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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1884-1885

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Although probably no other work of American literature has been the source of so much controversy, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is regarded by many as the greatest literary achievement America has yet produced. Inspired by many of the author's own experiences as a river-boat pilot, the book tells of two runaways – a white boy and a black man – and their journey down the mighty Mississippi River. When the book first appeared, it scandalized reviewers and parents who thought it would corrupt young children with its depiction of a hero who lies, steals, and uses coarse language. In the last half of the twentieth century, the condemnation of the book has continued on the grounds that its portrayal of Jim and use of the word 'nigger' is racist. The novel continues to appear on lists of books banned in schools across the country.

Nevertheless, from the beginning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was also recognized as a book that would revolutionize American literature. The strong point of view, skillful depiction of dialects, and confrontation of issues of race and prejudice have inspired critics to dub it 'the great American novel.' Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway claimed in The Green Hills of Africa (1935), for example, that 'All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn. . . . There was nothing
before. There has been nothing as good since.'

Huckleberry Finn traces the moral education of a young boy whose better impulses overcome both self-interest and the negative forces of his culture. Huck, a homeless boy whose only relative is his disreputable father, is taken in by a respectable widow who seeks to educate him. She forces him to go to school, but Huck dislikes being 'so cramped up and sivilized [sic] as they call it.' His father abducts him, and Huck prefers the freedom of his father's shack to the constraint of more genteel surroundings.

Freed from civilizing influences and placed in the company of his father, a vicious racist who boasts of his own illiteracy, Huck seems like a poor candidate for moral growth. But when Pap Finn nearly kills the boy during an alcoholic delirium, Huck escapes and meets the runaway slave Jim, who provides him with the opportunity to make a significant moral choice. Huck has been shaped not only by his father's view that one should act out of self interest, but also by his society's belief that God's law mandates slavery. As he protects Jim, Huck feels certain that he will go to hell. Nonetheless, he transcends his upbringing and learns to value essential human bonds of trust beyond his own interest. Throughout the novel the boy witnesses a variety of human corruption, pretension, and violence, but maintains his integrity through his ability to identify with others.


bookweb from:
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The story of Huck and his companion Jim, a runaway slave, as they travel down the Mississippi to escape from slavery and 'sivilization'.

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