Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I was never required to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for school, which I'd say was a bad decision, if not a particularly surprising one, on the part of whatever committee planned English and History curricula for Alabama in the 1970's and 80's.

Over the past twenty years I gradually realized it was a book I needed to read, though all I knew about it is that it involved Huck and a runaway slave named Jim on a raft down the Mississippi River, that it's an Important Book in American Literature, and about the famous "Then I'll go to hell" scene. So when I got it as a free ebook as part of an iPhone app, I decided it was high time I remedied the defects of my education.

I'm glad I've read it--I can cross it off my bucket list, for starters--but I think I would've gotten more out of it if I'd read it at a younger age. I enjoyed it, but with more intellectual appreciation than emotional engagement. Knowing its Importance to American Literature, I was somewhat surprised to discover how much of it is pure kids' book. (Not that I was oblivious to the deeper layers there, or how much satire and social criticism there was in the antics of the Duke and the King, but the surface of the read wasn't what I was expecting.) It's brilliantly written, of course, and the "I'll go to hell" moment, once I finally got there, was wonderful. I was relieved, however, to read the Wikipedia article after I finished the book and discover I was far from the only person to think the Tom Sawyer plot at the end dragged on pointlessly! I'd been afraid I'd been committing some kind of unpardonable sin against Important American Literature.

1 comment:

Rose Lerner said...

I HATED the ending of the book--it was a complete change in tone, it didn't fit with the book, AND it made the racism about twenty million times worse. Why, Mark Twain? WHYYYY?