Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy’s adventures in the Mississippi Valley – a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – the book grew and matured under Twain’s hand into a work of immeasurable richness and complexity. More than a century after its publication, the critical debate over the symbolic significance of Huck’s and Jim’s voyage is still fresh, and it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure story and as a classic of American humor. 1
What makes a book a classic? Not an easily answered question. The age of a book seemed like a helping factor for some time, until we see such modern stories becoming classics such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Although the age says nothing about the story itself, it is something that classics have in common. For those that adore certain classics I raise the question; Would these stories have garnered as much attention had they been released today? With the sheer volume of books of all genres being pumped out on a daily basis, these numbers significantly outweigh those being released in the past for obvious reasons. I have a strong sense that many such classics, if released today, would only see the light of day if dredged up from the depths of the bargain bins.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had introduced us to the character of Huckleberry Finn. A young vagabond who is often alone as most parents do not want their child associated with such a person. Tom Sawyer is not one to follow rules and so Huck joined many of the adventures and slowly became a primary character.
The story begins right after the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. After attempting the life of a young gentleman, Huck escapes to his old way of life and freedom. When all but giving away his money, a ghost from his past could only dream of such coin. Huck’s father materializes and takes his rightful place as Huck’s father; however, it is apparent he is only around for the money and the booze. With an elaborate plot, Huck escapes and is on the run, unknowingly creating trouble for the slave, Jim. When Huck learns that Jim is wanted for the murder of Huck and there is a bounty on his head, the two take to the river and begin a strange series of adventures.
It was my impression of Huck from Tom Sawyer’s story that he was more of a laze around bum who prefers to sleep in pig barns all day and follow around for the odd adventure. The necessity for escape is the driving force behind Huck’s adventures, and even still calling them adventures, he is merely a duck floating where the river takes him.
I’m sure there are some sort of messages or morals placed within the story, but with all the random traipsing around that Huck and Jim did it all seems rather pointless. The only thing that I was able to take away from all the mindless jabbering was the delightful little phrase “how you talk”. The phrase was used after someone said something disbelieving or nonsensical, which happened often as you can imagine.
Not suitable for young children, as I can’t imagine them sitting long enough to read or listen to this story. Suitability aside, I am glad to be done this book and have no reason to recommend it to any age category. I set this story on its only little raft down the river, and hold the temptation to throw a match.
1. Book summary courtesy of Goodreads Huck Finn book page