Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Miller · Adventures...

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn With Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) Mark Twain developed an archetypal American hero. Huck Finn, the natural boy, resistant to civilization and hungry for adventure, morally right and often legally wrong, is as vivid and familiar a personality to readers as any childhood friend. The novel is a classic of American litera- ture, and, many believe, the greatest work of a great author. Since Huckleberry Finn’s publica- tion in 1885, it has appeared in over 150 American editions alone and 200,000 copies are sold each year. Huckleberry Finn has also been translated into over 50 languages and at least 700 editions have been published worldwide. The novel has also been controversial since its publication, pri- marily because of its racial content, and it has been repeatedly banned by various libraries and schools. Twain introduced the character of Huck Finn in his 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a partner in Sawyer’s adventures. Like many of the characters and events in the novels, Huck Finn was based on someone Twain knew while growing up in Hannibal, Missouri. Twain began writing what became Adventures of Huckleberry Finn soon after pub- lishing Tom Sawyer with ideas left over from the novel. Huckleberry Finn took him nearly seven years to complete as he struggled to finish the story several times and let the manuscript rest while working out the story’s direction. 41 MARK TWAIN 1885
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Transcript of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Miller · Adventures...

  • Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn

    With Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

    Mark Twain developed an archetypal American

    hero. Huck Finn, the natural boy, resistant to

    civilization and hungry for adventure, morally

    right and often legally wrong, is as vivid and

    familiar a personality to readers as any childhood

    friend. The novel is a classic of American litera-

    ture, and, many believe, the greatest work of a

    great author. Since Huckleberry Finns publica-

    tion in 1885, it has appeared in over 150American

    editions alone and 200,000 copies are sold each

    year. Huckleberry Finn has also been translated

    into over 50 languages and at least 700 editions

    have been published worldwide. The novel has

    also been controversial since its publication, pri-

    marily because of its racial content, and it has

    been repeatedly banned by various libraries and


    Twain introduced the character of HuckFinn in his 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom

    Sawyer as a partner in Sawyers adventures.

    Like many of the characters and events in

    the novels, Huck Finn was based on someone

    Twain knew while growing up in Hannibal,

    Missouri. Twain began writing what became

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn soon after pub-

    lishing Tom Sawyer with ideas left over from the

    novel. Huckleberry Finn took him nearly seven

    years to complete as he struggled to finish the

    story several times and let the manuscript rest

    while working out the storys direction.

    4 1



  • Set in the 1830s or 1840s, Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn featuresHuck as the first-personnarrator of the novel. He is running from theWidow Douglass attempt to turn him into arespectable citizen, as well as from his alcoholic,abusive father. With Huck on his journey is Jim, arunaway slave owned by Miss Watson, the wid-ows sister who also tries to civilize Huck in theearly chapters of Huckleberry Finn.

    AsHuck and Jim travel along theMississippiRiver by raft and canoe, they encounter a varietyof people from many social classes, from conartists to kind-hearted wealthy families. Bothseek total freedom and enjoy the liberty theyhave along the way. Huck eventually ends up atthe Phelps farm where Jim is held as a runawayslave. In the end, both Jim and Huck remain freeas Huck will not let himself be adopted andchanged by the Phelpses. He plans to continuehis journey.

    Huckleberry Finn satirizes societys hypoc-risy as it demonstrates the positive results ofmoral action. Twain explores these ideas asHuck deals with issues of right and wrongand wrestles his conscience several times overhelping Jim escape in the book. As Hamlin Hillexplains in the Dictionary of Literary Biography,Huckleberry Finn explores whether any humanbeing can transcend his society, violate his train-ing, achieve independence from external pres-sure and judgment.

    Twain also uses Huckleberry Finn to exploreissues of slavery and race relations. The novel as awhole has been interpreted as an attack on racism,something supported by Twains own opinions onthe subject. Huck comes to see that though Jim isblack and a slave, he is also a person and loyalfriend who repeatedly protects Huck. While manycritics have praised his take on racism, a signifi-cant number have taken issue with what theyconsider to be Twains stereotypical depiction ofJim.Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been seenas racist because the word nigger is used morethan 200 times. This racial content is one of theprimary reasons why the book has been bannedfrom certain schools and libraries. Despite suchcontroversies, Adventures of Huckleberry Finnremains among the most important and belovedAmerican novels. Richard Lemon of PeopleWeekly wrote on the occasion of the novels cen-tennial, Huck Finns overriding virtue is that hestays simple: He is a boy who loves freedom andthe American land and can instruct us in both.


    Chapters 13Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn opens withHuckintroducing himself and explaining what has


    Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida,Missoiri, on November 30, 1835, the author wasraised in Hannibal, Missouri. This town alongthe Mississippi River later served as a source ofinspiration for his novels, including the earlychapters of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Asa boy, Clemenss limited formal education endedwhen his father died and he was apprenticed to aprinter at the age of twelve. By his early twenties,Clemens was fulfilling a childhood dream byworking as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi.It was there that he first heard the boating termmark twain, which he would adopt as a penname. The Civil War ended Clemenss work onthe river but led him into his journalism career.Clemens traveled west with his brother Orion,who was the territorial secretary of Nevada.

    Clemens first took the name Mark Twainwhile writing for the Nevada-based TerritorialEnterprise. Twain launched his book publishingcareer by the mid-1860s with humorous nonfic-tion, first with a collection of previously pub-lished pieces entitled The Celebrated JumpingFrog of Calaveras County. In 1876, Twain intro-duced the character of Huckleberry Finn in thenovel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, based onreal people and events in Hannibal and hisuncles Florida farm. Twain published his best-known novels, includingHuck Finn (1885), in the1880s, and earned a reputation as one of thegreatest living American writers. Twain contin-ued writing humorous nonfiction until his deathfrom heart disease on April 21, 1910, in Redding,Connecticut.

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  • happened to him since the end of the last bookby Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Heand Tom split the $6,000 they found, and theWidowDouglas took Huck in. She forces him tolive by rules, quit smoking, and go to school. Hersister, Miss Watson, teaches him about religionand contributes to his education. One night,Huck slips out of the house and finds TomSawyer waiting for him. After creating mischiefwith Jim, an adult slave owned by Miss Watson,Huck and Tom meet other boys. They form agang of highwaymen headed by Tom. MissWatson tries to teach Huck to pray, but hedecides there is nothing to it. Huck tells readersthat he has not seen his father, Pap, in over a yearand he is glad about it. After playing with Tomsgang for a month, Huck resigns. The most mis-chief the gang gets into is breaking up a Sundayschool picnic.

