Summaries of Critical Materials from the Norton Edition of Huckleberry Finn
Carkeet, David. “The Dialects in Huckleberry Finn,” American Literature 51.3 (November 1979): 315-32.
Fishkin, Shelly Fisher, Jimmy [from Was Huck Black?], April 14, 2009,
Henley, William Ernest.
Morrison, Toni. “This Amazing, Troubling Book," New York: Oxford University Press (1996).
Perry, Thomas Sergeant. (May 1885). Century XXX.1 : 171-724. Smith, David L. “Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse,” Satire or Evasion?
Smiley, Jane. . Say It Ain’t So, Huck: Second Thoughts on Mark Twain’s “Masterpiece”. 1996. New York: Harper’s Magazine.
Smith, David.“Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse”
1.Huckleberry Finn Early Reviews Summary
William Ernest Henley’s review of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a rather positive one. Henley mentions that he had not been a fan of Twain’s more serious works, and that he was glad to see Clemens returning to “the Mark Twain of old time” (329). Along with briefly describing the plot of the novel, Henley strongly insists that Huckleberry is indeed a story for boys. He explains that somebody that has never been a boy may have a difficult time finding enjoyment out of it. He also discusses that he is a fan of the books many dialects, which include “…the Missouri negro, and the ‘extremist form of the backwoods South-Western dialect,’ to wit.” (329). He finishes his review by writing that he was very fond of all of the book’s adventures and that the story is “Mark Twain at his best” (329). He also emphasizes, “Jim and Huckleberry are real creations, and the worthy peers of the illustrious Tom Sawyer.”
Brander Matthew’s Huckleberry review is an extremely positive one, too. He opens his piece by writing that he is not usually a fan of sequels, and that Huckleberry Finn is “…a sharp exception to this general rule” (330). He is also a fan of the books sense of humor, though he feels, “There is not in Huckleberry Finn any one scene quite as funny as those in which Tom Sawyer gets his friends to whitewash the fence for him…” (331). The character development of Huck is discussed as well, as Brander writes that Huck’s words are “…the comments of an ignorant, superstitious, sharp, healthy boy, brought up as Huck Finn has been brought up; they are not speeches put into his mouth by the author.
Brander, much like Henley, says that Huck is a genuine, American boy, and that this is a persona that Twin understands very well. Brander also goes on to praise Twain’s positive portrayal of African Americans in the work, concluding that Jim is a very well written character.
I agree strongly with most what Henley and Brander had to say about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The adventures within the story are fantastic, the characters are well developed, and the positive portrayal of Jim, the runaway slave, is absolutely heart warming.
As Henley and Brander both wrote, Huck is indeed a true boy. However, like Henley’s piece claims, I do not feel as though you have to have once been a boy to get enjoyment out of the story. However, it does most certainly help in some spots, such as the scenes in the cave.
I also, like Henley, enjoy Twain’s use of dialects. The backwoods accents and style of wording can, at times, be quite hilarious. Though, I do feel as though some of Jim’s dialogue is a bit offensive. There are a lot of racial stereotypes used in his speech. However, I think writing Jim’s words in that manner was necessary at that time to make the story more appealing audiences.
Likewise, I tend to think harmoniously with Brander on the novel’s humor. The dialogue, Huck’s ignorance and cleverness, and the mere wackiness of the adventures can be very funny. The small moments of laughter the book tends to cause make it much more enjoyable.
With a few minor disagreements, I agree strongly with Henley and Brander’s positive receptions of the The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The characters, adventures, humor, and dialogue make the work a very enjoyable read.
Is Huck Finn Really a Masterpiece?
Jane Smiley’s critical essay Say It Ain’t So, Huck: Second Thoughts on Mark Twains “Masterpiece” gives a very controversial view on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn due to its subdued thoughts upon what is known to many as classical American literature. Her essay concerns other author’s inspections about the issues upon slavery, and how differently they are represented in other works of literature. Smiley makes her point known that although Huck Finn is what most view as a great novel; she disagrees and states that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin is more useful as a tool to learn about the problems dealing with slavery. From the beginning to the end of the essay, Smiley’s initial intention to bringing Mark Twain’s novel into to spot light changes. Her essay that was supposed to support Mark Twain moves more interest upon Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and seems to have replaced the luster of Huck Finn completely.
Jane Smiley begins her essay with why she read Huckleberry Finn as an adult, and why other writers like her gain different experiences from reading something from childhood again during adulthood. She also talks on the issue’s involving white and black relationships like Huck and Jim that are similar to other novels of this time period. She explains the book specifically but the bulk of her essay deals with the concern of Jim and Huck’s raft escapades along with the selling of Jim. She also says how the book itself develops “American colloquial speech…the very voice of unpretentious truth” (457). She also states that the problem with the book lies from the beginning to the end, “As with all bad endings, the problem really lies at the beginning, and at the beginning of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn neither Huck nor Twain takes Jim’s desire for freedom at all seriously” she also calls out twain for having a “moral failure” to how he writes the novel (459). This book is somewhat of a sequel to the boy novel of Tom Sawyer, and is still treated as a child’s novel, but with adult issues. After reading from her essay the problems with the book that Smiley bleeds on her pages about Mark Twain, its hard not to consider as well as side with her cynical opinions about Twain’s writing.
After her initial bantering of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, she moves on to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that she felt very strongly about for having a true American voice on telling the truth on slavery. This argument upon which book would be better to read and learn from takes away from her original message of the essay itself. I do agree with Smiley whenever she says that Stowe’s novel does not receive as much honor as Twain’s novel, but I feel as if she was at the wrong time and place to say this with this essay. I began to stray from Huck Finn, and wanted to move my attention more to Stowe’s novel instead. I also felt as if too much time was spent on the mention of Stowe’s novel and strayed away from the commitment that I thought was supposed to reflect more on Mark Twain’s writing.
The part in the essay that I agreed with the most was the argument of what book would be better to be taught in schools. I feel as if students would read Tom Sawyer, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that they would have a more rounded depiction of the cruelties of slavery, vivid or not. Also, I like how she states that Uncle Tom’s cabin is a “tragedy, just like life” (466). I think these shows how strong she feels about these books, and how much of an effect they have had on the way she views literature for herself along with how she feels others should read them as well.
This critical essay was extreme due to its emotional content. Jane Smiley feels very strong about her opinions, and I find it troubling how upfront she is on saying how Mark Twain was a “simple author”. I feel that she crossed some boundaries dealing with true masterpieces, and if she wanted to praise Stowe’s novel so much, Uncle Tom’s Cabin should have been the basis of her essay, not Huck Finn. I am not proud to say that after reading this essay, my opinions upon what I believed to be a great American novel have changed along with my key understandings of the novel.
