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The Adventures of Huckleberry  Finn

-Mark Twain-

          Mark Twain (real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was born on the Missouri frontier and spent his childhood here. He was forced to quit school at the age of 12 in order to earn his living. He wrote his first article at 15, and his first short story was published when he was 16. In 1857 he started down the Mississippi toward New Orleans as an apprentice steamboat pilot. The people he met and the scenes he viewed during these four years on the Mississippi furnished characters and situations for his later writings.

            His first successful literary exploit was a short story: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which brought him national attention.

            The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a sequel to Tom Sawyer in the picaresque vein of the latter, being a keener realistic portrayal of regional character and frontier experience on the Mississippi.

            It is the story of a flight down the Mississippi of a white boy (Huck) and of a runaway slave (Jim). Really astonishing is the variety of its farce and character.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the supreme masterpiece of American literature - a work which reaches out beyond the limitations of time and touches what is most human in the readers of any age or country.

            Huck’s character is so morally sensitive that he must undergo a moral testing and development. And Huck becomes a heroic character when, urged on by affection, he discards the moral code he has always taken for granted and resolves to help Jim in his escape from slavery. The intensity of his struggle over the act suggests how deeply he is involved in the society which he rejects.

            Huck means by “right” for a Negro to be a slave; if a Negro runs away, every white man has the duty to stop him and take back to his master to be punished. By “wrong”, Huck means helping a Negro to escape slavery. The theme of the fragment represents Huck’s inner struggle between his prejudices and his humane feelings.

            Along the story Huck discovers Negro Jim to be not only a human being, but also a very admirable one. To his astonishment, he begins to have feelings of brotherhood towards him. He is, to a certain degree, aware of the contradiction between these feelings and his prejudices.





            He has only to consult his conscience, the conscience of a Southern boy in the middle of the last century, to know that he ought to return Jim to slavery. And when at last he finds that he cannot endure his decision but must change it and help Jim in his escape, it is not because he has acquired any new ideas about slavery.

            Huck’s instinct is to help anybody in trouble, no matter how they have been mistreated. Any display of human cruelty sickens him no matter what the putative rights and wrongs of the matter. Huck is curiously alone, he is almost impersonally melancholic, he has a desire to wander, to leave no tracks and he betrays a premature nostalgia.

            The literary work of Mark Twain belongs to the treasury of world literature because of the acuity of its social criticism, its generous ideals, the authenticity of satire, the irresistible charm of its humour, and the natural expression.

            The “point of view” in this novel is quite different from the one in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Here the narrator is the major character (this is called 1st person narrative).

            In close connection with “point of view” in this novel is its very original style. Mark Twain created a literary language which was quite new in the American literature of that time: the use in prose of the genuine American colloquial speech.

 










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