Essay Finn Huckleberry

Essay Finn Huckleberry-36
"We have ground the manhood out of them," Twain wrote Dean Wayland on Christmas Eve, 1885, "and the shame is ours, not theirs, & we should pay for it." Ask your students: why does a writer who holds these views create a narrator who is too innocent and ignorant to challenge the topsy-turvy moral universe that surrounds him?

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She is President of the Mark Twain Circle of America and editor of the 19-volume Oxford Mark Twain. Despite the fact that it is the most taught novel and most taught work of American literature in American schools from junior high to graduate school, Huckleberry Finn remains a hard book to read and a hard book to teach.

Adapted from a talk given at the July 1995 Summer Teachers' Institute at The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut. The difficulty is caused by two distinct but related problems.

He does not think about the humiliating effect the joke would have on Jim.

Jim calls Huck out on the cruelty behind his antics, telling him that, "When I wake up en fine you back agin, all safe en soun', de tears come en I could a got down on my knees en kiss' yo' foot I's so thankful.

Samuel Clemens might be convinced that slavery itself and its legacy are filled with shame, but Huck is convinced that his reward for defying the moral norms of his society will be eternal damnation.

Something new happened in Huck Finn that had never happened in American literature before.

Irony, history, and racism all painfully intertwine in our past and present, and they all come together in Huck Finn.

Because racism is endemic to our society, a book like Huck Finn, which brings the problem to the surface, can explode like a hand grenade in a literature classroom accustomed to the likes of Macbeth or Great Expectations -- works which exist at a safe remove from the lunchroom or the playground.

Huck, who grew up playing tricks on others with Tom Sawyer, realizes for the first time that African-American slaves are capable of feeling pain, and he learns that true friends do not try to hurt each other.

For example, Huck tries to play a prank on Jim, not expecting his serious reaction.

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