    Chapters 46A few months later, Huck has learned to read alittle and grown to tolerate his new lifestyle. Hesees tracks outside, which makes him run toJudge Thatchers. Huck sells him the $6,000plus interest from his Tom Sawyer adventure

    for $1. Huck later finds Pap in his room. Papthreatens to beat Huck if he continues going toschool. Pap tells him, Youve put on consider-able many frills since I been away. Ill take youdown a peg before I get done with you. He tellshis son that he heard about the money. Hucktells him that the money belongs to JudgeThatcher now. The widow and the judge go tocourt to gain guardianship of Huck, but the newjudge in town refuses to give it to them. Underthe threat of violence, Huck gets his fathermoney, which he spends getting drunk. Thenew judge tries to help by cleaning Pap up andputting him up in a spare room in his home. Pappersists in his legal fight for Hucks money, andoccasionally beats his son for continuing toattend school. As Huck reasons, I didnt wantto go to school much before, but I reckoned Idgo now to spite pap. He takes Huck to a cabinon the Illinois shore. Although Pap gets drunkand beats him, Huck enjoys not having rulesagain. He refuses to go back to the widows,though she tries to rescue him. The beatingsand his fathers drunken behavior compelHucks decision to run away.

    Chapters 79While checking the fishing lines for his father,Huck finds a canoe and hides it. When Papleaves for town to sell part of a raft they found,Huck loads everything from the cabin in hiscanoe. He also makes it look like there was arobbery and Huck was killed. After ensuring hisfather has returned to the cabin, Huck takes hiscanoe to Jacksons Island where he hides andgoes to sleep. The next morning, Huck sees aferryboat float by with Pap, the widow, andothers looking for Hucks body. While enjoyinglife on the island, Huck comes across Jim. Jimthinks Huck is a ghost until Huck convinces himotherwise. Huck shares the story of what hap-pened to him, and Jim tells him that he has beenhiding on Jacksons Island since Huck allegedlydied. Jim ran off because Miss Watson had beenpicking on him and seemed finally ready tomakegood on her threat to sell him. Huck and Jimhide the canoe and move the supplies into acavern on a ridge in the middle of the island.Huck is content and enjoys exploring the islandsshore in the canoe during the day. During histravels, Huck catches part of a lumber raft. Healso comes across a house floating by. Huckfinds a dead man inside, but Jim will not let

    Mark Twain Corbis

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  • him look at the body. Huck and Jim take all thegoods of value from inside the home.

    Chapters 1013Among the goods, Jim and Huck find money.Huck decides to trick Jim by putting a deadrattlesnake on his blanket. Another rattlesnakelater joins it and bites Jim. Huck feels guilty,believing that he had brought bad luck by han-dling a snake skin. Jim takes care of the bite andrecovers in a few days. Bored, Huck decides todisguise himself as a girl and find out what isgoing on in town. Huck he goes to the home ofnewcomer Mrs. Judith Loftus, pretending to beSarah Williams. He learns from her that some intown think that Huck staged his own death,while others believe that Jim killed him. Thereis also a reward for turning Jim in. Still othersbelieve that Hucks father killed him andmade itlook like a robbery so that he could get his handson his sons money. Mrs. Loftus thinks Jim is onJacksons Island. Huck learns that her husbandand another man are going to the island thatnight to look for Jim. Huck returns to the island,sets up a decoy camp, and takes off with the raftand canoe with Jim.

    Huck and Jim drift down the river, passingSt. Louis. They stop each night and buy food.Passing a steamboat wrecked on a rock, Huckinsists they check it out, though Jim is reluctant.On board, Huck finds two men stealing what isaboard and arguing about a killing. When Hucksends Jim to set the mens boat adrift, Jim returnsand tells Huck that their own raft is gone.Worried, Huck steals the mens boat and theytake off after the raft. They get their raft backafter a storm and put the stolen items from themens boat on board. While Jim takes care ofthe raft, Huck finds a riverboat and convincesthe operator to go back to the crashed ferryboatwith a fake story. Huck believes the widow wouldbe proud of what he has done, because rapscal-lions and dead beats is the kind the widow andgood people takes the most interest in.

    Chapters 1416Huck and Jim enjoy the loot from the wreck.Huck reads some of the books they found toJim, which leads to a conversation about whatkings do. When the talk turns to the biblicalKing Solomon, Jim tells Huck that he doesnot think Solomon was wise because he wasgoing to cut a child in half, arguing, You takea man dats ony got one or two chillen; is dat

    man gwyne be waseful o chillen? No, he aint;he cant ford it. He know how to value em.Huck tells Jim that he missed the point of thestory, but Jim will not listen.

    Huck and Jim decide to go to Cairo, Illinois,sell the raft, and take a steamboat up the OhioRiver to the free states. On the second day oftheir journey, a fog comes up, throwing off theirplans. Huck is in the canoe and gets separatedfrom Jim on the raft for a long time. When Huckfinally catches up with Jim, Huck pretends likenothing had happened. Jim finally realizes Huckwas fooling him and gets angry:

    When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de

    callin for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz

    mos broke because you wuz los, en I didn

    kyer no mo what become er me en de raf.

    En when I wake up en find you back agin, all

    safe en soun, de tears come, en I could a got

    down on my knees en kiss yo foot, Is so

    thankful. En all you wuz thinkin bout wuz

    how you could make a fool uv old Jim wid a lie.

    Huck feels guilty and apologizes, noting, Ididnt do no more mean tricks, and I wouldntdone that one if Id a knowed it would makehim feel that way.

    While Jim is excited because he is nearlyfree, Huck feels like he has done wrong to MissWatson. Huck thinks, I got to feeling so meanand so miserable I most wished I was dead. AsJimmakes plans for his freedom,Huck feels evenworse. He decides to go ashore at first light andtell on Jim in the town they thinkmight be Cairo.Huck tells Jim that he is making sure it is Cairo.Huck feels conflicted because Jim says Huck ishis friend, and he winds up protecting Jim fromsome runaway slave catchers. They learn thatthey have floated far south of Cairo and con-tinue to travel, but they lose the canoe. They takethe raft downstream looking for a canoe to buy.The raft is apparently destroyed by a steamboatin the fog, and Huck cannot find Jim. Hucktakes hold of a plank and finds a house onshore.

