Le avventure di Huckleberry Finn

By Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Leo Marx

1,183,177 ratings - 3.82* vote

Congedandosi dai lettori nelle ultime pagine di "Tom Sawyer", Mark Twain preannuncia un nuovo romanzo che uscirà nel 1885, nove anni più tardi: un'opera che, come afferma T.S. Eliot, "merita il titolo di capolavoro". Fuggito alle cure, o piuttosto alle persecuzioni di un padre ubriacone, vissuto per qualche tempo dentro una botte da zucchero, riacciuffato e di nuovo abband Congedandosi dai lettori nelle ultime pagine di "Tom Sawyer", Mark Twain preannuncia un nuovo

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Book details

Paperback, 356 pages
1994 by Einaudi

(first published December 1st 1884)

Original Title
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
8806136054 (ISBN13: 9788806136055)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


After reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I realized that I had absolutely nothing to say about it. And yet here, as you see, I have elected to say it anyway, and at great length.

Reading this novel now, at the age of mumble-mumble, is a bit like arriving at the circus after the tents have been packed, the bearded lady has been depilated, and the funnel cake trailers have been hitched to pick-up trucks and captained, like a formidable vending armada, toward the auburn sunset. All the fun has already been used up, and I’m left behind circumnavigating the islands of elephant dung and getting drunk on Robitussin®. Same story, different day.

How exactly did I make it through eight total years of high school and undergraduate studies in English without having read any Mark Twain but a brief (and forgotten) excerpt from Life on the Mississippi? Isn’t this illegal by now? I mean, isn’t there a clause in the Patriot Act... an eleventh commandment... a dictate from Xenu? Isn’t Huckleberry Finn, like Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird, now an unavoidable teenage road bump between rainbow parties and huffing spray paint? Isn’t it the role of tedious classic literature to add color and texture to the pettiness of an adolescence circumscribed by status updates, muff shaving, and shooting each other? Or am I old-fashioned?

Let’s face it. In the greater social consciousness, there are two stars of this book: (1) the word 'nigger' and (2) the Sherwood Schwartz-style ending in which Tom Sawyer reappears and makes even the most casual reader wonder whether he might not be retarded.

Huckleberry Finn, for all his white trash pedigree, is actually a pretty smart kid -- the kind of dirty-faced boy you see, in his younger years, in a shopping cart at Wal-Mart, being barked at by a monstrously obese mother in wedgied sweatpants and a stalagmite of a father who sweats tobacco juice and thinks the word 'coloreds' is too P.C. Orbiting the cart, filled with generic cigarette cartons, tabloids, and canned meats, are a half-dozen kids, glazed with spittle and howling like Helen Keller over the water pump, but your eyes return to the small, sad boy sitting in the cart. His gaze, imploring, suggestive of a caged intellect, breaks your heart, so you turn and comparison-shop for chewing gum or breath mints. He is condemned to a very dim horizon, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, so you might as well buy some Altoids and forget about it...

That boy is the spiritual descendant of Huckleberry Finn.

The 'nigger' controversy -- is there still one? -- is terribly inconsequential. It almost seems too obvious to point out that this is (a) firstly a 'period novel,' meaning it that occurs at a very specific historical moment at a specific location and (b) secondly a first-person narrative, which is therefore saddled with the language, perspective, and nascent ideologies of its narrator. Should we expect a mostly uneducated, abused adolescent son of a racist alcoholic who is living in the South before the Civil War to have a respectful, intellectually-enlightened perspective toward black people? Should the character of Huck Finn, in other words, be ahistorical, anachronistic? Certainly not, if we expect any semblance of honesty from our national literature.

Far more troubling to many critics is the ending of Huckleberry Finn, when -- by a freakishly literary coincidence -- Huck Finn is mistaken for Tom Sawyer by Tom’s relatives, who happen to be holding Jim (the slave on the run) in hopes of collecting a reward from his owners. There are all sorts of contrivances in this scenario -- the likes of which haven’t been seen since the golden age of Three’s Company -- which ends with Tom arriving and devising a ridiculously elaborate scheme for rescuing Jim.