Morrison--This Amazing, Troubling Book
Toni Morrison brings up many different points about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. She writes that she has always enjoyed the book and has always been “troubled” by it. She then goes on to mention a few key points in Twain’s novel.
The first point she discusses is that of the word “nigger” being used in the story and how that led to many schools wanting to ban the book. She writes to say that, “A serious comprehensive discussion of the term by an intelligent teacher certainly would have benefited my eighth grade class and would have spared all of us…some grief” (386). She shows her maturity through this statement and expresses that despite the use of the now offensive word, it is necessary in the book because of what it infers about Huck and about that society.
Morrison then spends time analyzing some of the “silences” in the book. She mentions a few times when something important happened, and then instead of Huck responding to it, the subject ends with a silence from Huck and the beginning of a new subject or chapter. One example she uses is that of when Jim told of striking his daughter only to realize that she did not respond to him because she was deaf and dumb. Jim’s emotions must have meant a lot to Huck, but the chapter abruptly ends there. Huck does not react to Jim’s story about his daughter. Morrison suspects that this is because Twain knew it would be dangerous territory to travel into for many reasons. One is because it would tell more of Jim, which would take away from Huck’s story. Another is because it portrays Jim as a parent, and Jim is also acting as a parent figure to Huck. Twain did not want to blatantly state this and did not know how to portray Huck’s feelings about this because of it being a sensitive subject. Morrison writes that these silences mean very much though and that if the reader would analyze them, much more about Huck and Jim and their relationship would be revealed.
Morrison elaborates on Jim and Huck’s relationship very much in her criticism. She writes of Jim as a parent figure and also as an adventure buddy. She states that without Jim, Huck would be very lost and desperate. He would be afraid of his society and the adults in it. Since Jim is technically an adult, but an adult that Huck can control, he is the perfect companion for Huck.
Morrison closes by stating how compassionate Huck is and how he truly is a good person trying to find his way in a corrupt society. She mentions that instead of going back to his previous village, he goes forward to find a new one in which he is hopeful he can survive in without Jim or Tom or anyone else.
Summary of the Essay in Criticism
I. Jane Smiley. Say It Ain’t So, Huck: Second Thoughts on Mark Twain’s “Masterpiece”. 1996. New York: Harper’s Magazine.
II. In the first part of the essay, Smiley shows how Huckleberry Finn becomes famous by lots of important critics and authors’ introduction. She mentions that “[Huck’s] real elevation into the pantheon was worked out early in the Propaganda Era, between 1948 and 1955, by Lionel Trilling, Leslie Fiedler, T. S. Eliot, Joseph Wood Krutch, and some lesser lights, in the introduction to American and British editions of the novel and in such journals as Partisan Review and The New York Times Book Review” (Smiley 355). Those critics see the value of this book where Twain not only reveals American culture and dialect, but also has big ideas about slavery.
Also, Smiley points out that “[Eliot] also thought that Twain, through Huck’s lying, told truth” (Smiley 355). “Trilling says that Huck has the very voice of unpretentious truth” (Smiley 355). The raft, which for Huck and Jim creates “a timeless place of friendship and freedom”, also takes them into “the truly dark heart of the American soul and of American history: slave country” (Smiley 356). The story shows a simple way of life in America in that time period. America was different before the civil war. However, the story raises questions about the truth of parts of that way of life such as slavery.
In the end of the story, Twain changes the way he tells the story. “[Twain’s] original conception was beginning to conflict with the implications of the actual story” (Smiley 356). When Tom Sawyer comes to the story, Huck and Jim are not important anymore. It is interesting that it seems like Twain does not know how to finish the story. Smiley illustrates that “the last twelve chapters are boring, a sure sign that an author has lost the battle between plot and theme and is just filling in the blanks” (Smiley 357).
III. I think the reason why this book becomes so famous is because Twain shows the American culture by using the America southern dialect, American humor, and the setting before the civil war. He uses the dialect so accurately that it seems like a real person is talking, which makes this story more believable. In addition, I think Twain puts his own ideas about slavery in the story. For example, although Huck knows that it is wrong to help Jim to escape, he still assists him in his pursuit of freedom. I believe that the best parts of the story are the questions that it raises from what it does not say or Huck does not do. The way Huck and Jim interact, help each other, and grow to like each other, forces us to ask ourselves the questions about if it is right to enslave people?
Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse Summary
David L. Smith has and education of a BA from New College, Florida, 1974 and a PhD: U of Chicago, 1980. He taught Introduction to Afro-American Writing, Southern Fiction/ Southern Fictions, The Black Arts Movement, Culture, Criticism, Praxis and Nature Writing. He has had many publications such as; edited: The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History, 1995; Poems (D.L. Crockett-Smith): Cowboy Amok, (1987); Civil Rites, (1996); Articles: :Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse: in Mark Twain: A Collection of Critical Essays; "Black Arts Movement and Its Critics," in The American Literary History Reader, (1995); "Afterword," to Pudd'nhead Wilson, Mark Twain (Oxford, 1996). The article I will be looking at is called “Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse” written by David L Smith, he was into Afro-American Studies and has had primary interests over the years in Race and Culture, Black Arts Movement, Mark Twain, Wendell Berry. The article was published 1992.
David L Smith starts is articles with a speech by Thomas Jefferson, the speech talks about how many people felt that blacks were inferior. Because many thought this, it changed the outlook on how blacks were viewed by whites. Smith says that anyone could have said this during that time period and that Jefferson says it, it makes an impact on the time. After the declaration was written, many shared the view that blacks were still inferior, but through the writing of Mark Twain, Many minds were changed and educated with the use of satire. Smith says, “In July 1876, exactly one century after the American Declaration of Independence, Mark Twain began writing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a novel that illustrates trenchantly the social limitations that American “civilization” imposes on individual freedom. The book takes special note of ways in which racism impinges upon the lives of Afro-Americans, even when they are legally “free”. It is therefore ironic that huckleberry Finn has often been attacked and even censored as a racist work. I would argue, on the contrary, that except for Melville’s work, Huckleberry Finn is without peer among major Euro-American novels for its explicitly antiracist stance (363-364).” He then says that to book is a protest against human cruelty and with this his stance on the book becomes very clear.
