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Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts 
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Post Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Mark Twain

Introduction and first thoughts



Sat Dec 18, 2010 7:15 pm
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
I see that I got wrong what Twain says in his "Notice." He says "persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." I had thought the moral was paired with being shot.

The introduction to my TOR paperback edition tells how difficult this book was to write for Twain. It took seven years to write, mainly because it turned out to be just so different a book from its predecessor, "Tom Sawyer." Twain wasn't at all sure where it was going, but clearly it was wandering far from the larky adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Twain makes "Tom Sawyer" all part of the reality of HF. Huck starts off by telling us about the book written by Mr. Mark Twain, that the book was mainly true but contained "some stretchers." Thus Huck is a literary figure of sorts. No matter, because nobody he is to meet in the ensuing adventures will have been likely to have read the book.

Twain's decision to switch to first-person narration for HF has interesting consequences. Huck's telling us that TS had some exaggerations in it has the effect of making us trust whatever Huck will say in this book. And it's true that the reader does have an absolute trust in the honesty of Huck as the narrator. The first-person also more or less assures that we will be inside Huck's head for most of the book, so Huck needs to be introspective, as he certainly proves to be from the first pages. You couldn't see the point, really, of having Tom Sawyer tell his own story.

Twain wrote a lot, but in terms of his reputation as an important literary artist, he wouldn't be nearly as highly regarded if it weren't for HF. Dickens, by contrast, could afford to lose a book or two and still be considered a great novelist. In fact, what else of the fiction Twain wrote has profound themes at all? As he shows us in the "Notice" to HF, Twain was a reluctant "deep" author.



Last edited by DWill on Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:47 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
DWill wrote:
In fact, what else of the fiction Twain wrote has profound themes at all? As he shows us in the "Notice" to HF, Twain was a reluctant "deep" author.


That question bears some thinking about. My first inclination is to examine his short stories, which tend to be sardonic morality plays. We generally laugh at Twain's characters, not with them in his stories.

However, that does not answer DWill's question at all. If "Jumping Frog" is about greed is greed a profound theme? Well, at least in the West greed is not at profound as freedom.

Good, thought provoking question!


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Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:24 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
My wife read my post Gary, and she said that I'd missed, at the least, Puddin' Head Wilson, which is about slavery. I told her, well, if you're going to insist on the facts....So I might be far off in my observation. I'm not, in fact, knowledgeable on all of his works. I think you hit his central quality for me when you say "sardonic," which reminds me of satire. I don't think of satire--poking fun at the foibles of humans--as the deepest thematic literature, though it's great fun. Deep themes require, in my thinking, deep characterizations, which we have in HF. I'm not sure how true that is for Twain's other works.



Sat Dec 25, 2010 10:26 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
I confess, I didn't enjoy Huckleberry Finn much the first time I read it, but I'm willing to give it another go for the sake of discussion.
Looking forward to it!


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Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:34 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
Just curious, what didn't you like about the book?



Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:39 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
At the time that I read it (for the sake of teaching it), I didn't find any of the typical bounty that I enjoy discussing; there wasn't much there to challenge my students' thoughts.

I'm the kind of teacher that likes to develop the whole child, so I like to give my children books that encourage holistic thinking and reflection. The first time I taught the text, it felt very bland to me (and as a result, it was bland to them).

Now, the second and third reads of a book always offer something different. I'm willing to have another go at it. Any book is worth at least two looks. :)

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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
I vaguely remember reading this book when I was a kid. I don't remember much, so it will be 'new' to me.

I'll listen to the first six chapters tonight.



Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:05 pm
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
Hi, I've just finished reading Anthill by EO Wilson, published in 2010, which some reviewers compared to Huckleberry Finn. I also caught snatches of Huck as my wife recently listened to the audio book.

Can't promise I will read Huckleberry Finn, but the theme that leaps out to me is how the Mississippi symbolises American identity. The big river at the heart of the continent flows slow from top to bottom. So much American culture is based around the big river, especially all the popular music based around places such as Memphis, Saint Louis and New Orleans. One of my favourite songs is Big River by Johnny Cash

BIG RIVER

Feb. 10, 1958
Written By Johnny Cash

Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you big river
Then I'm gonna sit right here until I die

I met her accidentally in St Paul ( Minnesota )
and it tore me up every time I heard her drawl, southern drawl.
Then I heard my dream was back down stream cavorting in Davenport
And I followed you, big river when you called

Then you took me to St Louis later on ( down the river )
A freighter said she’s been here but she’s gone, boy, she’s gone
I found her trail in Memphis, but she just walked up the block
she raised a few eyebrows and then she went on down alone

Now, won’t you batter down by Baton Rouge, River Queen, roll it on.
Take that woman on down to New Orleans , New Orleans
go on, I’ve had enough, dump my blues down in the gulf.
She loves you, Big River, more than me.