All in all, the ending didn’t bother me as much as it bothered some essayists I’ve read. That is, it didn’t strike me as especially conspicuous in a novel which relies a great deal on narrative implausibility and coincidence. Sure, Tom Sawyer is something of an idiot, as we discover, but in a novel that includes faked deaths and absurd con jobs, his idiocy seems well-placed.

In the end, I suppose the greatest thing I can say about this novel is that it left me wondering what happened to Huck Finn. Would his intellect and compassion escape from his circumstances or would he become yet another bigoted, abusive father squiring another brood of dirty, doomed children around a fluorescently-lit Wal-Mart?

Petra X's driving in a Mustang GT to Key West

This is a rant. I found Huckleberry Finn on my bookshelf had been changed to Huckleberry Finn Robotic Edition. Some very pc "authors" and "editors" took it upon themselves to change the N word to 'robot'. They then rewrote the book to take away any mention of humans and to 'roboticise' words such as 'eye' which becomes something like 'optical device'. The illustrations have also been changed. I have no problem with this, but I do have two major issues with this edition.

The first problem is with the librarians who think think this is close enough to the original that it should be combined and therefore share the ratings of Mark Twain's original book. There was a long discussion in the librarian thread where some librarians thought it was essentially the same book, perhaps most. So it was combined and the edition of the book I read was changed to that one. I DID NOT read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Robotic Edition.

This robot edition was a Kindle book. Think about it and the danger of these 'authors'. If this is acceptable and it is to a lot of the librarians, why not politically correct Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie (oh she's been done already. It was 10 Little N words, then 10 Little Indians, now it's Then there were 10, lol). Sooner or later print books will be in used bookshops, research libraries and old people's houses. They will become not books to be read but collector's items. For reading it will be the ebook where changes can be easily and instantaneously made.

And if politically-correcting everything becomes Amazon policy then the whole publishing world will follow and your children will never know the original story that Mark Twain wrote. They will never understand how N word people were treated and that is my second issue with this pc book.

They will never know that Jim, a grown man would not normally be expected to hang out with 13 year old boys, kowtowed to Tom and Huckleberry not just because they all liked each other, but because he was not free, he was a slave, property, and was subject to the usual treatment of property. He could be ordered to do anything no matter how stupid or harmful, he could be sold or mistreated not even for punishment but just because he had no human rights whatsoever.

Changing N people to robots negates all this. Yes it is more politically acceptable to Whites but how would a Black person feel having their history taken away from them? This is not pc as much as sanitising history and is wrong on every level. And it was done by the authors to make it easier for White teachers to teach this important book (is it important if it is about robots though?) without engendering awkward discussions about race, slavery, why some people have rights and others are property which has also meant the book is on many 'banned' school lists.

Do you find this acceptable? A lot of GR librarians don't see a damn thing wrong with it. But I do.

See Fahrenheit 451

edited 27 Jan 2018

Nathan Eilers

Hemingway said American fiction begins and ends with Huck Finn, and he's right. Twain's most famous novel is a tour de force. He delves into issues such as racism, friendship, war, religion, and freedom with an uncanny combination of lightheartedness and gravitas. There are several moments in the book that are hilarious, but when I finished the book, I knew I had read something profound. This is a book that everyone should read.

Ahmad Sharabiani

(825 From 1001 Books) - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn = Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Adventures of Tom and Huck #2), Mark Twain

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry "Huck" Finn, the narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective) and a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

عنوانها: «هکلبری فین»؛ «برده فراری ماجراهای هاکلبری فین»؛ «ماجراهای هاکلبری فین»؛ «سرگذشت هکلبری فین»؛ «هاکلبری فین»؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ انتشاراتیها (آگاه، روزن، علمی فرهنکی، امیرکبیر، نشر کلاغ، فرانکلین، زرین، ارسطو، مهتاب، دادجو، خوارزمی، ارغوان، گوتنبرگ، ناژ، عصر اندیشه، نهال نویدان، قدیانی) تاریخ نخستین خوانش ماه اکتبر سال 1994میلادی

