Huckleberry Finn has been a controversial novel for many decades. The book was banned in schools and libraries across the United States because of its use of racial slurs, vulgar language, and violence. However, there are some who think this book should be read by all students to help them understand the social context during that time period. This essay will provide huckleberry finn literary criticism – focusing on the pros and cons of teaching huckleberry finn in high school classrooms today.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most well-known works of American fiction, and it is attributed to Mark Twain. Because of its finesse and evocation of major themes in the United States, the novel is regarded by most people as one of the essential works of American literature ever created. The book was praised for its ability to educate as well as entertain its readers.
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Through satire, the moving and fascinating adventures described in the book illustrate significant themes that are relevant to American society. On the other hand, the novel has also generated a slew of heated debates. Because of its alleged breaches of decorum, since its publication, the work of fiction has been challenged and banned from libraries. Nonetheless, despite these controversies, people continue to enjoy reading it. This essay explores some of the book’s prominent interpretations.
Mark Twain has been accused of being a “racist writer” by many naysayers. John H. Wallace’s essay, “The Case against Huck Finn,” set the tone for nineteenth-century novel criticism. He claims, “By far the most repulsive example of racist filth ever produced is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain” (Leonard, 16).
The thesis defends against the literary racism in Native Son by Ralph Ellison. Wallace is one of the most vocal critics of Mark Twain, and this essay is a return to his earlier objections regarding the novel’s historical significance. His grievances are largely focused on Mark Twain’s use of racial epithets in the book.
Mark Twain’s writing, according to Wallace, is insulting to African American readers, particularly the young ones. He maintains that it should not be taught in schools since it continues popular slave-era stereotypes. Wallace thinks that the depiction of character Jim, who stands for the Blacks in Mark Twain’s narrative, has a racial slant. Jim is initially presented as someone who believes in magic at the start of the tale.
He recognizes his own powerlessness and does not express his complaints, remaining satisfied in his position as a diligent laborer. When he learns that Miss Watson intended to sell him to strangers in the south, he flees and goes with Huck down the river. According on Wallace, Jim is presented as an example of nineteenth-century racist ideas about the Black minority.
The above-mentioned detail shows that Jim is a “poor sort.” In “Doctor Dolittle,” he is described by Twain as “feeble-minded, wicked, and indolent,” implying his inferiority to the white people. The line, for example, “Miss Watson’s nigger, Jim, had a hair-ball the size of your fist, which had been removed from the fourth stomach of an ox and he used to mystify with it” (Twain , 17), depicts Jim’s subordinate position. The author’s unfavorable depiction of Jim is largely why Wallace lobbied for the book’s ban in educational institutions.
Wallace then promotes his own adaptation of the novel, which “no longer depicts blacks as inhuman, dishonest, or unintelligent” (Leonard, 24). Furthermore, he suggests that this book should not be used with children (Leonard, 24).
Forrest G. Robinson and James Cox were also critical of the book. The former observed that “Jim eventually regresses to a two-dimensional character, gullible and superstitious,” while the latter “never actually establishes a solid viewpoint on Jim’s character, leaving him in doubt” (Wrobel, 4). However, the critics did not examine Mark Twain’s ironic depiction of the affair. Wallace’s adaptation of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn undercuts Twain’s intended use of irony to attack slavery in the nineteenth century.
The death of a protagonist, who is killed by an African-American, softens the white prejudice. People may believe that the blacks were not maltreated and can forget why they were enslaved in the first place. It would have been impossible for the book to be about a white boy (Huck) and an African-American (Jim) if it was out right racist literature. Even though during that period blacks were treated inhumanly, Huck and Jim enjoyed one another’s company and found enjoyment in doing everyday tasks together.