    Chapters 1718Huck is taken in by the Grangerford family. Hemakes up a story about his background, and theGrangerfords offer him a permanent home.WhileHuck has problems remembering his fake nameat first, he likes the house, the books, the artwork,and the food. Huck admires the family patriarch,Col. Grangerford, and finds the family large andbeautiful. The Grangerfords have been feudingwith the similarly wealthy Shepherdsons for thirty

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  • years. One day, SophiaGrangerford asks Huck togo back to church as a favor for her to get herNew Testament, which she left there. Huck findsa slip of paper inside with a time on it. She ishappy to get her book.

    Jack, the slave assigned to Huck, leads himto Jim, whom the Grangerford slaves had beenhiding in the nearby woods. Jim has been repair-ing the raft and buying supplies. The next day,Sophia has been found to have run off and mar-ried a Shepherdson son. This event leads to agunfight that Huck watches from a tree. Thecolonel and two sons are killed as are severalShepherdsons. Huck feels guilty for contributingto the incident. He finds Jim, who is glad to seehim. Jack had told Jim that Huck was dead. Thepair continues their travels on the MississippiRiver.

    Chapters 1920While ashore one day, two men beg Huck to letthem join him and Jim on the raft. Both men arecon artists who have been run out of town;though they had not known each other before,they decide to join forces. The younger manclaims he is a duke, while the elder says he isthe missing dauphin and rightful Louis XVII,the son of the French King Louis XVI. Jim isexcited to treat them like royalty; Huck soondecides they are fakes, but keeps up the actanyway.

    The duke and king decide they will put on aplay though the dauphin has not acted before.With Huck, the duke and the king go into a smalltown. The whole community is at a revival campmeeting two miles outside town. Huck and theking go to the meeting, where the king bilkspeople out of money. In the meantime, theduke goes to the print shop to make up posterspromoting his schemes and a runaway slaveposter with Jims description on it. So they cantravel during the day, the duke says they can tieup Jim as needed and claim he is a runaway slavethey are taking downstream.

    Chapters 2123As the raft travels both day and night, the dukeand the king work on their performance for theproduction they plan to put on. Reaching a smalltown in Arkansas, Jim stays with the raft whileHuck, the duke, and the king go ashore. The conartists rent the town courthouse and prepare forthe show. At the show, only twelve people show

    up. They laugh at the dukes and kings interpre-tation of certain Shakespearean scenes. Theduke promises a new, funny show, and he printsup handbills for the event. Ladies and childrenwill not be admitted.

    A house full of men shows up at the produc-tion. It is short: just the king naked and paintedprancing on all fours for a few moments. Whilethe audience laughs, they feel taken but do notwant everyone else in town to know they havebeen. They decide to let the rest of the town seeit so everyone is equal. The duke and king do wellon the second night as well. On the third night, theaudience consists of men who have seen the showand come loaded with rotting produce to throw atthem. The duke and Huck run to the raft beforethe show started; the king is already there. Thenext morning, Huck finds Jim upset by thoughtsof his wife and children. Huck finds Jims feelingsodd, thinking, I do believe he cared just as muchfor his people as white folks does for theirn. Itdont seem natural, but I reckon its so.

    Chapters 2426Traveling a little farther, the king and the dukedecide to work two towns on opposite sides of theriverbank with Hucks help. So he will not bebothered or questioned, they leave Jim on theraft, painted blue and in the King Lear costume,with a sign that says Sick Arab. From a mangoing aboard a steamboat, the king learns abouta recently deceased citizen. The king decides topose as a reverend, the England-based brother ofthe deceased man who had hoped to see his min-ister brother before his death. The duke poses asthe reverends other brother, a deaf-mute.

    The townspeople, including the deceasedmans daughters, believe the con men. Dealingwith $6,000 in cash the dead man left behind forhis brothers in his cellar, the king and the dukeare surprised to find that the stash is more $400short. The duke decides they should make up thedifference and give the money to the daughters,to prove they are honest men. Their con is nearlyexposed when the town doctor believes the menare frauds and tells everyone so. No one willbelieve it, and Mary Jane, one of the deceasedmans daughters, gives the $6,000 back to theking to invest.

    The king, the duke, and Huck, who acts astheir valet (valley), stay in the family home.Huckgrows fond of the daughters and feels guilty abouthelping to steal their inheritance. Huck decides to

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  • rectify the situation by stealing the money backfor them.

    Chapters 2730Late at night, Huck puts the money in the coffin;it is buried with the dead man the next day. Theking tells the group after the funeral that hewould settle the estate immediately and returnhome. He auctions the house and property rightaway. The king even sells the slaves though thedaughters did not want it done. When the kingand duke learn the money is missing, Huckblames it on the slaves and they believe him. Hetells Mary Jane everything that has happened,even though telling the truth seems to him sokind of strange and unregular.

    The deceased mans real brothers arrive andhave trouble getting people to believe that theyare who they say. There is a public confrontationover which set of brothers to believe. The inves-tigators decide to dig up the body to see if he hasa tattoo described differently by each pair.Whenthe coffin is opened, everyone is surprised to seethe missing money there. Huck runs away in theexcitement. As he leaves with Jim, he sees theduke and king coming toward them fast in arowboat. Huck reports, So wilted right downonto the planks then, and give up; and it was allI could do to keep from crying. They comeaboard.

    Chapters 3133As the duke and the king grow more broke anddesperate, Huck and Jim worry about what theywill do next. In Pikesville, the king and the dukeget distracted, and Huck decides he and Jim willrun. When Huck gets back to the raft, he findsthat Jim has been sold as a runaway slave and isbeing sent to New Orleans. Huck does not knowwhat to do other than steal Jim back. In town,Huck uses an emotional story to learn from theduke where Jim.

    Huck debates what he should do; he knowsthat the right thing and the clean thing is to writea letter to Miss Watson, telling her the location ofher runaway slave. However, when he thinks ofwhat a great friend Jim has been, he decides tofollow the path of wickedness and help Jimescape. As Huck surveys the Phelps farm, whereJim is being held, he is spotted by one of thefamilys slaves and is mistaken for a visitingnephew. Huck plays along, and he soon discoversthat the nephew he is impersonating is none

    other than Tom Sawyer. Toms Aunt Sally andUncle Silas welcome the boy into their home astheir nephew.

    When he hears the steamboat coming, Huckgoes to head Tom off. After convincing Tomthat he is not a ghost, Huck tells him about theimmediate situation, and Tom agrees that Huckshould continue to pretend to be him. Tom alsoagrees to help Huck steal Jim back. At thePhelpses plantation, Tom tells Sally that he isSid Sawyer, Toms brother. Huck and Tom learnthat Jim told the townspeople about the king andduke being frauds. When Huck and Tom sneakout of the house at night, they fill each other inon their lives. Huck and Tom pass the king andduke, who are being tarred and feathered.