عنوان: هکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: ابراهیم گلستان؛ چاپ نخست 1328؛ چاپ دوم تهران، آگاه، 1349؛ چاپ سوم تهران، روزن، 1348؛ در 308ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، بازتاب نگار، 1387، در 383ص؛ شابک 9789648223408؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، نشر کلاغ، 1393، در 368ص؛ شابک 9786009418879؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 19م

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ فروست ادبیات نوجوانان؛ مترجم: هوشنگ پیرنظر؛ تهران، سازمان کتابهای جیبی فرانکلین، 1345؛ در 312ص؛ چاپ ششم تهران، علمی فرهنگی، 1377، در 416ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، امیرکبیر، 1389، در 443ص؛ شابک 9789640013182؛

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: شهرام پورانفر؛ تهران، زرین، 1362؛ در 394ص؛ چاپ دیگر؛ مشهد، ارسطو، 1370؛ در 394ص؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، مهتاب، 1370؛ در 394ص؛

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: سودابه زرکف؛ تهران، دادجو، 1364؛ در 255ص؛

عنوان: سرگذشت هکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: نجف دریابندری؛ تهران، خوارزمی، 1366؛ در 380ص؛

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: رویا گیلانی؛ تهران، ارغوان، 1372؛ در 136ص؛ چاپ دوم 1390؛

عنوان: برده فراری ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: جواد محیی؛ تهران، گوتنبرگ، 1379؛ در 228ص؛ چاپ دیگر مشهد، جاودان خرد، 1375، در 228ص؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛

عنوان: هکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: کیومرث پارسای؛ تهران، ناژ، 1390، در 397ص، شابک 9786009109746؛ عنوان روی جلد ماجراهای هکلبری فین؛

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: محمد همت خواه؛ تهران، عصر اندیشه، 1391؛ در 59ص؛ شابک 9786005550078؛

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: شکوفه اخوان؛ تهران، نهال نویدان، 1392؛ در 175ص؛شابک 9789645680440؛

عنوان: ماجراهای هاکلبری فین؛ اثر: مارک تواین؛ مترجم: سحرالسادات رخصت پناه؛ تهران، قدیانی، 1394؛ در 336ص؛شابک 9786002517029؛

جناب آقای «مجید آقاخانی» نیز داستان خلاصه شده را ترجمه کرده اند در 177ص؛

داستان نوجوانی ست با پدری الکلی، «هکلبری» در پی نزاع با پدرش، از خانه فرار می‌کند؛ در راه با برده ی سیاهپوستی به نام «جیم» آشنا می‌شود؛ آنها کلکی می‌سازند، و سوار بر امواج رودخانه ی «می‌.سی‌.سی‌.پی» را می‌پیمایند؛ این کتاب به حوادثی که بر این دو رخ می‌دهد و میگذرد، می‌پردازد

جناب آقای «ابراهیم گلستان» در جایی از مقدمه ی کتاب نوشته اند: «آنچه مهم است این است که درس خشن زندگی، «هک (هکلبری فین)» را خبیث نمی‌کند؛ فطرت او خلاف زندگی نمی‌رود؛ دلش شک برمی‌دارد اما به قساوت آلوده نمی‌شود، بی اعتنا نمی‌شود؛ آن‌ها که به او نارو زده ‌اند اگر گرفتار شوند نه به توطئه اوست بلکه خلاف میل اوست و او از گرفتاری‌هایشان غمگین می‌شود و دریغ می‌خورد که چرا آدم‌ها یکدیگر را می‌آزارند؛ هک همدم است با هر آنچه درست و پاک و زیباست، بی آن‌که خود بداند، می‌فهمد اگر دنیا زشتی‌ها دارد، چرکی‌ها دارد، شادی‌ها و گرمی‌ها نیز دارد.»؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ 08/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی


"I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart wasn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to [Jim's:] owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie--and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie -- I found that out...

