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Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain, Guy Cardwell, John Seelye Now, how in the nation is a body going to start this review? Well, I'll be ding-busted!

I usually don’t like reading colloquial prose style, accented dialogue and dialects. All too often they require additional effort to decipher and are just plain irritating. However, I have to make an exception for Mark Twain because he does it better than anybody else I can think of. There is never any confusion about the meaning and his colloquial narrative style and dialogue add a great deal of humour, charm and atmosphere to the story.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not need any synopsis I think, as it is one of the most widely read novel of all time. At the most basic level it is an adventure yarn of a rough young lad and an escaped slave on a raft down the Mississippi River, both running away from unbearable circumstances, and meeting some very colorful characters along the river. It is a very funny novel without actually being a “comic novel” in the sense that its primary purpose is not to make you laugh but to tell a ripping yarn with some serious issues embedded therein. I find it to be a generally good-natured story in spite of some underlying dark themes like slavery, parental abuse and violence. The biting social satire is delightful and Twain seems to enjoy poking fun at his favorite targets of nice but dim gentility, racists, bigots, roughnecks, con men and the religious.

There is a genuine sense of childhood innocence in Huck Finn’s first person narrative and I felt swept along with his enthusiasm for life and taste for adventures. Huck is a wonderful protagonist who is easy to identify with. Twain subtly charts the development of Huck’s morality through his experiences in this book, particularly from the time he spends with Jim, the escaped slave who he initially views as a little less than human. Jim is in fact the moral compass and the true hero of this book, much more so than Huck’s famous friend Tom Sawyer who does some highly reprehensible things in this book just for a lark*

The word “nigger” appears on just about every page of this book and I have read that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is banned in some schools because of this***. I have to wonder whether the people who want to ban the book actually bothered to read it. Twain is very compassionate toward the black characters in this book, and – as I mentioned earlier – Jim comes out of it shining brighter than anybody else.

The book is at its funniest when detailing Tom Sawyer’s plan for rescuing Jim from captivity, his absurd adherence to the principles of a proper prison break is hilarious (though he really is an atrocious little fellow). However, the funniest part of the book for me is when Huck is trying to explain the concept of a foreign language to Jim. Twain gives an almost unassailable reason why the French should only speak English**

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book I can read again and again just for the prose. Certainly if you have never read it even once you should make a bee line for it.

I listened to the excellent audiobook edition from Librivox.org. Wonderfully read performed by John Greenman. Thank you sir!

* “What the hell? A brother's freedom ain't no game man!” - Thug Notes review (on Youtube).

Update: Having read [b:The Adventures of Tom Sawyer|24583|The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, #1)|Mark Twain|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1404811979s/24583.jpg|41326609] since reading this Huck Finn book I find that Tom in the previous book is just a naughty — kind of hyperactive — boy, not so despicable and borderline insane as he is in this book. That is some character arc! Huck Finn — after his own adventures — has become much more mature.

** "Why, Huck, doan' de French people talk de same way we does?"
"No, Jim; you couldn't understand a word they said—not a single word."
"Well, now, I be ding-busted! How do dat come?"
"I don't know; but it's so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S'pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy—what would you think?"
"I wouldn' think nuff'n; I'd take en bust him over de head—dat is, if he warn't white. I wouldn't 'low no nigger to call me dat."
"Shucks, it ain't calling you anything. It's only saying, do you know how to talk French?"
"Well, den, why couldn't he say it?"
"Why, he is a-saying it. That's a Frenchman's way of saying it."
"Well, it's a blame ridicklous way, en I doan' want to hear no mo' 'bout it. Dey ain' no sense in it."

*** Apparently NewSouth Books published an edition where "nigger" is replaced by "slave" ಠ_ಠ. On the bright side, this led to publication of The Hipster Huckleberry Finn where "nigger" is replaced with "hipster" to placate the hip and sensitive.