    Chapter 3439Tom and Huck plan to free Jim. Tom objects toHucks straightforward plan, saying, Whatsthe good of a plan that aint no more troublethan that? Its as mild as goose-milk. Instead,Tom devises an elaborate plan reminiscent of apopular adventure novel. The boys decide that,instead of lifting up the leg of the bed to slipJims chain off, they should saw through the legof the bedonly after Huck convinces Tomthat sawing through Jims leg is not a goodoption. Instead of using the door to escapeJims cabin prison, Tom decides they will tunneltheir way out.

    Chapters 4043On the night of the planned escape, Aunt Sallycatches Huck in the cellar and is suspicious. Shetells him to go to the parlor where armed farmerswere gathered. Afraid, Huck answers her ques-tions. After he is sent upstairs to bed, he goes outagain, finds Tom and Jim, and they escape. Themen shoot at them, and while Jim is free, Tomgets shot in the leg. Huck and Jim insist on goingfor a doctor for him, though Tom does not wantit. Jim hides while Huck convinces a doctor intown to come to treat Tom and not say anything.Huck runs into Uncle Silas, who sends Huckhome to appease Aunt Sally.

    By breakfast, the doctor has brought Tomhome on a mattress with Jim tied up behindthem. Sally is happy that Tom is alive. Whilethe men argue about whether to hang Jim, thedoctor stands up for him, telling how he helpedwith Tom. When Tom recovers, he tells his auntthat Jim is already free; Miss Watson has died

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  • and freed him in her will. Toms Aunt Pollyshows up and reveals the truth about the boysidentity and confirms that Jim is free.

    In the final chapter, Tom reveals that heplanned for them to free Jim, have adventureson the river, and return home to celebrate Jim asa hero and a free man. Tom gives Jim $40 for thetrouble he caused. Huck worries the money hehad at home is gone, but Tom says it is all stillthere. Jim tells Huck his father is dead; Pap wasthe man in the floating house. The Phelpses offerto take Huck in. Tom suggests that he, Huck,and Jim head for the Indian Territories to havesome adventures. Huck ends his story, saying,

    But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory

    ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally shes

    going to adopt me and sivilize me and I cant

    stand it. I been there before.


    FreedomBoth Huck Finn and Jim are on a quest forfreedom, trying to escape the rules of society.By declaring their independence in this manner,the two are fulfilling an American dream of liv-ing as they choose to without being subject to therestraints and restrictions they do not embrace.They find life most agreeable on their raft andcanoe on the river, despite many mishaps alongthe way.

    Huck avoids efforts to sivilize him by theWidow Douglas, Miss Watson, and others hemeets along the river. In the first few chapters of

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck goes toschool, quits smoking and swearing, and learnshow to pray. While Huck uses these life skillsdown the linehis reading skills entertain Jimand does care about doing the right thinghedoes not like the dukes and kings plans for bilk-ing Mary Jane and her sistershe cherishes hisfreedom to choosewhere he goes and howhe lives.

    Huck enjoys living in the cabin with Papmorethan with the widow, though Pap beats him,insults him, and only wants his money. There,Huck can swear and smoke. It is only when thissituation becomes too difficult that he runs away,meets up with Jim on Jackson Island, and beginshis quest in earnest. By the end of the novel, notmuch has changed. The Phelpses want to adoptHuck, but he plans to continue his journey beforeany more rules of society can be thrust upon him.

    Jims quest for freedom is more complexthan Hucks. He ran away from Miss Watsonbecause he believed she was finally going makegood on her threat to sell him in New Orleans.Huck and Jim initially head toward free stateswhere Jim can escape the bonds of slavery. Jimhopes to buy his familys freedom once he is free.While Huck feels some conflict over helping aslave escape, Huck ultimately sees Jim as a friendand helps him escape from difficult situationsover and over again.

    EqualityHuck Finn explores another tenet of the Ameri-can dream: equality, or rather its absence. Set inMissouri and the South in the preCivil WarUnited States, Twain makes the concept of Afri-can American personhood more acceptable tohis postCivil War readers by offering an inno-cent child-hero who understands it instinctively.Twain illustrates the depth of racism in this timeperiod while showing that characters like Huckcan overcome them and look at African Ameri-cans as people with feelings, families, and friend-ships, even with whites. Though Huck and othercharacters uses the word nigger to describeblack slaves, Huck is also surprised to learnhow much Jim really means to him over thecourse of their travels. No one questions theuse of this racial epitaph in the book, thoughmodern readers often find it troublesome anddistracting. Huck sees Jim as a friend and aperson and so cannot return him to slavery,even though he does not question the largerinstitution of slavery.









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  • However, in addition to showing that Huckcan achieve personal growth in how he regardsJim, Twain also shows that characters, such asthe doctor who tends to Tom Sawyer after he isshot, can stand up for the runaway slave as aman of character. Twain also uses peoples rac-ism to protect Jim as part of the story. The dukecomes up with several plans so that people leaveJim alone while the con artists bilk townsfolk.The primary one involves printing up fake post-ers about Jim being a runaway slave so they canleave him tied up during the day. Another planalso plays on racist feelings when the dukedresses up Jim in the King Lear costume, paintshim blue, and labels him a sick Arab so peoplewill avoid him when he is alone on the raft.

    RighteousnessAs the story in Huck Finn progresses, Huckdevelops a conscience about what is right andwhat is wrong, and acts accordingly. He uses hismoral sense to expose hypocrisy in others and totry to correct such situations when he can. It is amoral code of the American dream. While Huckalmost always does the right thing from amoral perspective, because of his upbringing hecannot help but feel that his actions are actuallywicked and immoral. WhenHuck first finds Jim,

    he promises not to reveal Jims secret: Peoplewould call me a low down Abolitionist anddespise me for keeping mumbut that dontmake no difference. I aint agoing to tell.Later, when Huck tries to convince himself thatthe right thing to do is to turn Jim in, he cannotdefy his conscience:

    It made me shiver. And I about made up mymind to pray, and see if I couldnt try to quitbeing the kind of a boy I was and be better. So Ikneeled down. But the words wouldnt come.Why wouldnt they? It warnt no use to try andhide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. Iknowed very well why they wouldnt come. Itwas because my heart warnt right; it wasbecause I warnt square; it was because I wasplaying double. I was letting on to give up sin,but away inside of me I was holding on to thebiggest one of all. I was trying to make mymouth say I would do the right thing and theclean thing, and go and write to that niggersowner and tell where he was; but deep down inme I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it.You cant pray a lieI found that out.

