - to me, that is not showing that he is racist at all. It is showing his discust and discomfort with the way "proper" people behaved in his time. He is showing them themselves in a mirror, and that can be a very powerful thing. It felt very clear to me when I read Huck that Twain's sympathy was with Jim and not with the people using those slurs.

I definitely agree that Huck's and Jim's experiences brought them together. That is because they saw each other as human beings. That again is Twain's point - that many of these prejudices are based on a lack of knowledge, a lack of empathy, and a lack of understanding that is not "natural." That was by no means an easy thing for his audience to read at that time, and it definitely shows an attitude about race that was not common in his time and place. If I recall, it was extremely controversial.

The reason I bring up my childhood experience in regards to Tom Sawyer is to understand for myself why I found many parts of Tom Sawyer deadly boring. I did like Tom Sawyer, but there were stretches of boredom. I just did not connect with the childhood described at all. I suppose maybe that is why I was bored? If I related to the childhood hijinks described, I might have found them amusing as I pictured my younger self? That is my guess anyway.

But I saw more adult themes in Huck so there was more to think about as I was reading. And to my mind, the satire in Huck is more sophisticated in that it has a lot more social commentary that reflected on adult social life. I never felt bored in Huck because there was always something interesting to think about. That is just my reaction of course.


message 13: by LauraT (last edited Oct 09, 2017 03:10AM) (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13210 comments Mod
I've decided to start it before I intended , and I'm glad I've done it. The racial issue of the book is definitly paramount, and I think that the point is exactly as you've stated Chrissi: "I speak of a conflict of conscience versus heart in my review. "
Heart and concience, or I'd say heart and mind.
I do believe - for all I've studied in University, where I graduated in Anglo american literature with a Professor centred mainly in afro american literature - that in lots of places down south the slaves were better treated than the "free niggers" in the north. That they were loved and even respected in some cases. Still slavery was wrong as concept, non on a singular basis, not considfering the abominations perpetrated.
I remembering studying this very book for my first exam, reading in a critical essey how absurd was the tripp Jim and Huck did along the book: the slaves who escaped - or tried to - slavery went northwards, not southwards!!!
Irony?


message 14: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Greg wrote: "Chrissie wrote: "Greg, I see the racial issue as more a question of either doing what society regards as proper versus following you heart. I speak of a conflict of conscience versus heart in my re..."

Yes, but there are in all times people that dare to express opinions contrary to the accepted norm. As I stated in message 11, "In my view, Twain is not a man without prejudice, but he is still capable of seeing SOME good qualities in SOME black people too." A person can have one black friend and see him as the exception and still hold prejudicial views about Blacks in general.

Thanks for explaining your thoughts on childhood experiences.

Nope, I do not at all react as you did in relation to the humor of the two books. What can I say? In my review I gave examples of the humor that typifies the humor found in Huck's story.....and I found it light and childish.

But each of us are different. Vive la diférence.


message 15: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie LauraT wrote: "I've decided to start it before I intended , and I'm glad I've done it. The racial issue of the book is definitly paramount, and I think that the point is exactly as you've stated Chrissi: "I speak..."

Great that you started it early! It is definitely true that in the South some Blacks were treated well by their owners. PEOPLE are individuals both in the North and in the South. Human relationships and the institution of slavery have to be seen apart.


message 16: by Greg (last edited Oct 09, 2017 04:11AM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "Greg wrote: "Chrissie wrote: "Greg, I see the racial issue as more a question of either doing what society regards as proper versus following you heart. I speak of a conflict of conscience versus h..."

I guess I don't see any evidence in Huck of Twain holding prejudicial views at all, quite the contrary in fact. I do not understand where that is coming from. I have not read all of Twain's books however.

In his day, portraying racist behaviors accurately was perhaps the best way to fight against racism because it made the truth of those behaviors clear - that is true of all social problems I think; the worst things happen in the dark where no one is looking. I do not think a book using a racial slur makes it racist; often it can be the opposite.