Through the article, Smith makes his ideas very clear, and also shows that Twain’s ideas are deeper than what the average person would not notice. For those people who want to book to be banned, they do not realize that Huckleberry Finn is a book about Jim and his freedom and a boy who battles with the idea of going against everything he knew about slavery. Huck learns through the book that he gains a friend and not just a traveling companion. Jim becomes human to Huck and with every time he tried to bring himself to turning Jim in, he could never do it. Through the book you can see many racist characters, which tends to be most characters in the book, except it seems that the children are less knowing of this, they seem open and willing to accept the slaves as people, and the adults seem closed minded and treat the children and the slaves as property. With the use on the word “Nigger” this shows us the severity of the racism throughout the story and also Huck’s father. Huck’s father us the most racist character they show. He questions the judge at one point asking why one slave can be free in another state and travel and still be free. This shows the lack on intelligence in him as well as ignorance.
“As a serious critic of American society, Twain recognized that racial discourse depends on the deployment of a system of stereotypes which constitutes “the Nigro” as fundamentally different from and inferior to Euro-Americans. As with the word “nigger”, Twain’s strategy with racial stereotypes is to elaborate them in order to undermine them. Other critics have argued that this word is used to show Jim’s humanity and to expose racist’s cruelty and hollowness (367).” Another point given by Smith is Jim’s superstitions. This also shows his humanity and allows the reader to see his personality and that Jim can think for himself. Again Twain shows Jim’s humanity when Huck has to make the harsh decision of turning him in, no ,matter how Huck explains it to himself, he can never bring himself to do it. “Slavery and racism then, are social evils that take their places alongside various others which the novel documents.” Considering the lack of directness by Twain, we can see why over the years that so many critics have misconstrued the powerful words and satire given by Mark Twain.
Toni Morrison’s View on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Morrison, Toni, [This Amazing, Troubling Book], (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996)
I found Tony Morrison’s criticism on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be an incredibly invigorating piece of writing. The fact that she is a well educated African-American female made it twice as interesting to read her criticism about a consistently existing issue of racism and slavery in the novel. I was truly fascinated on her analysis of Twain’s hidden intentions, where she, seemingly angry by reading the novel for the first time, unpacked deeper meaning of Huck Finn’s moral development in her following repeated readings of it. She examines Mark Twain’s abstract possibilities of meaning, along with several contradictions within the novel, where she explains that the novel’s argument appears to be the novel itself. Morrison also examines as she refers to the main issues as the three monsters, which Huck Finn struggles with throughout the novel: “estrangement, soleness, and morbidity as an outcast child”. (Morrison, p. 392).
Toni Morrison starts out with an explanation of the explicit and offensive language in a so called children’s novel, the intentions of which, she claims, will never be fully understood by the readers in their earlier stages of life, simply because of an immense amount of complex issues nonchalantly addressed by the author. She was essentially more alarmed by the sense of danger the novel could provoke after its ending, rather than during her reading it. Morrison was more captivated by the deeper intended complexity of the novel in its silent sections, rather than its cynical language and fundamental use of the river’s guidance and sense of stability during chaotic times: “Although its language- sardonic, photographic, persuasively aural- and the structural use of the river as control and chaos seem to me quite the major feats of Huckleberry Finn, much of the novel’s genius lies in its quiescence, the silences that pervade it and give it a porous quality that is by turns brooding and soothing”(Morrison, p.386). She then, brings up a number of examples to indicate this particular connection, such as repeated word “lonesome” and moments in the novel, when nothing is said. Later, in her criticism she discusses one of these moments: “While Jim repeatedly iterates his love, the depth of Huck’s feelings for Jim that blossoms throughout the narrative only aslant, or comically to the reader-never directly to any character or to Jim himself” (Morrison, p.389). Here, she brings up one of the examples of the crucial meaning of silent moments in the novel, when Jim shows great excitement at any random appearance of Huck throughout the story, followed by Huck’s absence of similar expressions in return.
Morrison next, examines the issue of death, so widely spread throughout Huck Finn’s adventures. She shows several excerpts from the novel to indicate the number of times death or dying was mentioned, which appear to be quite a few. She, then, proceeds with a view of Huckleberry portrayed as suicidal at times, because of his non- understanding of society’s ideals, thus tying this together with Huck’s yearning for Jim, who appears to be the only person able to assist Finn in escapism of ideal society. This is evident in Morrison’s explanation: “When Huck is among society-whether respectable or deviant, rich or poor-he is alert to and consumed by its deception, its illogic, its scariness. Yet he is depressed by himself and sees nature more often fearful. But when Jim become the only “we”, the anxiety is outside, not within…” (Morrison, p.388). She further goes into analyzing Twain’s intentional portrayal of Jim as a fool, so he would not be missed during his random disappearances and by the end of the story, as well as solving another problem: “how effectively to bury the father figure underneath the minstrel paint.”(Morrison, p.389).
Toni Morrison proceeds her analysis with even more deeply ingrained thought of Jim being the father figure Huck lacks throughout the novel. While always there for Huck, showing his verbal, smothering affection every time they meet again, Jim is also easily controllable, because no matter what, he remains a slave, which permits any white person to dominate over him, not making Huckleberry Finn any different. This analytical section of Morrison’s criticism ties up with her view on Huck telling Jim how good of a father he is toward his own family(while Jim contradicts), because in Finn’s eyes, he is exactly what a good father should be. Morrison refers to this as “For Huck, Jim is a father-for-free” (Morrison, p.390).
She, then, goes into a more developed explanation of instances of silence, as she points out, could be argued as either warm or cold on Jim’s part. This is signified when Jim keeps silent until almost the end of the story about Pap’s corpse:
Although one could argue that knowing the menace of his father was over might relieve Huck enormously, it could also be argued that dissipating that threat would remove the principal element of the necessity for escape- Huck’s escape, that is… And right there is the other speech void-cold and shivery in its unsaying. Jim tells Huck that his money is safe because his father is dead (Morrison, p.390).
It is now obvious how Jim is portrayed as the hidden father figure for Huck, as neither he nor Jim wanted to part from each other. Jim was satisfied with the fact that Huck was the only white person who did not treat him as a slave, while Huck found a loyal friend, who at times, seemed even more uneducated than Finn, therefore equally intelligent in addition to being a slave, which gives Huck the power to control him. Jim serves as the father Huck never had.
In conclusion, Morrison states her unending questions for this highly controversial, but lasting novel: ‘Yet the larger question, the danger that sifts from the novel’s last page, is whether Huck, minus Jim, will be able to stay those three monsters as he enters the “territory.” Will that undefined space, so falsely imagined as “open,” be free of social chaos, personal morbidity, and further moral complications embedded in adulthood and citizenship?’(Morrison, p.392) Here, she seems to question the continuation of the novel referring to our society today, weather the oncoming generation will be free from racism, depression and other complications; weather it will truly be free of oppression, and poverty unlike it is now, and weather our society is strong enough to be the change for every race in the world without discrimination.
