Presentation on theme: " Twain wasn’t entirely sure at the time of composing the “notice” that begins the book which aspect of his creation he wanted to emphasize – its seemingly."— Presentation transcript:
Twain wasn’t entirely sure at the time of composing the “notice” that begins the book which aspect of his creation he wanted to emphasize – its seemingly innocent evocation of the past, or its highly ironic and humorous condemnation of that past, especially the race-based social system that persisted in the South.
Huck’s tone: friendly, honest, and maybe a bit rascal-like: He almost calls Twain a liar, although he doesn’t realize that it could be taken as an insult. Twain’s trick: He’ll be expecting you to understand things better than Huck: a simple, almost illiterate kid. Twain will almost be winking at us over Huck’s head. Notes adapted from Joseph Claro in “Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn,” Barron’s Educational Series; and Ronald Goodrich in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Living Literature Series.
“The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me.” Huck was introduced in Tom Sawyer as a free soul who cannot endure the restraints imposed upon him by the “genteel society” of his day. Huck’s newfound wealth and the Widow Douglas’s care drag him into society, making it almost unbearable.
The restrictions of the widow’s conventional household as much as Pap’s cruelty compel Huck to run away and begin his adventures. Although in his own mind Huck is simply trying to avoid conventional restraints, consider his escape as a rejection of his society’s hypocritical façade.
“…I don’t take no stock in dead people.” Huck listens with keen interest to the story of Moses and the Bullrushers but loses interest when he discovers that Moses has been dead for thousands of years. He simply cannot bring himself to care about the plight of people who lived in the long-ago, dead past.
This indicates very early in the novel Huck’s intense and practical concern for live people. Subsequent episodes fully establish his sympathetic attitude toward people in trouble, which often grows into active involvement to help them.
Read Tom’s scheme carefully: You’ll get a good picture of who Tom is, which is a kid who is smarter than most but not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Huck doesn’t see how ridiculous Tom’s statements are: He assumes that Tom is much smarter than he is, and he takes Tom’s statements at face value. Twain doesn’t expect us to be that naïve.
Deep glimpse into Huck’s views on religion: He talks about the difference between the God that the widow tells him about, and the one he hears about from Miss Watson. Huck thinks they are two different Gods: This is Twain suggesting that God can be imagined in different ways by people with different personalities. Clue: Red (need this for extra points). Huck says he prefers belonging to the widow’s God, but he doesn’t see how God would want him. But Twain doesn’t share Huck’s low view of himself, and doesn’t expect the reader to, either.
Huck believes that just about everyone he comes in contact with is better than he is. Huck does not miss his father. He also isn’t very excited about playing robber with Tom’s gang. Read the conversation between Huck and Tom carefully, as it shows the contrast between the two boys. Huck thinks about the concrete world around him; Tom follows a set of rules he has compiled from his books. Tom calls Huck a “sap head”; Huck doesn’t dispute this.
Plot begins to develop here. Huck is at least slightly warming to living civilized. Interesting insights into Pap here: Pap is not someone Huck respects. Pap is an abusive father, thief, and drunkard. But Huck refuses to tell a lie to his father (regarding the money). We also meet Jim. This introduces all kinds of issues Censorship: Jim is illiterate, superstitious, childlike, and easily led: Some critics think readers will conclude that is what all African Americans are like.
The same people might be offended by Huck’s use of the word “nigger.” But remember: The novel is set in a Southern state in the middle of last century. In that setting, the word “nigger” had no special meaning, good or bad. It was simply a regional pronunciation of “negro.” In that setting, Jim would be typical. Also remember: There’s often a big difference between what Huck says and what Mark Twain believes.
Huck is not afraid of Pap; he sees him as a pathetic, ragged, old man. Pap sees Huck as an uppity kid trying to show up his old man by reading, wearing clean clothes, etc. Huck is kidnapped; and although he is imprisoned by his father, Huck finds he likes getting back to his old style of living: roughing it. Twain talks above Huck’s head here again: We know that Pap never had anxiety raising his son; he is not a good citizen; that his threat to leave the country is laughable; and that Pap look s ridiculous for suggesting that he is superior to a black college professor simply because Pap is white.
Huck lies by saying someone tried to break into the cabin: This lie is told out of sheer self-preservation. Read the description of Huck’s escape carefully: It’s pretty elaborate, obviously the work of a bright kid that doesn’t need the “fancy touches” of Tom Sawyer. Huck wants everyone to think he was murdered: including the people who care about him, which indicates he’s determined to set out on his own and leave his life behind.
When he escapes and sets up on Jackson Island, Huck describes what it’s like on the river: “The sky looks ever so deep...” When he does this throughout the book, his language becomes gentler and almost becomes poetic. Huck loves the river like most of us love people.
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