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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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PAST Group Reads 2019 > Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Spoiler Thread

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message 1: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
This is the SPOILER thread for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for people who have already read the book.

Feel free to discuss any topics in the book.

WARNING - SPOILERS ahead, and personal comments


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) I am glad Huck's pap died. Just saying.


Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments OK, so not sure if you guys finished yet, but I had a big overarching question when I read this most recently, and it's this:

Did Jim seem "brilliant" to you? I remembered it being more like Jim was the super smart one and Huck was...less so. But my read did not see Jim being heroically smart. He was smart, but I thought it was a pretty even race between Huck and Jim overall (certainly there were parts where Jim out-thought Huck and vice versa.)

I guess I'm wondering, and I don't know how to say this without starting a fire, but honestly -- can we talk about the racial dynamic within this great story of friendship? Because I do think it's a great story of friendship, but I was not completely OK with the racial aspect of this one.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Huck and Jim seemed on equal terms intellectually if not knowledgeable in the same things, given their backgrounds. Jim knew how dangerous some things Huck wanted to do were, while Huck was oblivious. Legally, Jim couldn't direct or contradict Huck the way an adult normally could without great risk to his life if anyone overheard him. Jim was exceedingly cautious at offering advice with good reason.

Huck only learned to read the year before. It was against the law in most states to teach Black people how to read and write, so, there was that.


Jacinta | 70 comments Ella wrote: "OK, so not sure if you guys finished yet, but I had a big overarching question when I read this most recently, and it's this:

Did Jim seem "brilliant" to you? I remembered it being more like Jim ..."


I'm not sure how you could talk about this book without discussing race. They tried to avoid it in a 1955 film adaptation of the book...by removing Jim from the story entirely. As you can imagine, without Jim, the movie has little to recommend it. The book uses the word "nigger" over 200 times, and the moral climax comes when Huck tears up his letter to Miss Watson as he decides that his friendship with Jim trumps her ownership of him, so I would consider the race question to be the crux of the novel.

I don't know if any of you joined in the group read of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - I didn't - but for anyone who did, I'd love to know how your feelings about Tom compared in that book to this one.


Jacinta | 70 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Huck and Jim seemed on equal terms intellectually if not knowledgeable in the same things, given their backgrounds. Jim knew how dangerous some things Huck wanted to do were, while Huck was oblivio..."

I agree that the uneducated status of blacks is important to understanding Jim's character. While Huck is often technically correct because of his superior (if marginal) education, Jim is much better at reasoning. Among my favorite parts of the book are their conversations about the French language and King Solomon. While Jim obviously lacks understanding of either topic, his explanations for his thinking are much stronger than Huck's. I don't think he's intended to be "brilliant," just human.


Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Thanks - yeah, I agree that the race question is the crux of this story -- and how human beings can bridge that imposed divide is an important part of it.

The word does lose power when you read it every other sentence, and while I was growing up, it was really common to hear that word in what was thought of as "the normal" context - amongst black people. Hearing it come out of my white parent, otoh, was a gut punch I've never quite overcome.. But back to the book.

Jacinta, I read these two right in a row, and I actually think Huck is much more compelling than Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer is a fun children's book. Huck is more of a study in every single part of the US's dynamics, specifically race, class, money, religion.... you name it, it's in there on some level. Even healthcare comes into it at some point!

I honestly can't imagine this story without Jim. What on earth did Huck do the entire time? I do think my thoughts that Jim would be as wise as Solomon (heh) came from the story I've been told SO many times -- that all the language and other problematic stuff is "OK because after all, Jim is clearly the smart one!" I can't tell you how often I've heard that particular trope. So I guess I was expecting Jim to be a bit like Socrates or something, which clearly is silly. It does call to question why white people in particular need to justify this book with that particular trope?

Jim's bit about French reminded me SO much of a friend I had when I was a teenager -- my aunt was going on about antiques, and he said "Why would you want used furniture?" The class implications in that little dialogue still make me grin. My aunt is very saditty, or she used to be - she's calmed down a bit.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Tom seems precocious to me, even more so in this novel, although handicapped by his juvenility. He definitely needs more direction and management, though, than Aunt Polly can give him. He seems way smarter than Aunt Polly, despite her adult status.


Jacinta | 70 comments Ella wrote: "Thanks - yeah, I agree that the race question is the crux of this story -- and how human beings can bridge that imposed divide is an important part of it.

The word does lose power when you read it..."


I don't think I'd ever heard the trope about Jim being brilliant, but I love your question about why white people would perpetuate it. If it's a response to feelings of "white guilt," I think it's profoundly misguided. It seems pretty condescending to characterize Jim as "brilliant" as a way to seem sympathetic to blacks. As you said, he's obviously not a genius, so bending over backwards to pretend otherwise is silly and disingenuous.

Your comparison of Jim's reaction to French to your friend's reaction to buying antiques is hilarious - I definitely see the connection. :)


Jacinta | 70 comments aPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "Tom seems precocious to me, even more so in this novel, although handicapped by his juvenility. He definitely needs more direction and management, though, than Aunt Polly can give him. He seems way..."

Precocious AND juvenile...I think that's a great way to describe Tom! I can't remember if I ever read Tom Sawyer and how I felt about him if I did, but I hated him in this book. The fact that he knows Jim is free all along but uses him as a plaything is horrible. He's also pretty cruel to Aunt Polly who, as you suggest, is not particularly bright. (I realize I'm probably unfairly projecting my modern sensibilities onto a centuries-old character, but if you compare Huck and Tom, Huck seems simple but sweet and Tom seems savvy but sadistic.)


message 11: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments Jacinta wrote: "...Tom Sawyer and how I felt about him if I did, but I hated him in this book. The fact that he knows Jim is free all along but uses him as a plaything is horrible. He's also pretty cruel to Aunt Polly who, as you suggest, is not particularly bright. "

I agree, Jacinta. I had a hard time with Tom adding all of those "but you must...." things to the list when they could have simply gotten Tom out of the stupid cell! No matter what century you're in, this is cruel -- and it goes deeper to show that Tom thought Jim, a human being, was actually a thing for his amusement.

Tom's book is much more juvenile and more of a boy's adventure type book, but this one has lots of social and political commentary from the author via Huck & Jim's story. This, again, was a part of the story that I'd forgotten b/c people typically don't talk much about this part. I'd imagine it made people pretty uncomfortable at the time it was written.

And I agree on your characterizations of the boys -- Huck may not be as intelligent as Tom, but we see a lot more humane nature in Huck than we ever do in Tom.


message 12: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
Great discussion! I need to catch up on this one, and I'll keep this thread open a few more weeks.

One thing about Tom. I don't remember him being much of a reader in Tom Sawyer, but at the beginning of this book he has a lot of specific ideas about robbers and other types of people that he had to get from a book.


message 13: by Ella (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 300 comments NancyJ wrote: "One thing about Tom. I don't remember him being much of a reader in Tom Sawyer, but at the beginning of this book he has a lot of specific ideas about robbers and other types of people that he had to get from a book."

That's a good point. Though we don't see Tom read that I can remember, I pretty much took for granted that all of his grandiose (and cruel) ideas for Jim's captivity and other ridiculous things he insists they do came from books. He's full of ideas and big words, and until they kept Jim locked up, I thought it was a cute, but his complete lack of human empathy just had me irritated by the end of Tom's book.


message 14: by NancyJ, Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 1835 comments Mod
This discussion is now in the folder - Past Group Reads 2019. We can continue to discuss it.


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