During the days of slavery, the whites were regarded as superior by nature. There was no notion of sharing common items. Mark Twain, on the other hand, shows in his work that one may have similar interests with another regardless of their race. I’m a low-down Abolitionist who should be despised for not speaking out , but it makes no difference to me . ”
“I’m not going to tell” (Twain, 50). This is what Huck said. He was informing Jim that he would not talk about his emancipation from slavery to anybody. If the book were racist, Huck could not have tried to assist his friend in escaping from the yolk of servitude. The language of the book has also been the subject of debate. The fact that the word “nigger” was used more than two hundred times in the novel is noteworthy, as is Hughes’s claim that calling people niggers to blacks of high and low standing is akin to brandishing a red flag to a bull.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s used appropriately or incorrectly, ironically or seriously, of course for the sake of realism, or impishly for the sake of humor—it doesn’t matter (Webb, para. 15). Because some African-Americans are offended by the term, Twain has been criticized for repeatedly employing it throughout the book. Allan B. Ballard is one of the novel’s critics regarding language usage. “The novel’s official stamp of approval for a term uttered by the most bigoted racial bigots to an age group eager to try anything shocking is seen in its presentation as an “American classic,” according to Webb (para. 9).
The usage of the term “nigger” during that time was not nearly as contentious as it is today. Writers were free to utilize such language when writing to African-Americans, and there was little resistance. However, only a few years ago did people start complaining about Twain’s usage of the term. Critics have accused Twain’s work of being racist because to its use of the “n word.” Critics, like Ballard, claim that Jim is merely a stock character in the narrative.
He’s a simpleton, so he can’t think for himself. As a result, he merely follows the instructions of Huck (and later Tom) when executing tasks. Various characters have disparaged him throughout the book. Huck even feels guilty at one moment in helping him in his quest for independence. Perhaps the critics’ most potent argument is that he is not a typical nineteenth-century slave. This is because slaves were subjected to far more abuse than those depicted in the tale.
However, it’s crucial to remember that Mark Twain was only trying to depict the actual state as it was during his period. We are separated from the events of the narrative by nearly 150 years, therefore we must consider it in its historical context. During that era, the term “nigger” was frequently used. People also hated those who were enslaved and sought to expose this situation in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In his underhanded approach, the novel’s author appears to be condemning this practice.
Mark Twain’s usage of a narrator who speaks vernacular, according to John Holz, implies two contradicting voices in the language used. He takes issue with the novel’s language, claiming that “Hick Finn conveys a wide range of sentiments and perceptions in terms of his spontaneous reactions to them, as well as in a more or less random sequence rather than one based on logic.” (Holz 5)
Because of his role as a transmitter, the protagonist’s lack of sight also makes him seem like he has no visual knowledge of the time. Holz claims that rather than making broad statements or definitive personal judgments, the narrator generally does not go beyond reporting what he sees; and the language he uses in this capacity make him appear to be a less educated narrator with a restricted view on his surroundings.
The second contradictory voice, according to Holz, emerges in the novel as “the first voice with his heavy use of vernacular is replaced by a narrator who used regional lingo only occasionally, thus offering a different outlook on the characters and events in the novel” (5). Although Twain was one of the writers to utilize this method in writing, using two conflicting voices makes narration more complicated for readers.
In conclusion, despite the negative reviews of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is vital in pointing out some concerns that the American society has not addressed seriously. The themes covered in the book are important and can’t be dismissed entirely. Readers would not get the benefits of the important information and development they might gain after reading a book with humor. As a result, the major themes that it displays should also be evaluated in depth.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a historically important novel by Mark Twain that should not be considered the greatest work in American literature. Tom Sawyer’s return and the “evasion” chapters’ effect on the whole narrative, as well as their impact on the value of Huckleberry Finn, reduced its worth.
While it can be acknowledged that Huck’s moral growth, the context, and the book’s original style all contribute to its importance as a contemporary American text taught in schools across the country, those aspects alone do not demonstrate the novel’s magnificence; they only demonstrate its uniqueness.