    Even though he feels that he is the wickedone, not the institution of slavery, Huck embra-ces his wickedness and makes peace with it. Indoing so, Huck demonstrates to Twains post-Emancipation readers that the right thing andthe traditional thing may not be the same.

    Although Huck is not above stealing forsurvival, he does have standards. In chapters 12and 13, for example, he ensures that the men heoverheard talking about a killing and stealinghave a chance to come to justice, an action ofwhich he is sure that the Widow Douglas, hisstandard for morality, would be proud.

    When Huck and Jim take up with the dukeand king, Huck does not mind taking part intheir schemes. He does not protest about theshows they put on that sucker a village of meninto paying to watch a naked, painted kingprancing around. But when they claim to be theuncles of Mary Jane and her sisters and try tocontrol their wealth, Huck takes issue with theirdeceit. Huck helps the men because he feels hehas to, but he also feels guilty and thinks of a wayfor Mary Jane to retain what is rightfully hers.


    Slavery in PreCivil War AmericaBy the 1840s, the era in which Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn is set, the issue of slavery was

    Mickey Rooney as Huck Finn in the 1939 film ofThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Bettmann/Corbis

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  • very divisive in the United States. The agrarianstates of the South relied on slave labor, espe-cially on large plantations, and did not want togive up the right to own slaves. However, only athird of white Southerners owned slaves, primar-ily those who were wealthy land owners. Therest of the white population in the South wasgenerally poor, often living in conditions com-parable to many slaves with little chance ofadvancing economically and socially. Many ofthem embraced slavery and racism as a way tofeel superior to someone and endure their hardlives. Pressure from northern abolitionists didnot change these attitudes, so every time a newterritory was admitted to statehood a battlebroke out between northern and southern statesin the U.S. Congress.

    Missouri played a prominent role in thisstruggle between South and North. In 1818, theterritory petitioned for statehood. Members ofCongress from theNorth protested because slav-ery was practiced there, putting off Missourisstatehood for a time. It was not until KentuckyRepresentative Henry Clay devised a compro-mise in 1820 that Missouri was admitted to theUnion. To keep the balance of slave and freestatesand thus assure that slavery would stillbe allowed in the SouthClay proposed admit-ting Maine as a free state at the same time. Clayalso put forth that slavery also not be allowed inother territories acquired with the LouisianaPurchase north or west of Missouri.

    Clays proposal was accepted, and Missouriwas admitted to the United States in 1821.Despite the compromise, new wrinkles ensuedas more territories were acquired. In 1845, forexample, Texas, a slave state, was annexed. Thebalance between slave and free states continuedto be precarious in Congress. Clay continued toplay a prominent role in creating compromisesto avoid internal war. His Compromise of 1850involved Congress passing the Fugitive SlaveAct, which forced the return of slaves whomade it to free areas of the United States to bereturned to their rightful owners. In return, thewestern part of the United States would be freeof slavery. The standoff continued until the CivilWar erupted in the early 1860s.

    The PostCivil War SouthWhen Twain was writing Adventures of Huckle-berry Finn in the late 1870s and early 1880s, theSouth was undergoing another change. As the

    Civil War ended in 1865 and the Confederatestates surrendered to the Union, the Southfaced a time of physical, political, and emotionalreconstruction. During Reconstruction, slaverywas erased from the South and the federal gov-ernment helped integrate the newly freed blacksinto their new lives with increased civil rights.

    While the radical reconstructionists tried topunish former Confederates in the late 1860s andearly 1870s, so-called redeemers, supported bywhite supremacy groups such as the Ku KluxKlan, were in charge of all former Confederatestates by 1877. Redeemers, often conservativeDemocrats, passed legislation that underminedfederal Reconstruction in the South. Southernstates passed laws that led to fewer political andcivil rights for blacks. While public discriminationwas still illegal according to an 1883U.S. SupremeCourt decision, private discrimination was legal.

    Even so, blacks faced many forms of segre-gation and discrimination in their public lives aswell. Jim Crow laws and poll taxes affected theability of many African Americans to vote, forexample. Thus thousands of blacks left the Southbeginning in 1877. The so-called exodusters leftsouthern states in this time period looking for abetter life in Kansas, only to encounter moreracial hostility. Those blacks who remained inthe South often faced conditions no better thanduring slavery, with many remaining poor assharecropping farmers or domestic workers. By1880, about 90 percent of African Americansliving in the South made their living in theseprofessionsabout the same proportion asbefore the Civil War.


    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is arguably thebest known and most iconic novel by Twain, butit is one mired in controversy since its publica-tion. Some writers see it as the most influentialAmerican novel, including Pulitzer and NobelPrizewinning author Ernest Hemingway, who,in Green Hills of Africa, offers Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn its most well-known andenduring compliment:

    All modern American literature comes from

    one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry

    Finn. . . . All American writing comes fromthat. There was nothing before. There has

    been nothing as good since.

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  • Others regard the novel as an unorganizedmess that is highly overrated. It has been subjectto bans by schools and libraries for being harm-ful to young readers because of its apparentlyracist leanings.

    When Huckleberry Finn was originally pub-lished in 1885, the novel generally received harshreviews from contemporaries. Famous authorLouisa May Alcott was one prominent voicedismissing the book. Jonathan Yardley ofthe Washington Post quotes her as writing, If

    Mr. Clemens cannot think of something betterto tell our pure-minded lads and lasses, he hadbest stop writing for them. The novel was alsodeemed unsuitable for young audiences by anumber of critics and promptly banned by thepublic library in Concord, Massachusetts.

    HuckleberryFinndid received some initial pos-itive reviews as well.Writing in LondonsSaturdayReview in 1885, Brander Matthews declares thatthe novel is not as good as Adventures of TomSawyer but also finds that the skill with which


    An abridged audio adaptation narrated andadapted by Garrison Keillor was released byHighbridge Audio in 2003. This version is cur-rently available in both audiocassette and CDformat.

    An unabridged audio adaptation, narratedby Dick Hill, was released in 2001 by BrillianceAudio. It is currently available in both CD andaudiocassette format.

    An electronic version of the bookwas releasedfor Microsoft Reader by Amazon Press in 2000.This version features an introduction by JohnD. Seelye and is available through

    A film based on the book was released in1939 byMGM, directed by Richard Thorpe andstarred Mickey Rooney in the title role. It wasreleased in VHS format by MGM in 1999.