I am fascinated with her close analysis of this novel; she gave me several new perspectives on certain parts of it, which I was unable to see for myself prior to reading her analysis. The only piece of criticism that I still do not completely agree on, is her assessment on Twain’s portraying Huck as suicidal during the time of Huck saying that he is so lonely, he wishes he was dead: “No wonder that when he is alone, whether safe in the Widow’s house or hiding from his father, he is so very frightened and frequently suicidal” (Morrison, p.387). In this particular case, I do not believe that he is necessarily suicidal, but instead, perhaps Twain was expanding on Finn’s extreme lonesomeness and “boredom to death”, as we- humans, often tend to jokingly wish ourselves.
Toni Morrison did an amazing job criticizing Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without crudely stating her beliefs on racism and slavery.
Eliot’s “Introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
T.S. Eliot looked at the novel when he wrote the “Introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Eliot first looked at Huckleberry Finn compared to Twain’s first novel’s main character, Tom Sawyer. When Eliot looked on these two, he saw Tom as “the boy that Mark Twain had been” while Huck could be seen as “the boy that Mark Twain still was”. To Eliot, this made the difference between the two novels the most noticeable. Tom was a boy who could be looked at as a child, one whose pranks would endear him to adults. But in Huckleberry Finn, this changed. Huck was a child, but he did not act like it all of the time. Eliot mentioned the fact that Huck did not have the imagination that his friend possessed, thus he did not try to make the world into an adventure story. As Eliot puts it, Huck “. . . sees the real world: and he does not judge it-he allows it to judge itself.” (347) Eliot also goes on to mention the difference of family between the two. He mentions that, although Tom is an orphan, he is not truly alone. In contrast, Huck still has a father, yet he is alone, even going so far as to say that “there is no more solitary character in fiction” (347). It is these differences that Eliot saw as making Huck closer to the reader, and closer to the man who had created the character. Huck is the adult who can still revolt against the domesticated life which many are expected to take. It is also this difference from the expected that gave Huck his voice. Because he was not trapped in the expectations of the culture, “. . .he is more powerful than his world, because he is more aware than any other person in it” (350). He could make his own decisions about things, without concern for the bias of others, yet is also an outcast because of it.
Eventually, Eliot came to the point that he had made at the beginning of the Introduction. At the beginning of the article, Eliot mentioned that “. . . two elements which, when treated with his sensibility and his experience, formed a great book: these two are the Boy and the River.” These two elements are the center of the book, as Eliot explained with his look into Huck. He goes on to talk about the river’s influence, “It is the river that controls the voyage of Huck and Jim. . .” (352). It is the river that parts Jim and Huck, and later reunites them; it brought them to danger and took them away from it. Eliot makes a parallel to Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness” for the power of the river. In both, the river has a power over men, a type of godly power. But the difference between the works was t that Conrad wrote as an outsider looking upon the foreign deity, while Twain was a native of the land and had “accepted the River God”.
In the last section of the Introduction, Eliot ties the boy and the river together. Eliot states that “Huck Finn must come from nowhere ad be bound for nowhere.” (354) while the river “has no beginning or end.” The power of the story must continue as it wants, as the river would. While the river may not end, and as Twain ended the story, neither does Huck end, Eliot saw the ending of the story as right. To him, he thinks that it ended perfectly with Huck wandering off, ready to go on traveling as the river goes on flowing.
Through my own reading of Tom Sawyer, I had to agree that Huckleberry Finn had more character then the previous novel. It was easy for me to forget that Huck was a boy at times; his voice was so mature that, although there were times that he did act like a child; one could see that the boy was older inside. Quite a few times in Tom Sawyer, and at times that Tom had showed up in this book I found myself not liking the boy, while Huck continued to be like even at times when he was acting foolish. The largest reason for that was the fact that the boy knew that the world was not an innocent game, as he faces more danger and death then Tom did, allowing the audience to see Huck as an adult.
I found the idea of the Boy and the River fascinating in Eliot’s work. The connection of the powerful force to a solitary person upon it, while the journey itself could be seen as the flow of the river while it happened on the river does not seem farfetched. The river is a figure which is fed by many other bodies, yet it moves along alone until it disappears into another solitary mass. Huck was the same through the book. The boy was not content to stay in one place and be surrounded by others, but took off in his own path. Even when he was among the others, his differences made him different from the others, tied more to the natural world then to the “civilized” world.
I. Carkeet, David. “The Dialects in Huckleberry Finn,” American Literature 51.3 (November 1979): 315-32.
The author examines
the Explanatory, explaining his view that it was not meant to be a joke and
should be taken seriously. He writes that “it is the case that there are
seven distinct dialects which Clemens had in mind when he wrote the
‘Explanatory.’ These are as follows:
Missouri Negro: Jim (and four other minor characters)
Southwestern: Arkansas Gossips (Sister Hotchkiss et al.)
Ordinary “Pike County”: Huck, Tom, Aunt Polly, Ben Rogers, Pap, Judith Loftus
Modified “Pike County”:Thieves on the Sir Walter Scott
Modified “Pike County”: King
Modified “Pike County: Bricksville Loafers
Modified “Pike County”: Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps”
Carkeet raises the issue that many people consider the “Explanatory” to be a joke, but such is not the case. He gives the example that the original manuscript for Huck Finn contains many different corrections of the dialects and writes that “such labored revision makes no sense if the ‘Explanatory’ is frivolous” (319).
The modified Pike County dialects are used for lower, morally reprehensible people. Carkeet explains that Clemens used some of the same speech patterns for this modified Pike County dialect that he did for the slaves, but the white characters that speak this way are not nearly as good as Jim. He also applauds Samuel Clemens for his showmanship in composing the novel with so many different dialects and painstakingly making sure that they were all different.I had not thought about whether or not the “Explanatory” was a joke, before, but it makes sense that people could have considered it to be so. Considering that Samuel Clemens was highly skilled at using the art of satire, I am not surprised people thought the Explanatory could have been a joke. On the other hand, it makes more sense that the Notice at the beginning would be a joke instead
I. Smith, David L. “Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse,” Satire or Evasion?
Black Perspectives on ‘Huckleberry Finn’ . Ed. Leonard,
James S.; Tenney, Thomas, A.; and Davis, Thadious
M. Durham: Duke University Press, 1992.
II. Smith begins his argument of the uses of the concept of slavery and Twain’s use of the word ‘nigger’ with a quote from Thomas Jefferson about black Americans, which portrays the ideology of the time in regards to this group of people, according to Smith. He then begins to hit a few points home for his audience through explicit use of the text and certain scenes incorporated into it to prove his point.