...It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 'All right, then, I'll go to Hell'--and tore it up."


Review updated on 16.02.2017.

Ask any person anywhere in the world to give an example of a classic book of US literature and it is a safe bet this one will come out among the top three. The only reason I am going to mention the plot for such famous book is the fact that I always do it; I am not breaking my own tradition in this case. So an orphan boy and a runaway slave travel together in Southern US. One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was gradual change in Huck's attitude towards Jim: he stops regarding the latter as a slave and starts thinking about him as an equal human being.

There is an obvious anti-racist message in the book. It also happens to have very funny laugh-out-loud moments. It also contains satirical depiction of some aspects of life in small US cities in the early nineteenth century. It contains some very poetic descriptions at times. It also has some sad moments. It is a classic book which is also still fun to read unlike numerous classics I can think of. This is a book which teaches important lessons while still remembering that reading can be fun.

The book is written in the first person vernacular. This is really the only example I can think of where it works. It took a genius of Mark Twain to pull it off successfully. If an inspiring author who thinks about using first (or third) person vernacular stumbles upon my review my advice would be - do not, unless you think your writing talent is on the same level as that of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

The author wrote the novel in such a way that it became controversial countless number of times resulting in its banning it from public libraries and censorship. One would think people would get over these controversies by now, but to nobody's surprise some people still find things in the book to be offended at, just take a look at the latest example: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-wa...

I will try to explain to the easily offended hypocrites why they are wrong in the least brain taxing way possible using simple ASCII art:

Point --------> .
              1 mile
You --------->\_|_/
              _/ \_

You missed the point by one mile!!!

This gives me an excellent opportunity to talk about limited copyright terms (it seems to me we are heading for unlimited extension of copyright). Limited copyright term means that regardless of current political climate and resulting censorship we will always have access to a legal unaltered copy of the book as in this case: public wins.

A lot of people do not appreciate the book because they were forced to read it in high school. If this was your only reading by all means give it another try to get a fresh prospective.

In conclusion this novel belongs to a relatively rare category of classics consisting of books that do not feel like you do heavy manual labor while you read them. My rating is 4.5 stars rounded up out of my deepest respect for it.

P.S. The original illustrations are excellent.
P.P.S. Project Gutenberg has a copy with original illustrations.


"That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it."

What makes a classic? A question I have had to ask myself repeatedly over the last few days, after students in Grade 8 received the task to come to the library and "check out a classic to read". There was a list with the usual suggestions, but students ventured out and started to explore shelves, and then came to me with a wide range of books, repeating the question:

"Is this a classic?"

Why did I turn down the diary of a wimpy kid, they wanted to know, and accept Huckleberry Finn, even though it was so much harder to understand, and also, they had heard it was racist?

All good questions, and I was careful not to give a too categorical answer. The last thing I wanted was for them to make the connotation that a classic is a boring must, while a "good book" is what the teachers and librarians would refuse.


I found myself talking about the Count of Monte Cristo and Voldemort, about Tom Sawyer and Oliver Twist in comparison to Harry Potter, and I made a case for trying to get through parts of Huckleberry Finn even though the language is challenging, mainly because it contains exactly the message that people become unfair "when they don't know nothing about it".

I found myself talking about discovering other times, other societies, other ideas of justice and hierarchy, and I talked about living in the mind of someone other than oneself. Imagine Huckleberry on that raft on the Mississippi, I said. Imagine him being in a conflict between the values he was taught and the humanity he discovered together with his fellow human, who happened to be a black man in distress. Which concept of life would be stronger?

Imagine a situation in which you would have to make a choice between what you are taught and what you perceive?

"That's interesting", a student said.

Another one replied:

"Yeah, but it really is racist too!"

And I thought:

"That makes a classic. A book that can still inspire discussions in a school library some 135 years after its initial publication."

So, dear Harry, I hope that in the year 2133, some librarian will tell students that you are a classic hero, still worthy of their attention, even though your worldview may seem a bit dated and out of touch with their perception of reality! And just imagine all the Voldemorts we will have had to fight to make sure there are still school libraries and reading kids by then!