“I never said anything because I had no expectations; nevertheless, I was quite certain that whenever [Tom] got his plan ready, it would not have any of those objections to it” (Twain 211). Huck accepted Tom’s ideas, even if they were time-consuming, because he looked up to him and believed his approach would work even if it took longer than Huck’s.
“But at last, by Tom’s notion of what is amusing, [Huck] submits in awe. To please Tom’s desire for adventure, he makes himself a party to the game, which aggravates Jim’s discomfort. It should be mentioned right away that Jim isn’t too upset about it. The reality is that Jim has gone through a similar metamorphosis” (Marx 5). Although Huck did fall under Tom’s sway again near the end of the novel, this occurrence harms not just his character but also Jim’s.
After Jim leaves, Tom Sawyer comes in and takes over the situation, taking away much of his individuality. Once Tom Sawyer arrives and begins directing his actions that would take too much effort and time to free him, Jim’s distinctiveness is lost. Huck had become very close with Jim, and he began telling him portions of his life as they spoke more frequently. However, Tom then reentered the story and devised his strategy, which restricted Jim’s immediate liberty for a lengthy period of time while also subjecting him to discomfort and unhappiness.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the greatest, noblest, and most adventureous book in the world. Mark Twain has a distinct writing style that conveys a realism in the novel set during antebellum America. Mark Twain definitely characterizes the protagonist, clever and sympathetic Huckleberry Finn, by employing an unadorned direct manner of speaking as though through Huck’s real voice.
Huck’s language is so flawless that it reflects even the racism and black stereotypes prevalent at the time. And, due to this, various readers have had many opposing arguments since the novel’s first printing, but also of inspiration. “[The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] is perhaps the most repulsive example of racist garbage ever composed,” roared John H. Wallace in his Mark Twain Journal (Mark Twain Journal by Thadious Davis, Fall 1984 and Spring 1985).
Yet, to counter this, there is a quote by famous American writer Ernest Hemingway, which states, “All modern American literature stems from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn… It’s the finest book we’ve ever had – and it’s still the bestseller in history. There has been nothing better than it since” (The Green Hills of Africa [Scribner’s. 1953] 22). The debate around the book continues to center on racism, despite the novel’s themes being so much wider than race discrimination.
Twain certainly uses the word “nigger” frequently, both as a reference to Jim the slave and any African-American that Huck encounters. However, the reader must not overlook that this sort of racism, this callous treatment of people of color, and this degrading thinking about them are all characterized by a pre-Civil War mindset. Racism is only mentioned in the novel as a natural occurrence and an indication to the book’s underlying beliefs.
Huckleberry Finn is still a potent portrayal of experience through the eyes of an innocent boy, despite Mark Twain’s racist views. Huck just talks and treats African-American culture in accordance with his environment. It would be out of place and in keeping with the period to state anything else. Twain’s literary style in capturing the book, Huck’s carefree attitude and straightforward commentary, and Jim’s unquestionable acceptance of the oppression all suggest this.
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, one of the most well-known American authors and satirists in history. This book is a continuation of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” The latter story was composed in the voice of Mark Twain as the narrator, whereas the former was written in Huckleberry Finn’s voice. As a result of his father’s alcoholism, Huckleberry Finn has educated himself virtually from birth.
This has resulted in him being self-reliant and independent, and he feels stifled by the generosity of the Widow Douglas, who has taken him in and begun “civilizing” him. He may not have a family in the conventional sense, but his need to rely on others is what the narrative is all about. Huck’s personality is revealed through both his biological family and his “adopted” family of friends and well-intentioned townspeople who care enough about Huckleberry to look out for him.
People are born with a unique identity, which is inextricably linked to their family identities. People are the products of their environments and cultures, and the family is the smallest social unit outside of the individual. This division between personal and familial identification was a major theme of the narrative throughout the book.