His first main point is that Twain’s “Huck Finn” is, with the exception of Melville, “without peer among major Euro-American novels for its explicit antiracism stance.” Smith argues that Twain uses some elements of humanity as an argument, but more so brings to light the socially accepted fallacies regarding the African American race. Smith continues his piece by arguing that Twain cleverly uses subversion to attack racism throughout the story, claiming that this response was necessary for Twain’s time due to the amount of fear in response to the freedom of the slaves, or general post-Reconstruction bigotry.
Throughout the book, Twain uses the word ‘nigger,’ according to Smith, as a synonym for slave. He uses varies instances from the text to support this argument and continues to use these same instances to show the disparity between “racial abstraction and real human beings” in the treatment of the African Americans even in a post-Civil War environment.
Coming back to the use of the specific word ‘nigger,’ Smith contends that it would be difficult to imagine Twain’s antiracist sentiments, as subtle as they may have been the novel, holding the same weight without the use of this particular word in the context that it was actually used during the time of slavery in the United States. To this extent, Smith argues that Twain uses this word to establish “a context against which Jim’s specific virtues may emerge as explicit refutations of racist presuppositions.”
When focusing on Jim throughout the novel, Smith asserts that Twain utilizes common stereotypical actions and thoughts of African Americans at the time to not reinforce these stereotypes, as it may appear on the surface, but elaborates them in order to undermine them. Smith cites the cases of superstition in the text to illustrate this point, showing how each use of superstition that would superficially seem to validate the stereotype of the gullible, stupid slave actually becomes a personal triumph for Jim through his clever retelling of the incident as to make it in his favor. Through Jim’s virtues, which Huck comes to realize through the story, Twain reveals the humanity of all African Americans, not just Jim himself, Smith contends.
Further on this point, Smith maintains that through Jim’s actions, he subtly elevates himself above the concept of a ‘nigger,’ which contradicted most of what was seen from Jim. Smith also points out Twain’s subtle attack of the southern church through Huck’s moral decision to steal Jim from slavery contradicting everything he was taught in church about morality.
Finally, Smith makes some very blunt points at the end of his piece, arguing that freedom from slavery does not equal freedom from cruelty of ‘civilization,’ and that Twain used this book to make the statement that there is no real individual freedom in America to be found, due to the societal constraints of the mind and the stereotype.
III. Personally, I enjoyed this criticism, or the view through this lens, of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Born a Dixie, I understand more than many in the north how deep these feelings of racism run, even today. I feel that Smith made some very effective points that I would not have noticed about the story and Twain’s clever use of the language to illustrate his antiracism stance. Even though Twain was living in a post-Reconstructive world at the time that he wrote this novel, the world was not at opened minded as the laws of the time may suggest and his point hit home for many of his readers.
The contradictions throughout the novel concerning the world’s view of Jim as a slave and a ‘nigger’ and his actual actions, not to mention his impact on Huck, are a very interesting aspect this novel and something that many people still do not agree with to this day. I can only imagine the reaction this would have elicited at the time of its publication. Huck decided in the story, not because of anything that was told to him or any of the ideas that had been ingrained and reinforced from his birth, to steal Jim from slavery. This decision was made solely on the experiences he had with Jim and his action encounters with the issues that many just spoke and formed misconceptions about. I find that this happens often in the world today, holding true that the things we fear or hate the most are those which we are most ignorant about. In this respect, this very big respect, Twain’s novel offers us insight that can still be applied today, more than 100 years later. This is the argument that Smith reinforces at the end of his piece: with all this time past, there is still no such thing as real individual freedom in America. Our misconceptions and ignorance are the main cause of this, proving that we haven’t learned as much as we should have from Twain’s work.
Huckleberry Finn Criticism Summary
I. Bibliographic Information
Matthews, Brander. “Review: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Saturday Review [London] 31
January 1885: 153.
Matthews comments that sequels to books as well-loved as Tom Sawyer are “risky” (330) but that Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is successful in being a totally different and equally interesting story. Matthews continues to compare the two books throughout his review, showing how they vary. He writes that Huckleberry Finn is a completely different story and type of book than Tom Sawyer, making it freshly original. Even though Huck was in the first book, he takes the front stage in this book and Tom takes the back stage. Huck’s character also adds a lot of superstition and description of nature to the book, unlike Tom Sawyer’s character (because Tom was better brought up and educated). Matthews notes that the biggest difference between Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer is that Huckleberry Finn has a more grownup “atmosphere” (330).
Brander Matthews describes Twain’s skill in fully portraying Huck as a boy, and just a boy, without projecting his views onto Huck. Huck’s character remains stable and his narration true to the views of a teenage boy. Twain does not make Huck more insightful than he should be, although it was doubtlessly tempting to many writers, Matthews remarks. Instead, Twain keeps Huck an “ignorant, superstitious, sharp, healthy boy” (330). Not only does Matthews thoroughly approve of Huck’s character, so well portrayed by Twain, but he also approves of Twain’s portrayal of Jim as a good-hearted African American. In fact, in his review, he compares Twain’s character of Jim to other writer’s African American characters who are especially convincing. All of Twain’s characters in Huckleberry Finn are alive to the reader.
Matthews’ highest praise of the book is for Twain’s ability to restrain himself from using Huck as a messenger for Twain’s political and moral opinions. Rather than make Huck take a certain stance on such important issues, Twain lets Huck be as a real boy would be, wondering and piecing the world together as best he can given the circumstances and his small glimpse of the world.
I especially like the way that Brander Matthews describes Twain’s skillful maintenance of Huck as the story’s narrator and the judge of moral and political circumstances. Matthews writes that “we see everything through his [Huck’s] eyes—and they are his eyes and not a pair of Mark Twain’s spectacles” (330). I agree with this quote completely. I think that this ability is part of what distinguishes Twain as a great rather than a good author. Some authors can put on a pair of glasses, temporarily taking up a stance, but the glasses often slide, revealing the eyes behind them to the reader. However, Twain does an amazingly convincing job of portraying a teenage boy who uses teenage boy reasoning. Unlike Matthews, however, I think that Twain did still convey his own thoughts and opinions through Huck, although certainly in a subtle way. Twain made the story charming through Huck’s ignorance and innocence to reach the hearts and minds of his readers.