To Huck and Harry!


I had to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in middle school, and I fervently wish that they had made us read Huck Finn instead. I mean, I understand why they didn't (giving middle schoolers an excuse to throw around racial slurs in a classroom setting is just asking for a lawsuit from somebody's parents), but Huck Finn is better. It's smarter, it's funnier, and Huck's adventures stay with you a lot longer than Tom's, because Huck's experiences were richer and more interesting, whereas The Adventures of Tom Sawyer could easily have been titled The Adventures of an Entitled Little Asshole.

If Tom had to go through half of what happens to Huck in this story, he'd be balled up in the corner crying after five minutes. The action of Huck Finn is set in motion when Huck's father shows up and decides that he's going to be responsible for his son now (the story picks up right where Tom Sawyer left off, with Huck and Tom becoming rich, hence Finn Sr.'s sudden involvement in his kid's life). Huck's father essentially kidnaps him, taking him to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and getting drunk and beating his son. Huck escapes by faking his own death (and it's awesome) and begins traveling up the Mississippi river. He runs into Jim, a slave who belonged to the Widow Douglas's sister. Jim overheard his owner talking about selling him, so he decided to run away and try to go north. Huck, after some hesitation, goes with him. From this point, the structure of the book closely mirrors Don Quixote: a mismatched pair of companions travels the country, having unrelated adventures and comic intervals. On their travels, Huck and Jim encounter con men, criminals, slave traders, and (in the best mini-story in the book) a family involved in a Hatfields-and-McCoys-like feud with a neighboring clan. The story comes full circle when Tom Sawyer shows up and joins Jim and Huck for the last of their adventures, and the best part of this is that Tom Sawyer's overall ridiculousness becomes obvious once we see him through Huck's eyes.

Huck is a great narrator, and I think one of the reasons I liked this book more than its counterpart was because it's narrated in first person, and so Huck's voice is able to come through clearly in every word. In addition to the great stories, there are also some really beautiful descriptions of the Mississippi river, as seen in this passage about the sun rising on the river:

"The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line - that was the woods on t'other side - you couldn't make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness, spreading around; then the river softened up, away off, and warn't black any more, but grey; you could see little dark spots drifting along, ever so far away - trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks - rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking, or jumbled up voices; it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there's a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log cabin on the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river, being a wood-yard, likely, and pulled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh, and sweet to smell, on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they've left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!"

(also that was one single sentence. Damn, Mark Twain.)

A fun, deceptively light series of stories that's funny and sad when you least expect it. Well done, The List - you picked a good one, for once.

...why are you still here? The review's over.

Oh, I get it. You want me to talk about the racism, right? You want me to discuss how Huck views Jim as stolen property instead of a person and criticize the frequent use of the N-Word and say "problematic" a lot, right?

Well, tough titties. I'm not getting involved in that, because it's stupid and pointless, and I'm just going to let Mark Twain's introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn speak for itself, and the work as a whole: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."

Glenn Sumi

Why have I never read Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn before? Was it Twain’s copious use of the N word? (I vaguely recall a primary school teacher abruptly halting a class read-aloud session, perhaps because of that.) Was it the air of earnest solemnity that surrounds so-called classics? Sheer laziness?

No matter. I’ve read it now, and I’ll never be the same again. Hemingway was right when he said (and I’m paraphrasing) all American literature comes from Huck Finn. While it’d be entertaining to read as a kid, it’s even more rewarding to approach as an adult.

Savour that wonderful opening paragraph (and tell me you can't hear Holden Caulfield in the cadences):

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly – Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is – and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

Everything to come is in those opening lines, penned in that distinct, nearly illiterate yet crudely poetic voice. You get a sense of Huck’s humility (compared to Tom Sawyer’s braggadocio); his intelligence; a cute postmodern nod to the author; the idea that storytelling contains “stretchers” but can also tell “the truth”; and the fact that everyone lies, including Huck. Especially Huck. He gets into so many tight spots that part of the joy is wondering how he’ll get out of them.