    A full-color film adaptation of the novel wasreleased byMGM in 1960. The film was directedby Michael Curtiz and starred Eddie Hodges asHuck and Tony Randall as the king. It is cur-rently available on DVD throughWarner HomeVideo.

    A filmed musical adaptation of the novelwas released by MGM in 1974, directed byJ. Lee Thompson and featuring songs byRichard and Robert Sherman (famous for theirwork in movies such asMary Poppins andChittyChitty Bang Bang). This version is currentlyavailable on DVD through MGM.

    An adaptation of the novel was released byDisney in 1995; this version starred Elijah Woodas Huck Finn and Courtney B. Vance as Jim andwas directed by Stephen Sommers. Althoughevery film adaptation has been criticized to somedegree for not staying true to the book, this ver-sion in particular features a radically altered end-ing. This version is currently available on DVDfrom Walt Disney Video.

    The novel has been adapted for televisionseveral times: first in 1955, then again in 1975(with Ron Howard in the title role), yet again in1981, and once more in 1985. The 1975 versionwas released on VHS by Twentieth Century Foxin 1996, and the 1985 version was released onVHS by MCA Home Video in 1992. None ofthese versions is currently available.

    An animated television adaptation of TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn was created byKoch Vision in 1984. This version was releasedon DVD in 2006.

    Big River: The Adventures of HuckleberryFinn, a stage musical version of the novel,began its run on Broadway in 1985 and remainedthere until 1987. This version featured music andlyrics by legendary country musician RogerMiller, with performances by John Goodmanand Rene Auberjonois, among others; a sound-track of the original cast recording was releasedby Decca U.S. in 1990 and is currently availablein CD format.

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  • the characterofHuckFinn ismaintained ismarvel-lous. Matthews goes on to praise the characterhimself:

    Huck Finn is a genuine boy; he is neither a girl

    in boys clothes like many of the modern heroes

    of juvenile fiction, nor is he a little man, a

    full-grown man cut down; he is a boy, just a

    boy, only a boy.

    The acclaim grew louder by the twentieth cen-tury when the novel began being seen as a master-work. Biographer Albert Bigelow Paine writes inhis 1912 book Mark Twain, a Biography: ThePersonal and Literary Life of Samuel LanghorneClemens, The story of Huck Finn will probablystand as the best of Mark Twains purely fictionalwritings. A sequel toTomSawyer, it is greater thanits predecessor; greater artistically. Focusing onHuck himself, Waldo Frank lauds the character in1919 in Our America, Huckleberry Finn is theAmerican epic hero. Greece had Ulysses. Americamust be content with an illiterate lad. He expressesour germinal past. He expresses the movement ofthe American soul through all the sultry climaxesof the Nineteenth Century.

    While Huck Finns popularity reached itsheight by the middle of the twentieth century,some controversies still remained about thebook even at centurys end. The loose structureof the novel is often considered a major flaw.Richard Lemon of People Weekly makes thisassessment: theres hardly a plot worth speakingof, only a series of adventures. One long-stand-ing source of controversy is the way the novelends, which in many eyes does not match thepower of the rest of the book.WhenHuck reachesthe Phelps farm and finds the family expecting hisfriend, Tom Sawyer, many critics find the set-uptoo coincidental. Also problematic for critics isthe way Huck regresses in this section. Huck goesalongwith the elaborate, if not torturous, schemesdevised by Tom to help Jim escape without muchprotest. For some critics, this change in Huckseems unexpected considering the way he hadevolved over the course of the novel.

    More controversial than the novels struc-

    tural or stylistic shortcomings are Twains depic-

    tions of slavery, racism, and race relations. While

    many accept that Twain had anti-racist intent

    when he wrote Huckleberry Finn, it is this aspect

    of the book that is often the source ofmodern day

    bannings. Yardley quotes John H. Wallace, a

    member of the Human Relations Committee of

    Mark Twain Intermediate School, considering a

    ban in 1982: The book is poison. It is anti-

    American; itworks against themelting-pot theory

    of our country; it works against the idea that all

    men are created equal. The American Library

    Association, which tracks the number of chal-

    lenges leveled at controversial books in libraries

    nationwide, lists Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    as the fifth most-challenged book in libraries

    between 1990 and 2000.

    Despite such continuing tumult and ban-

    nings, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still

    used in classrooms, and its reputation is still

    strong. A 1995 Washington Post article sums up

    the ongoing debate: Huckleberry Finn will

    always attract the attentions of the bowdlerizers

    and the censors, and every so often some dimwit-

    ted or fainthearted school administrator will see

    fit to suppress it, but like the great river by and

    upon which it is set, it just keeps rolling along.


    Sacvan BercovitchIn the following excerpt, Bercovitch examines howTwains novel is a watershed achievement in dead-pan humor, and how that approach makes thework open for various interpretations of a hypo-thetical American ideal.

    Mark Twains humor is deadpan at its best,and Huckleberry Finn is his funniest book, in allthree senses of the term. Accordingly, in whatfollows I use the terms tall tale, con man, anddeadpan reciprocally, fluidly, on the groundsthat Twains deadpanthe third, sinister, oddor curious sense of funnyincorporates (with-out submerging, indeed while deliberately draw-ing out) the other two forms of humor.

    His method involves a drastic turnabout indeadpan effect. In order to enlist the tall tale andcon game in the service of deadpan, Twainactually reverses conventional techniques. That isto say, the novel overturns the very tradition ofdeadpan that it builds upon. As a rule, that tradi-tion belongs to the narrator. Huck has often beensaid to speak deadpan-style; but the funny thing is,he is not a humorist, not even when hes puttingsomeone on (as he does Aunt Sally, when hepretends to be Tom Sawyer). In fact, he rarelyhas fun; hes usually in a sweat, and on therare occasion when he does try to kid around (as

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  • when he tells Jim they were not separated in thefog) the joke turns back on itself to humiliate him.Hucks voice may be described as pseudo-dead-pan; it sounds comic, but actually its troubled,earnest. The real deadpan artist is Mark Twain ofcourse, and whats remarkable, what makes forthe inversion I just spoke of, is that this con man isnot straight-faced (as Huck is), but smiling. Torecall Twains distinction between the Englishcomic story and the American humorous story,the author is wearing the Mask of Comedy. Hehides his humor, we might say, behind a comicfacade. The humor, a vehicle of deceit, is directedagainst the audience. The tale itself, however, isconstantly entertaining, often musing, sometimeshilarious; apparently the storyteller is having awonderful time, laughing through it allandactually so are we.