I also agree with Matthews that Twain’s characters are all believable and vivid. As Matthews writes, “there is scarcely a character of the many introduced who does not impress the reader at once as true to life—and therefore as new, for life is so varied that a portrait from life is sure to be as good as new” (333). Each of the characters has such a detailed and clear description, that the reader, after coming away from the book, cannot help but feel that he/she actually saw the character. As I read Huckleberry Finn, I formed clear pictures in my mind of what each character would look like, based upon any descriptions of physical appearance, but mostly upon the descriptions of their personalities and actions. Matthews is right when he writes that the characters are “true to life” and “good as new.” Well developed characters always remind me of people that I know in my own life, and the creation of them in the text does make them seem new because readers thought that no one else knows anyone like that certain peculiar person that they know.
I.Victor Doyno. Mark Twain’s Creative Process. 1991. “From Writing Huck Finn.”
II. Doyno explores Twain’s use of sentence structure, grammatical changes, and context tweaks in order to demonstrate how the character of Huck Finn was molded according to the way in which Twain’s society would ultimately be able to accept him. Throughout the criticism Doyno brings about the fact that Huck’s persona could not be defined in any way, shape or form, by sexuality, because that would be too provocative for Twain’s era.
In particular, Doyno mentions Huck’s interaction with Mary Jane during the praying scene as a prime example of a change which Twain made to the context in order to avoid the possibility of interpreting Huck as having an element of sexuality within his persona. As Doyno explains, “Although the gesture may have been appropriate for the slightly older Mary Jane, its inclusion would complicate the characterization of Huck; he would have to ignore the gesture or respond to it, and either choice would affect both the characterization and the novel” (Doyno, I 338). Instead Doyle claims that Twain take out the gesture (blowing a kiss) and focuses on Huck’s emotional reaction to the separation of the two characters.
III. I find myself agreeing with Doyno’s explanation of Twain’s purpose for editing these various notions of sexuality throughout the text. I believe that inclusion of such suggestions would have placed a damper of inappropriateness on the text, and would have even made Huck appear to be less naïve and innocent, which is a reason why America has loved this character for generations. In example, Twain writes, “I hain’t seen her since that time I see her go out at the door, like the light and comfort agoing out of a body’s life” (Doyno,338). This is a good example of how Twain tweaks the dialog in order for Huck to seem less sexual and more emotional, a much more endearing quality for a twelve year old boy.
I. Bibliographic Information
Fishkin, Shelly Fisher, Jimmy [from Was Huck Black?], April 14, 2009,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Fishkin’s main theme is the idea that “Jimmy” helped pave the way for Huck’s narration. The writer focuses on how “Twain’s choice of vernacular narrator in Huckleberry Finn transformed modern American literature” (375). This simply shows that before this novel, people were used to reading narrations of older and more educated people that view the world much differently than young children.
Fishkin points out, “…no American author had entrusted his narrative to the voice of a simple, untutored vernacular speaker—or, for that matter, to a child” (375). A young narrator has a simple way of viewing things—they have a way of using their broad imagination to create an enthusiastic story. The idea of having a child narrator gives the story-telling a “pure” or genuine feeling. Twain created Jimmy which helped open the airways to the creation of Huckleberry Finn. Fishkin states, “That totally believable, authentic innocence would be a crucial component of what readers would find compelling,” (379).
Fishkin explains that through Twain’s creation of Jimmy he was able to give Huck a voice and become a young boy with a tremendous story to tell. Through the creation of Jimmy, “Twain became increasingly aware of the distinctive possibilities of the choice of a child narrator,” (382). The innocence and “realness” Jimmy and Huck bring through their experiences are captured through their voice and words.
III. My Response
In Fishkin’s response, we get a better understanding of why Mark Twain used such a young character to narrate the novel. Earlier in his writing, Twain created a young, uncivilized boy named Jimmy who is very similar to Huck. In Twain’s eyes, Jimmy was a boy who was very inexperienced, but was very perceptive to his surroundings and the people who touched his life. Through the creation of Jimmy, Twain was able to envision another young character who would be the narrator of an even greater novel.
Huckleberry Finn is an energetic young man who has experienced a lot during his few years of life. His father is the town drunkard and does not pay attention to his son, so Huck is watched after a few other town people that try to change him. Huck eventually runs away from his home and starts a new life of his own. This is much like Twain’s first character Jimmy.
Jimmy also only has one parent, a father who is also too drunk to worry about his son. Both boys have the same features and characteristics such as their unique, uneducated southern talk. Jimmy and Huck are both very gullible and puzzled by some adults who try to change them to help them fit into society. Since Jimmy was not written long before Huckleberry Finn, Twain experimented with Jimmy which helped play a valuable role in the development of Huck’s character. Perhaps that is why we can see the many similarities between Jimmy and Huck.
The First Major American Review
I. Bibliographic Information
Perry, Thomas Sergeant. (May 1885). Century XXX.1 : 171-72
Perry focuses his essay, “The First Major American Review,” on reviewing Mark Twain’s two novels. He starts with Mark Twain’s boyish adventure novel, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” He thinks the novel does not fit into the conventional literary model, it does have a great influence on modern novel by “the precocious affection of Tom Sawyer” (334). Perry also mentions some famous examples in this novel such as having an affair with a girl, the terrible adventure with murderers and so on. He thinks that Mark Twain is “doing sincere work” (335) through those plots.
Perry also mentions Twain’s later book, “Huckleberry Finn” which is written in autobiographical form (335). He makes a short summary and refers to some key points which reflect what American civilization is such as an immortal hero, Huckleberry, whose undying fertility of invention, courage, and manliness are the better-side results of the independence of Americans (335). Moreover, the ingenious invention, the plot, and the narrator make it valuable. Perry thinks the story gives us an implication about lessons, but not direct didactic preaching. He says “Literature is at its best when it is an imitation of life and not an excuse for instruction” (335).
Mark Twain’s humor makes his novels vivid. Perry gives many examples from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Furthermore, Mark Twain not only can amuse readers but also can give us lessons through the novel. His works are like condensations of contemporary society. The significance and meaning of them always makes us cold about how slavery being treated.