For sure, one can hold views of particular people as exceptions; that is almost always true. But I don't think Jim is an exception like that. It seems to me that Twain is using that character on purpose to point out American racial problems of his day in a way that his audience was capable of relating to and understanding.


message 17: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Reading this discussion has made me decide to start my reread/listen sooner rather than later! Based upon my memory of the book, I am in agreement with Greg that Twain was holding up a mirror of prevailing attitudes rather than expressing his own racial prejudices. Apparently this type of writing is easily subjected to debate & possibly misinterpretation as I think is often done with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. But I will try to keep an open mind during my reread.


message 18: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Leslie, have your read The Innocents Abroad? The Diary of Adam and Eve still remains my favorite because it does not make me feel uncomfortable in relation to possible racist sentiment. Here he jokes about other issues that I am more comfortable with..


message 19: by Chrissie (last edited Oct 10, 2017 12:54AM) (new)

Chrissie I have been thinking as I took a walk this morning abou Twain's possible rasist values.

Couldn't it possibly be that Twain was himself ambivalent? This is the view I take concerning Twain. If I were sure he was expressing racist views I could never have given Tom's and Huck's book 4 respectively 3 stars.


message 20: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13210 comments Mod
Leslie wrote: "Reading this discussion has made me decide to start my reread/listen sooner rather than later! Based upon my memory of the book, I am in agreement with Greg that Twain was holding up a mirror of pr..."

Absolutely of the same mind


message 21: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Chrissie, you might find this article from The Guardian newspaper interesting - it is several years old but was written when Twain's autobiography came out so discusses his life and views.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

In particular I copy a section from it relevant to our discussion:

"Those who finish Huck Finn still doubting Twain's own racial attitudes should read Following the Equator or Pudd'nhead Wilson, in which Twain excoriates the "one-drop rule" (the American law decreeing that "one drop of negro blood" made a person black): "To all intents and purposes Roxy was as white as anybody, but the one sixteenth of her which was black out-voted the other fifteen parts and made her a 'negro'." When writing in an educated voice, rather than Huck Finn's, Twain puts the then-respectful term "negro" in scare quotes, questioning the category itself. He also paid for the tuition of a young African American who wanted to attend Yale, saying that "he was doing it as his part of the reparation due from every white man to every black man". The autobiography includes some passing references to slavery and a revealing contemporary episode: Twain goes to a lecture supporting Booker T Washington's Tuskegee Institute and comments the next morning that although he'd met Washington many times before, he'd never realised that he was mixed race and had blue eyes: "How unobservant a dull person can be. Always, before, he was black, to me, and I had never noticed whether he had eyes at all, or not."

Similarly, if less frequently, Twain has been accused of misogyny, and it is true that his female characters tend toward the cardboard. But just as he learned over time to reject the casually cruel racism of his upbringing, so he was persuaded out of his early objections to women's suffrage by his wife, Olivia. A friend of feminists and suffragists, she persuaded him that women's innate moral superiority justified their presence in the public sphere. Soon Twain was donating money to suffragist movements and writing in his notebook: "No civilisation can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included." "



message 22: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Leslie, I appreciated reading the quote, and I certainly hope the view stated is correct.

I am not the only one to wonder where Twain stood regarding his view of Blacks, Arabs and maybe even women. I remain uncertain of where he actually stood. The manner in which Jim is repeatedly seen as stupid was disturbing for me, even if he is shown to be a kind and good person.


message 23: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13210 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "I am not the only one to wonder where Twain stood regarding his view of Blacks, Arabs and maybe even women. I remain uncertain of where he actually stood. The manner in which Jim is repeatedly seen as stupid was disturbing for me, even if he is shown to be a kind and good person."

Do you really think Jim is shown as stupid? I've not seen it that way at all. I've read this bit as Huck seeing Jim as stupid, not as he bein really stupid, or considered so by Twain.


message 24: by Chrissie (last edited Oct 10, 2017 09:26AM) (new)

Chrissie Laura, NO, his actions do not show him to be stupid,l but he is spoken of as being such even by those who are his friends.Please see the third paragraph of message 11.

Also please see the first paragraph of message 14.


message 25: by Greg (last edited Oct 10, 2017 09:53AM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "Laura, NO, his actions do not show him to be stupid,l but he is spoken of as being such even by those who are his friends.Please see the third paragraph of message 11.

Also please see the first pa..."