The tale of begins with an overview of Tom Sawyer’s exploits, which concludes the previous book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Readers start at a midpoint in a narrative that has previously been told up to the point when Huckleberry Finn discovers gold coins kept in a back trust for him. He says, “Tom and me discovered the money that the robbers had hidden in the cave, and it made us rich” (4). Each received $6,000 and was given $1 per day, which was far more than either knew what to do with.
Huck is hesitant in his new family situation with the Widow Douglas serving as a mother or grandmother figure in his life. He claims that “She put me back into them fresh clothes again, and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up” (4). He wants to go back to his old cloths and freer lifestyle when he could come and go as he pleased, but Tom Sawyer encourages him to endure his new life of being civilized in order to participate in Tom’s robber game.
However, with his return to a biological family that had never worked, he is no longer in control of whether or not to stay. Huck’s identity is defined as much by a lack of a family as it is by the presence of one. “Here’s Huck Finn; he doesn’t have any relatives; what are you going to do with him?” (7) In the traditional sense, Huck does not have a family.
According to him, he is seen as a victim of circumstance. He does not define himself by the family that has been assigned to him; rather, they define him. The absence of this aspect is just as significant to his self-identity as family is for those who have it in the conventional sense. In the first three definitions of family, blood relations are mentioned. Only the fourth definition refers to a family that does not include a blood tie. “A person or people showing special loyalty or intimacy toward each other.”
In this light, one could claim that Huck’s family consists of those in his life who care for him—Tom, Jim, and the Widow Douglas. If one adheres to the conventional definition of a family , then calling Huck a member of a dysfunctional family is the only correct way to describe his dysfunctional family, an abusive father who is never there but appears when he discovers a financial benefit in becoming the father he never was to Huck.
This blessing of financial stability, however, becomes a burden since it motivates his father, who is a vagrant and alcoholic with no previous involvement in Huckleberry’s life, to return and demand custody of his son in order to get at the money he has discovered. If Huck was dissatisfied with his new existence as Widow Douglas tries to educate him, things only go from bad to worse when his father returns triumphantly wins a court case to take legal custody of his kid.
The Widow Douglas never would have been allowed to adopt Huck if Judge Thatcher had not been persuaded by a local attorney, Mr. Kennedy, who was hired for this purpose. His biological, inebriated father retains custody of him in the end because he prefers to be known as an autonomous individual rather than a member of a family.
When the water recedes, Huck enters into a chaotic family existence. Huck’s dysfunctional father has become an essential part of his personality. Because he is embarrassed of the family that he does have, Huck believes that he “haven’t got no family.”
Huck’s own father kidnaps him and keeps him against his will in a cabin. When he returns, he abuses him. Although this was beyond the scope of psychological study at the time. Such treatment causes people to develop attachment problems, making it impossible for them to form relationships with others. Mark Twain did an excellent job depicting Huck as a true depiction of an attachment disorder without even knowing what one was called.
The inability to adapt to life with the Widow, he claims, is due to his reluctance to follow norms and wear uncomfortable clothes that make him “sweat and sweat.” What’s more, it’s clear that Huck has passed the crucial stage at which he can form relationships with others. This makes him seem like a permanent recluse.
Huck attempts to deceive his father into believing he’s been murdered, so he smears pig’s blood all over the cabin and escapes. He goes in hiding on Jackson Island, where he meets Jim, a runaway slave who has fled to avoid being sold by Miss Watson to a plantation down river.
Huck and Jim are eventually forced to flee, and they spend the rest of the book on various adventures, including encounters with swindlers, river bandits, and a cast of colorful characters. The ultimate aim is to get Jim to the north so that he may be free. Jim protects Huck from seeing his father’s corpse on a boat they come upon floating down the river because he does not want him to see it is his father.
When Jim’s raft collides with theirs, they are separated, but he repairs the raft and again comes to Huck’s rescue. This fulfills the fourth definition of family. Because Jim is a slave, he does not have control over his family’s destiny, which is in the hands of the owners. However, their relationship is a familial one based on loyalty and each seems willing to put his or her life on the line for the other.