What Perry’s main thought in this criticism is reviewing Mark Twain’s two novels, “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.” He does not give a strong attack or doubt to the author. He just recalls and shows many instances to demonstrate what he says. Although I do not think it is a strong critical essay, I still consider that Perry’s viewpoints are valid. Mark Twain is such a humorist. Furthermore, I also agree with Perry’s view which Twain describes in Huckleberry Finn does represent contemporary America though I do not understand the independence of Americans so much. Perry’s critical essay makes me realize what happened during forty or fifty-year-old Western life. It shows how serious slavery issue is. Moreover, I do believe that every page, every character, and every plot does have a definite undertone. The way he describes makes me laugh, also make us examine and consider what it really want us to know. I totally agree that literature is an imitation of life. It can teach a lesson by telling a story even it is pretty short. If someone told you or preached to you directly, you might not listen to them. I believe people are more willing to learn something in interesting way. Every story has its meaning and what the author wants to express to the reader. Mark Twain does really well in this part!
[Introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn]
The Cresset Press, London, 1950
T.S. Eliot’s introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is interesting in the sharpness of its focus on the two things that make the book, for him, a work of genius. He makes his first claim within the first sentence, claiming this book to be the only novel by Mark Twain that can be rightfully referred to as a “masterpiece,” and goes on to explain why this is. Within his essay, he effectively focuses on two things in particular: the boy and the river.
Eliot’s focus on Huck or “the boy” was what I found to be the most fascinating part of this essay. Much of this focus is contrasting Huck Finn with Tom Sawyer. He does this both in the life of Mark Twain himself and through roles they play in the novel. He argues that while Tom is the active participant of events as well as judgmental, Huck is the complete opposite. “You cannot say that Huck himself is either a humorist or a misanthrope. He is the impassive observer: he does not interfere, and…he does not judge.” (350) He argues that it is this impassiveness that makes Huck such a believable character in how he deals with the surrounding action of society. He continues to praise Twain through the construction of a “permanent symbolic figure” of which “…there is no more solitary character in fiction.” (349) Also taken into account is Huck’s relationship to Jim, who he claims is necessary for the development of Huck’s character. The comparison of the two is closely constructed to how he compared Tom and Huck: “Huck is the passive observer of men and events, Jim the submissive sufferer from them.” (351) He explains how having Jim and “humbling himself to a nigger” allows him the challenge of becoming a man.
The rest of the essay examines the use of the river to hold this story together. He changes pace here, looking at the river from a natural standpoint, how it flows and affects the landscape.
The river, Eliot claims, is a force of control that Jim and Huck must follow in order for their development to occur. He shows how Mark Twain was a master at describing the river, and the reason for why this was: “Mark Twain knew the Mississippi in both ways: he had spent his childhood on its banks, and he had earned his living matching his wits against its currents.” (353) The end of his essay focuses on the end of the book, arguing against the sometimes popular notion that it is a “failed” ending. He again uses the theme of the boy and the river, combing them both to defend the ending as perfect because, like the river, “Huck Finn must come from nowhere and be bound for nowhere.” (354)
While some essays can be complex or focus on very general ideas, T.S. Eliot’s is, as I mentioned before, concise and very focused. He chose two elements to prove his point that this piece is the greatest achievement of Mark Twain’s writing career. For these reasons, I found this essay to be very effective in describing both Huck as a prominent literary figure and the river a unique and fulfilling setting. His discussion on Huck as the un-biased, non-judgmental observer made me view him differently than before. Or rather, he hit on something I felt about Huck but was never able to completely explain. What he said supported Huck as more solid character in my mind and helped to explain the strength behind his relationship with Jim. The river section also gave new life to the setting of the story. I am intrigued on his emphasis upon the “spirit” of the river, and how Huck is directly related. Also, his comments on the life of Twain in terms of how he formed the river’s image gave good insight to its creation.
Something I feel he could have expounded upon is how part of Huck’s persona is of the outcast. Although he does mention this briefly, he never delves much into that aspect of his character. Because he focuses on Huck being the “silent observer,” I feel this would support his argument even better.
Carakeet, David. “The Dialects in Huckleberry Finn.” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Norton Critical Edition, Third Edition, 1999
Controversy concerning the intelligence attached to Clemens’s use of dialects in Huckleberry Finn is put to rest by a close linguistic analysis of Mark Twain’s “Explanatory” preface performed by David Carakeet.
Carakeet mentions that there are seven distinct dialects in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. These consist of four “Modified Pike County” dialects, an “Ordinary Pike County” dialect, a “Southwestern,” and a “Missouri Negro” dialect. (p 319) Carakeet mentions that because these dialects can be intelligently understood, the theory that Clemens wrote the preface on how thematic use of dialects in his works is written in jest is deniable. Carakeet states “While the last sentence of ‘Explanatory’ might raise a smile, there is nothing rib-splitting about a list of dialects.” (p 319) This researcher mentions that the other preface that Clemens had written, which was in print in early editions of Huckleberry Finn was later considered irrelevant. Carakeet mentions how it is customary for some authors to write two separate prefaces for different purposes. In Clemens’s case, it was one on the comical side, the other, more serious.
Carakeet believes that the dialectal differences were evidenced by extensive editing between editions by Clemens. This dedication, according to Carakeet, does not elicit comedy. Because of the four different varieties of “Modern Pike County” dialect, it is almost impossible to tell a noticeable difference, which Clemens had, further supporting that his range of dialects was more to reflect the linguistic styles during that time. There is evidence, such as those previously mentioned, that support the idea that Clemens added these different dialects in hope that “the novel could gain from it.” (p 320)
Another related issue at hand, is the morally connected virtue that each dialect holds with its substantial character. Different palatizations and speech patterns subtly connect specific characters in the text. For example as mentioned in the article, the Bricksville Loafers’ specific line of speech patterns “occurs elsewhere in the novel only in the speech of slaves.” This subtle, yet profound connection, according to Carakeet, further implements the support that Clemens’s dialectal differences were not just for the sake of comedy. This, however, is contradicted later in his article when he states that “…the speech of lower-class rural whites in the South shares a great deal with the speech of blacks.” (p 320) This idea is contradicted because the white characters may show similarities with character Jim’s dialect in the story, “but they do not share in his goodness.” (p 320)
In conclusion, Carakeet states, “Clemens was merely reflecting linguistic reality in his time…” (p 320) Also, “Clemens composed Huckleberry Finn in the heyday of literary dialect in American literature, and no doubt he wanted to show what he too was capable of doing, especially with the…dialect that helped to create.” (p 320) This is something to take pride in, but I also don’t think that this was something Clemens so extremely set on the serious side of incorporating these seven dialects. There is strong evidence to support that his main motive for introducing a new dialect and coordinating other dialects into his works was for the sake of American dialect gurus and breaking ground, but I believe there is the more obvious side of Clemens that Carakeet fails to address. Clemens is a very creative man, especially in creating his own pseudonym of whom he mentions in authorial reference in Huckleberry Finn, but I think that Clemens used his intelligence to his benefit. Clemens’s comedy is evident and, perhaps not the main reason for the differentiated dialects, is a strong component in making his works successful. I believe he knew how to play his intelligent various dialects to his advantage not only to have linguists like Carakeet appreciate his intelligence, but also put a smile on the reader’s face.