But doesn't that just clearly show the prejudice Jim faced? In a society where black people were not seen as fully human either legally or socially, isn't Twain just showimg how bad that aspect of his society is? Even white people who personally like Jim are infected by the institution of slavery and the pervasive prejudice around them; so they express feelings/opinions/reactions that would not come natural to them otherwise. Most pernicious of all, pervasive prejudice like this can affect how people see themselves! I think this is what Twain understands and this is what Twain hates. He hates that the widespread prejudice in his culture perverts basic human impulses and prevents natural goodness.

Maybe that is why the raft is so important? To really "see" Jim, Huck has to be physically and emotionally isolated from his society, alone on the raft with Jim; he needs to be outside of his society's influence. Perhaps that is part of what helps him to break free from what his society has been teaching him since birth - on the raft, he is able to form a personal relationship with Jim that is separate from his society and everyone else.


message 26: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Greg wrote: "But doesn't that just clearly show the prejudice Jim faced?

We both agree that the society displays racial prejudice.We cannot tell from this book how Twain felt toward Blacks as a group, even if he did acknowledge that some individuals differed from the mass. Please see message 14.

I see too many slurs on the Blacks as a group to feel comfortable. If you do not see this, so be it.

I think one can over-analyze a book.


message 27: by Greg (last edited Oct 10, 2017 10:44AM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "Greg wrote: "But doesn't that just clearly show the prejudice Jim faced?

We both agree that the society displays racial prejudice.We cannot tell from this book how Twain felt toward Blacks as a gr..."


I think we will have to agree to disagree Chrissie. To me, it is crystal clear in this book that Twain is anti-racist, not as an individual exception for some particular blacks but overall for everyone as the most important and central theme of the book!

I think the main difference is that you see the racial slurs as coming from Twain. I see the racial slurs as coming from the characters in the book, not Twain; I see Twain putting those slurs in to show how bad racism in his culture is.


message 28: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Greg, yep we just disagree.As I mentioned before, I am also influenced by what I saw in The Innocents Abroad when Twain gets to the Middle East.


message 29: by Greg (last edited Oct 10, 2017 11:14AM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Chrissie wrote: "Greg, yep we just disagree.As I mentioned before, I am also influenced by what I saw in The Innocents Abroad when Twain gets to the Middle East."

That's a good point Chrissie. I have not read The Innocents Abroad. I have read Pudd'nhead Wilson that Leslie describes though.


message 30: by Karin (last edited Oct 10, 2017 04:29PM) (new)

Karin | 1937 comments Chrissie wrote: "I see too many slurs on the Blacks as a group to feel comfortable. If you do not see this, so be it. ."

Yes, there are slurs, and this book would never pass today, but most nineteenth century reform was mixed like this--feminism is another example (I studied a lot of women's history when I minored in Women's Studies, which was a new field back then and no one in my province offered a major). Sometimes it's because those trying to reform had only come part way, and sometimes it's because they were watering down what they really felt in order to get others to move toward improving things. I don't know enough about Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens to know where he stood.

I know that many nineteenth century feminists were outraged by the suffragettes for moving away from many important things to focus only on the vote, which they (rightly) felt wouldn't change much for women. We can see also from Jim Crow laws and from The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, which doesn't really deal with the vote, but really shows what was happening in the south and what was going on in the north as well, that when blacks first got the vote (black men, first, of course) it changed virtually nothing for blacks in their day to day lives, although it was a step in human rights.

Greg wrote: "For sure, one can hold views of particular people as exceptions; that is almost always true. But I don't think Jim is an exception like that. It seems to me that Twain is using that character on purpose to point out American racial problems of his day in a way that his audience was capable of relating to and understanding.."

This may well be true.


message 31: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13210 comments Mod
Greg wrote: "Chrissie wrote: "Laura, NO, his actions do not show him to be stupid,l but he is spoken of as being such even by those who are his friends.Please see the third paragraph of message 11.

But doesn't that just clearly show the prejudice Jim faced? "


Exactly what I mean! In here, I think, Twain shows what black people had to face in those time


message 32: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13210 comments Mod
I got to Chapter 31 this morning going to work, and I've reached what, I do now remember from University, is the pivotal scene of the whole book.
Huck decideds: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” and a few lines later "And for a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog."

