Huckleberry Finn (Review)

Labels: Great Works

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain, 1885

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
July 2007

Scholars have long considered Huck Finn one of the Great American Novels (alongside Moby-Dick and The Scarlet Letter).

It's a ripping good “escape story”—a young boy and run-away slave make their way by raft down the Mississippi toward freedom. Along the way they meet up with adventure and an array of flamboyant characters, mostly shady but a few honest.

Despite all the fun, Twain presents a stinging satire on the antebellum South, and like most satires Huck has generated considerable controversy. Even today you're likely to find it on some list, somewhere in the country, of banned books. Criticism has come from both left and right, either side charging the work with either racism or anti-religious bias. Of course, neither is correct.

Jim, the slave, is the moral center of the book—while every fool, hypocrite and criminal met along the way is white. Young Huck struggles mightily with his divided conscience. On one hand, he is profoundly aware of Jim’s humanity and nobility; he understands the depth of their friendship and loyalty to one another.

On the other hand, Huck’s society not only condones slavery, but preaches that abetting an escaped slave would send Huck straight to hell. The book takes aim not at religion, but at religion practiced falsely.

Twain’s ability to paint memorable characters is second to none. Brilliant, complex, and funny, this book is a vital part of America's literary history.

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