    So heres the odd or curious setup ofHuckleberry Finn: the deadpan artist is MarkTwain, wearing the Comic Mask, doing his bestto conceal the fact that he suspects that theresanything grave, let alone sinister, about hisstory, and he succeeds famously. Then, as welaugh, or after weve laughed, we may realize, ifwere alert, that theres something weve over-looked. We havent seen whats funny about thefact that weve found it funny. This artist hasgulled us. He has diverted our attention awayfrom the real point, and we have to go back overhis story in order to recognize its nub.

    The nature of re-cognition in this sense(understanding something all over again, doinga double take) may be simply illustrated. Considera culture like the late nineteenth-century South-west, which was both racist and egalitarian. Theminstrel show was a genre born out of preciselythat contradiction. So imagine a deadpanminstrelact that goes like this. The audience hears a funnystory about a stereotype darkie and they smileand laugh along. The nub of course is that theyare being laughed at; theyve been taken in andmade the butt of a joke. Once they see that, if theydo, they understand whats truly funny about thestory, and theyre free to laugh at themselves forhaving laughed in the first place. That freedommay be compared to the shock of the funny bone.Its a complex sensation, engaging all three mean-ings of funny, not unlike the odd tingling, vibra-tion you feel when youre hit on the funny bone.A light touch might mean no more than a bit ofhealthy funsay, the wake-up call of the tall tale(the joke reminds you of your egalitarian

    principles). A sharp touch might be unnerving

    a satire directed against the system at large (you

    recognize that this self-proclaimed egalitarian

    society is fundamentally racist). A direct and

    vicious cut would be painful, a sensation of vio-

    lence, as in the sinister sense of funny (you

    realize that egalitarianism itself is a joke and

    that youre a sucker for having believed in it).

    Twains humor, to repeat, spans all threeforms. Huckleberry Finn is the apotheosis of

    American deadpan, amasterfully coordinated syn-

    thesis of all three layers of the meaning of funny,

    with the emphasis on the sinister. It is worth

    remarking that the novel is unique in this regard.

    Twain achieved this feat only once. His earlier

    works are rarely sinister, not even when theyre

    brimful of violence, as in Roughing It (1872), or

    for thatmatterTomSawyer (1876).His laterworks

    are rarely funny, not even when theyre brimful of

    jokes, as inPuddnheadWilson (1892) or the tales of

    The Confluence of the Mississippi and Red Riversis shown in this hand-drawn map from a Frenchmanuscript, 1766 Corbis

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  • terror collected posthumously as The Great Dark.Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Twains greatsynthetic work, incorporating every stage of hisdevelopment as Americas Humorist, from theunalloyed cheer of The Celebrated Jumping Frogof Calaveras County through the fierce satire ofThe Gilded Age to the David Lynch (or RobertCrum) like world of TheManWho CorruptedHadleyburgh Twains mode of coordination inHuckleberry Finn, the dialectic behind his fantasticsynthesis, is a drastic reversal of effect: the deadpanartist with the ComicMask. And the procession ofnubs or snappers he delivers constitutes the mostsevere shocks in our literature to the Americanfunny bone.

    As Huck tells the story we come to feel thathis conscience is the object of Twains expose.Its conscience that makes Huck a racist, con-science that keeps leading him astray, and weinterpret his conscience, properly, as an indict-ment of the values of the antebellum Southwest.But there was no need in 1885 to indict slavesociety. Primarily Twains deadpan is directedagainst his readership, then and later, evenunto our own timeagainst, that is, the con-science-driven forms of liberal interpretation.To a certain extent, his project here reflects thefrontier sources of tall-tale humor that I quotedat the start of this essay: the storytellers pleas-ure in dethroning the condescension of gentilityat the thickly settled Eastern core, while at thesame time reproducing the radical discrepanciesand incongruities at the root of all Americanexperience, Eastern-intellectual as well asroughneck-Southwest. What better, and morecutting, way to accomplish these ends than toget the Eastern gentility to identify condescend-ingly with this con-mans outcast-redneck hero?

    And its precisely in this sense, I submit, that adistinct liberal theme permeates the discourseabout the novel, a critical main current that runsthrough virtually all sides of the argument (pro-vided that the critic does not dogmatically, fool-ishly, condemn the book for being racist). Tojudge from a century of Twain experts, Huck isself-reliant, anAdamic innocent, exemplifyingthe . . . strong and wholesome [individual that] . . .springs from . . . the great common stock, exempli-fying too the heroics of the private man . . . [forwhom] the highest form of freedom [resides in] . . .each mans and each womans consciousness ofwhat is right, and thereby, in its absolute libera-tion, ultimately transcend[ing] even anarchy as

    confinementin sum, an independent spirit,the affirmation of adventure, enterprise, andmovement, the soul of toleran[ce], and commonsense. More than that: Huck and Jim on the rafthave been taken as an emblem of the ideal society.In contrast to the settlements, they represent thespiritual values of individualism compatiblewith communitynot just the proof of Twainscommitment toblack civil rights (andhis appeal tocompensate the blacks on the national level forinjuries done themduring the slavery era), but hissummons to the cause of freedom in general.Huck and Jim together forecast a redeeminghope for the future health of society; they standfor the very pinnacle of human community; theyprovide a utopian pattern of all human relation-ships. Critics have reiterated these great redemp-tive fact[s] about the book over and again, withwhat can only be called reflexive adoration. AsJonathan Arac observes, it is as if we uttered inself-congratulation: Americans have spirituallysolved any problems involved in blacks and whitesliving together as free human beings and we hadalready done so by the 1880s. I would add that,beyond smugness, what this attests to is the processof interpretation as self-acculturationa strikingexample of what I called the literary enterprise ofsocialization, in compliance with the chargebequeathed to teachers of American literature(societys special custodians), to inculcate the val-ues of enterprise, individualism, self-reliance, andthe demand for freedom.