In here Huck becomes an adult, intending with adult a whole person capable to decide for himself; capable of distinguishing, and choosing, between common moral and personal sense of Justice.


message 33: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
LauraT wrote: "I got to Chapter 31 this morning going to work, and I've reached what, I do now remember from University, is the pivotal scene of the whole book.
Huck decideds: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” a..."


That's the exact passage I was thinking of Laura! And I interpreted it the same way - it's where Huck breaks with what he was taught and becomes an adult. I remember that passage really moving me when I read it!


message 34: by Myst (new)

Myst | 494 comments So far it's not my cup of tea (neither was Tom Sawyer), but a few things are coming to mind.

What exactly is a "towhead" (obviously not a blond haired person). They keep talking about tying up to towheads. I assume it's some type of strong vegetation?

Jim's dialect reads weird to me. Did african american men call children chile, or call other males honey? Those words/phrases sound a lot more feminine than masculine. (I found those terms around the middle to late middle of chapter XVI.)


message 35: by Greg (last edited Oct 18, 2017 03:03PM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
Myst wrote: "So far it's not my cup of tea (neither was Tom Sawyer), but a few things are coming to mind.

What exactly is a "towhead" (obviously not a blond haired person). They keep talking about tying up to ..."


I think the 'honey' endearments are a historical thing Myst; Jim is much older and sees Huck as a child ('chile').

As far as towhead, see this link, definition #3 [n]:

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/tow...

A sandbar or low-lying alluvial island in a river, especially one with a stand of trees.

If you scroll down, it even gives an example passage from Huck Finn. :)


message 36: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments When I was living in the South (Georgia) 20 years ago, "honey" and even "honey-chile" were still quite commonly used even to strangers (e.g. waiters & waitresses or the cashier at the grocery store talking to customers) but then I am female so maybe it didn't happen to men. Anyway Jim using those terms didn't seem that strange to me but I can see that in today's culture, a man talking like that to a boy could sound a bit off.


message 37: by Karin (last edited Oct 20, 2017 02:13PM) (new)

Karin | 1937 comments Myst wrote: "So far it's not my cup of tea (neither was Tom Sawyer), but a few things are coming to mind.

What exactly is a "towhead" (obviously not a blond haired person). They keep talking about tying up to ..."


A towhead is blond, VERY blond. Here's a photo




His hair is NOT white, but pale, pale blond. My youngest brother was nearly this blond when he was little, and some might have called him a towhead, but my mother was more precise. Towheads are virtually always still blond as adults, even not always still this blond. One of my cousins still has light blond hair and her daughter is a towhead (as was she--my uncle married a woman who was a towhead as an adult).


message 38: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Thanks Karin but in this book, it is actually being used as a term for small islands and shoals in the Mississippi river where a small boat or raft can be tied up.


message 39: by Myst (new)

Myst | 494 comments Well im done. I think i took more issue with the number of fibs Huck told than the amount of times the N word appeared.

I also dislike trying to read "dialect" in any book, and I never could puzzle out a few of the words.

Now to decide to read the last 2 Tom Sawyer books or give them a break for awhile.


message 40: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I agree about trying to read written dialect - one big advantage of audiobooks is that the dialects tend to be easier to understand!

Huck was an interesting mixture of bad (fibbing, stealing etc) and honorable; very much as many adolescents are in my experience. But Huck's lies are nothing compared to those told by 'Duke' and the 'King', don't you think?

I had completely forgotten the end section when (view spoiler) It was hilarious and ridiculous!


Jen from Quebec :0) (muppetbaby99) | 57 comments Do you peeps pronounce it as 'TOE-Head' or as 'TOWW-head'??


message 42: by Greg (last edited Oct 21, 2017 08:33AM) (new)

Greg | 7478 comments Mod
I agree about the fibbing Leslie - Huck is a mixture as most of us are. I like that he starts out mischievous in petty childish ways with Tom and then later as he begins to mature, his fibs are for a purpose.

Myst, dialect can be a real distraction for me too. Audiobooks can help as Leslie said. Either way, deciphering the dialect does usually make me slow down and make books take longer for me to read on paper.


message 43: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Jennifer Lynn wrote: "Do you peeps pronounce it as 'TOE-Head' or as 'TOWW-head'??"

I pronounce it 'toe'-head and that is how the narrator of my audiobook pronounced it too.


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