The outlines of the plot should be familiar: Huck, a scrappy, barely literate boy, flees his abusive, alcoholic father by faking his death and travelling the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers with Jim, an escaped slave, on a raft.

Huck's gradual awakening to Jim's plight is subtle and touching, never sentimental. In a sense the book chronicles his growing conscience. And the colourful characters he and Jim meet and the adventures they have add up to a fascinating, at times disturbing look at a conflicted, pre-Civil War nation.

We meet a Hatfields vs. McCoys type situation; a group of rapscallions who put on a vaudeville-style act and try to fleece rubes; a scene of desperation and danger on a collapsed boat. We witness greed, anger and most of the other deadly sins – all from a little raft on the Mississipi. And before the midway point, we see the toll that a cruel joke can have on someone’s feelings.

To a contemporary reader, some of the humour can feel a little forced, and the gags do get repetitive, particularly when Huck’s savvier, better-read friend Tom enters the scene.

And then comes a passage like this:

When I got there it was all still and Sunday-like, and hot and sun-shiny; the hands was gone to the fields; and there was them kind of faint dronings of bugs and flies in the air that makes it seem so lonesome and like everybody's dead and gone; and if a breeze fans along and quivers the leaves it makes you feel mournful, because you feel like it's spirits whispering – spirits that's been dead ever so many years – and you always think they're talking about YOU.

Wow. You can see, hear and feel what he's describing. Hard to believe this was written more than 150 years ago.

In the book's closing pages, Huck tells us this:

If I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it, and ain’t a-going to no more.

Well, gosh, Huck, it war worth all yer trouble. We’re darn glad you dunnit. Yessir.


PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
Jim said that bees won't sting idiots, but I didn't believe that, because I tried them lots of times myself and they wouldn't sting me.
Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.

This book opens in the aftermath of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and for a time, it has the same joyous feel as the boys continue their antics of rebellious 12-year-olds. But the return of Huck Finn’s drunk of a father, Pap, hints at the darker, more serious themes of this novel. After being kidnapped and beaten, Huck escapes his father by faking his own death and then going on the run. He soon crosses paths with a runaway slave, Jim, and together they raft their way down the Mississippi.

Once again, the book is largely a series of vignettes with a very loose overarching plot. Huck and Jim travel from Missouri through Kentucky and Arkansas and into the antebellum South, getting into scrapes and making escapes along the way. There’s some great humor in their conversations on the raft; their argument about the wisdom of King Solomon is priceless. And there’s classic Twain satire and exposing of hypocrisy here, from the feuding Grangerford and Shepardson families to the con men known as the Duke and the King.

So why was I reading this classic novel during Banned Books Week? For that, we have to talk about race and racism. The characters here (and the author, for that matter) are products of their 19th century time. The n-word is used relentlessly in this book, even by the slaves themselves, and it is jarring. Huck says casually racist things here that are heartbreakingly awful; on one occasion, for example, he compliments Jim by thinking “I knowed he was white inside.” And some critics fairly read this book as irredeemably problematic, reinforcing racist stereotypes and repeatedly deriving humor from a variation of a minstrel show.

But I come down on the side of those who read this book as transcending and challenging the racist stereotypes of the time. Huck has been taught by society all his life to view blacks as slaves, as less than. And at a pivotal moment, he writes a letter to report where Jim can be found by his master, and at first he thinks the letter is the right thing to do:
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”—and tore it up.

Huck says the wrong thing, and uses racist language, again and again throughout this book. But he ultimately recognizes and acts on his and Jim’s shared humanity and equality. That might be the best we can realistically expect from a book published in the 1880s. And some days, it’s obvious that our society has not come nearly as far on this score as we’d like to think we have.

Is this The Great American Novel? It’s written by an immortal, epically talented writer. It was one of the first books to truly capture the course, plain spoken language of its time. And by focusing on racism and slavery, it speaks to America’s original sin. So yeah, it just might be, even though I prefer To Kill a Mockingbird. Highly recommended.