Friday, May 1, 2009

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain.
My fourth grade teacher lent me this book to read.
History: This book is regarded as one of the great American novels, and one of the first written in the vernacular, or the common dialect of the region. It satirizes southern antebellum society, but also uses the word "nigger" and was frequently criticized for this. Twain had originally written it as a sequel to Tom Sawyer. It was written post Civil War when there was white reaction against Blacks, and reveals the moral struggle of Huck to believe that Jim was a deep loving man anxious for freedom. The book is essentially seen as a study of racism. I see it more of an adventure story in which Twain can point out the senselessness of slavery, prejudice, and racism.
Plot: The book begins where Tom Sawyer left off, and Huck is living with Widow Douglas, and is miserable. He has come into money, and his abusive and alcoholic father "Pap" suddenly comes into the picture, gets custody of Huck, and locks him in his cabin in the woods. Huck escapes, elaborately fakes his own death, and flees down the river on a raft. He meets up with Jim, Widow Douglas slave who has escaped because he was going to be sold. They were headed to Cairo, Illinois, but missed the stop, got flooded by a steamship and separated. Huck is taken in by a family, who is in a feud with another family that comes and shoots all of the family, Huck escapes, but is very disturbed by the murders. Jim and Huck meet up with 2 swindlers, the "Duke" and the "King", who force themselves on the raft. They scheme against the wealthy family of a new deceased Peter Wilks, impersonating the brother and trying to get his money, but Huck intervenes, however the 2 scoundrels escape on the raft with Huck and Jim. the "king" decides to turn Jim in for reward money, Huck gets mistaken for Tom, and the real Tom Sawyer comes along pretending to be his half brother Sid. it gets complicated but the 2 bad guys are caught and tarred and feathered. Tom and Huck try to free Jim from the shack with elaborate scheme that fails, Tom is shot in the leg. Instead of fleeing, Jim takes care of Tom. Aunt Polly shows up and reveals that Widow Douglas died 2 months ago, making Jim a free man, and also Pap died, making Huck a free boy. Tom's family is going to adopt him, but Huck is going west.
Review: I was only 9 when I read this, encouraged by my fourth grade teacher, but until this time I had read only books like Henry Ribsy, the Bobbsey Twins, etc. This was the first book I had read that was labeled as a classic, or written in the 19th century. I knew the characters, of course, so I could follow the plot and the adventures. But I had trouble with following the dialect, especially of Jim, and conversations are a main part of the narrative. Some of it shocked me, like the tar and feathering, I was just a kid. I didn’t love it, but because my teacher expected me to read it, I did. And when I finished, I was proud because it was an accomplishment. As an adult, I have read other Mark Twain, and I thorougly enjoy his writing, his use of satire and humor, and appreciate the content of this novel more enthusiastically.
Opening Line: You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter.
Closing Line: “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before”
Quotes: “The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and shecalled me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm byit “.
“Pap warn't in a good humor--so he was his natural self.”
“I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:"All right, then, I'll GO to hell."
Rating: torture poor boring mediocre okay good very good wonderful superb

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