“This Amazing, Troubling Book” by Toni Morrison, New York: Oxford University Press (1996).
Toni Morrison attempts to look beyond the racist nature of the book and analyze the nature of Huck and his relationship to Jim. She argues that the opposite of Huck’s verbose nature, the silences residing between the chapters, testify more to the worth of Huckleberry Finn than the repetitive racial epithets rife throughout the novel. “Although its language – sardonic, photographic, persuasively aural – and the structural use of the river as control and chaos seem to me quite the major feats of Huckleberry Finn, much of the novel’s genius lies in its quiescence, the silences that pervade it and give it a porous quality that is by turns brooding and soothing.” (Morrison 386) The peaceful moments on the river with Jim provide windows into Huck’s soul and reveal his good nature.
Morrison postulates that Huck’s horrific relationship with his father forces him to ultimately turn to depression and suicidal thoughts upon confronting these issues when alone. She further theorizes that Huck’s only escape from this melancholy lies in companionship with Jim. “Unmanageable terror gives way to a pastoral, idyllic, intimate timelessness minus the hierarchy of age, status or adult control.” (Morrison 388) Morrison emphasizes that Huck only assumes the role of white supremacist when he and Jim return to society on the banks of the river. While on the raft, the two bonded and Jim serves as the sole, older, adult, male figure that shows affection and love for Huck.
Morrison reveals insights that I had not acknowledged before reading her criticism. She provides evidence so infallible that one finds it difficult to negate her analysis. The jumps in Huck’s narration at first seemed merely an element of the adventure story; a convenient tool to enable the passing of time. However, Morrison’s theory that these “evasions, stumbles even, or a writer’s impatience with his or her material” are actually “entrances, crevices, gaps, seductive invitations flashing the possibility of meaning.” (Morrison 388) Huck’s “inability to articulate his true feelings for Jim” reveals not only his difficulty with relating to a father figure, but also the societal ties that bind him to believe himself superior to Jim. Morrison recognizes that “the accumulated silences build to Huck’s ultimate act of love, in which he accepts the endangerment of his soul.” (Morrison 389) Huck also does this quietly, without relating this weighty to decision to anyone, except the reader. I find Morrison’s analysis of these silences intriguing; she believes they are “expert technical solutions to the narrative’s complexities and, by the way, highly prophetic descriptions of contemporary negotiations between races.” (Morrison 389)
Huck’s need to control Jim seems contradictory to his obvious affection for Jim. This obligation to care for Jim serves as Huck’s only outward display of love for his companion. This is apparent when Huck becomes separated from Jim due to the “thick white fog.” Jim does not seek Huck by banging on a tin pan, which typically serves as a call through fog. Instead, we see Huck frantically searching for Jim and experiencing loneliness as a result of not finding him. Twain enhances the complexities of Jim and Huck’s relationship when Jim “calls Huck out” on his cruel joke. These details fit perfectly into the already existing evidence supporting Morrison’s claim that Jim acts as Huck’s father figure. She argues that “it is to the father, not the nigger, that he [Huck] ‘humbles’ himself.”
Morrison’s provides persuasive evidence supporting the importance of the “silences” in Huckleberry Finn. The loquacious nature of Huck’s narration can distract from the true nature of his relationship with other characters. Morrison points out that through his journey with Jim, a black man, Huck transforms from an “underground activist” to a “vocal one”. This is evident in his interactions with Tom Sawyer in the latter third of the novel. When Tom dehumanizes Jim in an effort to plan the “perfect escape adventure”, Huck mutters quiet objections to the outlandishness of Tom’s plan. Morrison pointedly remarks that Huck enters the “territory” only when threatened with separation from Jim; the slave returns to his family and his own children, so what is to become of Huck? I agree with Morrison’s analysis of the importance of Huck and Jim’s cross-racial relationship. The story centers equally around Huck and Jim. The love offered by Jim shapes Huck into the morally conscious human being he becomes in the end of the novel. Huckleberry Finn serves as a timeless story about an affection that ignores race, rather than loving someone despite the color of their skin.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn summary
This Critical essay “Jimmy” is one section from Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s book “Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices.” It was published by Oxford University in 1993.
In the beginning of this essay, Fishkin quotes some words from Lionel Trilling, Louis J. Budd and Albert Stone. She uses those quotations to show the language in the novel is simple and direct. Then, Fishkin start to quote some words from Mark Twain’s words and discuss about how Twain creates Huck Finn. In next several paragraph, Fishkin focus on an article of Mark Twain named “Sociable Jimmy.” Fishkin uses Jimmy as an example to show what a typical character of Mark Twain should be like and she also finds out the connections between Huck and Jimmy, such as both of them are naïve and bright. Fishkin reveals how she and other critics think about the African-American dialect in Twain’s works.
In next several paragraphs, Fishkin focuses on the similarities between Jimmy and Huckleberry and she uses many examples to prove her statements. First, Jimmy and Huck are similar in their cadence, syntax and diction of their conversation. Second, both of them hate violence and cruelty. Fishkin uses Huck’s reaction after he hears the gunshot as an example. Finally, both of these two boys are at home with dead animals.
In the end, Fishkin concludes that Mark Twain becomes aware because he choices children, such as Jimmy and Huck, as narrators. Fishkin quotes some words from Mark Twain to inform us that those narrators have to tell readers their own stories in order to be successful.
Actually, I agree with Fishkin that the narrative voice in this novel is simple and direct. Huckleberry is just a boy and I think he doesn’t really care about formalities. It would be weird if Huck’s voice is complicated and formal. Because he likes freedom, Huck should be, just like Fishkin says, “a real boy talking out loud” (375). Besides, because of the special quality of Huck, we will love him and even envy him, just as Mark Twain says.
However, I feel confused about the rest of this article. I think Fishkin doesn’t provide enough information about the article “Sociable Jimmy” that Twain writes before “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;” for example, what does the article talk about? I cannot understand the article just through some plots of the article.
This critical essay provides some information that how critics think about the narration in the novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” This essay also compares Huck’s voice with another character of Twain’s article “Sociable Jimmy.” It provides the information how Twain uses boy as narrators in his works and their common personalities.