    More interesting still, this process of interpre-tation reveals just how socialization works. Theabstractions Ive just rehearsed are admittedlyAmerican ideals but they are applied as univer-sals, as though Huck represented not justwhat America but what all humanity ought tobe. Thus a particular cultural visionindividual-ism, initiative, enterprise, and above all personalfreedom (What Huckleberry Finn is about isthe process . . . of setting a man free)becomesa sweeping moral imperative. And as moralimperative it is then reinstated, restored as itwere from heaven to earth, from utopian alter-native world to actual geographical space, as adefinition of the quintessential American. AsNorman Podhoretz, editor of the conservativejournal Commentary, has written: Sooner orlater, all discussions of Huckleberry Finn turninto discussions of America. Or in the words ofthe late Irving Howe, writing in his leftwing jour-nal Dissent: Huck is not only the most Americanboy in our own literature, he is also the character

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  • with whom most American readers have mostdeeply identified. Or once again, according tothe centrist Americanist scholar Eric Sundquist,Huckleberry Finn is an autobiographical journeyinto the past that tells the great story of anation. Harold Bloom accurately summarizesthe tone of his collection of best critical essayson the novel when he remarks that the book tellsa story which most Americans need to believe is atrue representation of the way things were, are,and yet might be.

    That need to believe, is the core of theAmerican humor of Huckleberry Finn. It maybe true that in its magnificent colloquialism thenovel marks Americas literary declaration ofindependence . . . a model of how one breaks freefrom the colonizers culture. But as a deadpandeclaration the model it presents is, mockingly,the illusion of independence. It reveals ourimprisonment within what Lewis Hyde, in hissweeping overview of the Trickster figure, callsthe joints of culture. For Hyde, this conceptinvolves a heroic view of the possibilities of inter-pretation. He pictures the Tricksters culturalwork in physiological terms, as an assault uponthe vulnerable parts of the social body, most tell-ingly its flexible or movable joints, where var-iant spheres of society (home, school, church,job) intersect. At these anatomical weak points,he writes, Tricksters come most vividly to life,unsettling the system, transgressing boundaries,exposing conflicts and contradictionsthus free-ing us, he contends, as sympathetic interpreters oftheir subversion, from social constraints. If so,Mark Twain is a kind of laughing anti-trickster.Its not just that hes mocking the tricksters in thenovel: Tom, the Duke and King, Huck himself.Its that hes mocking our would-be capacities forTrickster criticism.Whats funny about our inter-pretation of the novelboth of the narrative andof its autobiographical herois that what beginsas our independent assessment, and often ouroppositional perspective, leads us happily, ofour own free will, into the institutions of ourcolonizing culture.

    Thus it was all but inevitable that in ourmulticultural era, Huck should be discovered tobe (in addition to everything else thats positivelyAmerican) multicultural. This is not the place todiscuss Hucks blacknessor for that matter thepossibility of his ethnic Irish-Americannessbut its pertinent here as elsewhere to recallTwains warning that interpretation may be a

    trap of culture. He speaks abundantly of thenature of that trap in his later writingsin lettersto friends, for example, reprimanding them forpresuming that there is still dignity in man,whereas the plain fact is that Man is . . . anApril-fool joke played by a malicious Creatorwith nothing better to waste his time upon;and in essays protesting that he has no raceprejudices . . . [nor] color prejudices, nor creedprejudices . . . I can stand any society. All that Ineed to know is that a man is a human being;that is enough for me; he cant be any worse;and in journals documenting how history, in allclimes, all ages, and all circumstances, furnishesoceans and continents of proof that of all crea-tures that were made he [man] is the most detest-able . . . below the rats, the grubs, thetrichinae . . .There are certain sweet-smelling,sugarcoated lies current in the world . . .One ofthese . . . is that there is heroism in human life:that he is not mainly made up of malice andtreachery; that he is sometimes not a coward;that there is something about him that ought tobe perpetuated. In his posthumously publishednovel, The Mysterious Stranger, Twain exposesthe nub itselflays bare the mechanism of thetrap of hope. Here his stand-in deadpan artist,Satan, pairs up with a poor-white, innocent,sound-hearted little boy, a boy not unlikeHuckbefriends him and conjures up for hima variety of alluring spectacles and promises,only to reveal, at the end, the absurdity of eachone of them. You perceive now, Satandeclares, that it is all a Dream, a grotesqueand foolish dream. And then the boys epiph-any: He vanished, and left me appalled: for Iknew, and realized, that all that he had said wastrue.

    Thats the humorous point of HuckleberryFinn, if were alert. The novels underlying moraland motive, its deadpan plot, is that this grandflight to freedomblack and white together, theindividual regenerated by naturewas all adream. Not a grotesque dream, to be sure, but afoolish one because it is a dream that befools.Recall the image of the novel with which criticaltradition has left us. The plot is a river story, thestyle is a flow of humor, and our interpretation isa raft that promises protection (from conscience,from civilization, from all the slings and arrows ofoutrageous adulthood). Now consider the facts.The river keeps returning us again and again andyet again to the settlements, the raft proves to be acon-man haven, and on this raft of trouble, on

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  • this river that betrays and kills, were left with twomock-symbolic figures. One is Huck Finn, bond-slave to society, mostly scared to death, speakinga language we dont trust, and (as Pap puts it, in adrunken flash of insight) an Angel of Death. Theother is Jim, the fugitive black who need neverhave run off, and who leads Huck into what Jimhimself, early in the novel, calls the Black Angelshells-pact. So the nub is: the Angel of Death andthe Black Angel, on a deadpan raft-to-freedom,drifting deeper and deeper into slave territory. Itmakes for a savagely funny obituary to theAmerican dream.

    Source: Sacvan Bercovitch, Deadpan Huck, in Kenyon

    Review, SummerFall 2002, pp. 90134.


    Frank, Waldo, Our America, Boni and Liveright, 1919,pp. 1358.

    Hemingway, Ernest, Green Hills of Africa, ScribnersSons, 1935; reprint, 1987, p. 22.

    Hill, Hamlin, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in Dictionary

    of Literary Biography, Vol. 12: American Realists and

    Naturalists, edited by Donald Pizer and Earl N. Harbert,

    Gale Group, 1982, pp. 7194.

    Huck Finn and the Ebb and Flow of Controversy, in

    the Washington Post, March 13, 1995, p. D2.

    Lemon, Richard, Huckleberry Finn, in People Weekly,

    Vol. 23, February 25, 1985, p. 67.

    Matthews, Brander, Review of Adventures of Huckleberry

    Finn, in the Saturday Review, Vol. 59, No. 1527, January

    31, 1885, pp. 15354.

    Paine, Albert Bigelow, Mark Twain, a Biography: The

    Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens,

    Vol. 2, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1912, pp. 79398.

    The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990

    2000, American Library Association,


    (December 9, 2006).

    Twain, Mark, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Harper &

    Brothers, 1885; reprint, Pocket Books, 2004.

    Yardley, Jonathan, Huck Finn Doesnt Wear a White

    Sheet, in the Washington Post, April 12, 1982, p. C1.

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