Written by Johnny Cash

--------------------------------------------------------

The Omitted Verse To The Song, Big River

Although only one version of (Big River) has been released from the Sun Masters, Johnny Cash noted on his ABC-TV Show, aired January 6, 1971 that this song actually had another verse but was cut at the session because of it’s length, he did, however, sing the song in its entirety on that program. The omitted verse is !!!!!

" Well now I pulled into Natchez the next day, down the river, and there wasn’t much there to make a rounder stay very long, and when I left it was raining so nobody, saw me cry, Big River , why’s she doing me that way



Did You Know ?

The Song Big River went to Pos.#4 in Feb.10 1958 on the Billboard country music charts and stayed on the charts of 14 weeks. Johnny Cash recorded it again later on one of his Columbia Albums ( I Walk The Line ) in 1964



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Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:07 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
Interesting, Robert. Do you also think that there could be similarities between the frontier histories of Australia and the U.S. that make HF a book that Australians can relate to more directly than perhaps Europeans can?



Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:50 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
DWill wrote:
Interesting, Robert. Do you also think that there could be similarities between the frontier histories of Australia and the U.S. that make HF a book that Australians can relate to more directly than perhaps Europeans can?
It is both a similarity and a contrast. The contrast jumps out more. Australians imagined there would be an inland sea, a new Mississippi, but found only desert. An old friend of mine by the name of Peter Thorley recently wrote a book called Desert Tsunami, about the big floods in the desert ten years ago, and Australia's long term climate history, how disappointment of aridity created a laconic hardbitten culture. Peter tells the story that when the settlers first tried to explore the desert, Sturt carried a whale boat with him from Adelaide in the hope of finding a sea. He had to abandon it among the sand dunes and salt flats of the arid interior. America has an abundance that gave rise to the doctrines of providence, liberty and manifest destiny, and then the theory of the happy ending as part of the Hollywood myth. The Australian dream is much more constrained and laconic, whereas the US has an imaginary fantasy of infinite abundance, which I suspect helped to give rise to the creationist tea party idea that humans are above nature. I'm not sure how these myths of national identity key in to Huckleberry Finn though. For Huck, there is this backstory of infinite optimism and freedom grounded in the wealth of rich soil and perfect climate. Perhaps part of it is that the myth of infinite abundance is based on the lie of racial inequality, and even though the Mississippi seems inexhaustible it is still finite.

The similarity is that both Australia and the US were founded as white settler frontier societies in which the conquest of virgin nature has shaped national identity. I suspect Europeans relate less well to this theme of encounter with virgin paradise because such long history of artificial cultures in urban Europe have established a purely human horizon in which nature is effectively eliminated from sight. Both the US and Australia are built on the bones of indigenous cultures who were so far behind in technology that the invaders did not even recognise the conquest as a war, which was primarily conducted by paper, metal, measles and influenza.

As I mentioned, I have just finished Anthill by EO Wilson, and it picks up some of these themes of how long history of relation to nature shapes cultural identity. I will write a review of it soon.



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Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:50 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
Can you all BELIEVE they are changing Huck Finn to be PC? The audacity!!!


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Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:47 pm
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
Today DWill and I had an interesting discussion about the use of the word nigger in Huckleberry Finn. I've been thinking about it ever since. As I was driving home from work I remembered hearing a discussion on one of NPR/WAMU (our local station) radio shows of Huckleberry Finn and the controversy over the use of the word "nigger." I tried hard to find the show, but alas no luck. However, for anyone interested there are several spots on the recent release of the "sanitized" version of the book. If you follow the link you should see a list of programs that have a spot on HF and the N-word.


http://www.npr.org/search/index.php?sea ... berry+finn



Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:02 pm
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
This morning NPR's Weekend Edition has yet one more piece on Huck Finn. Here are the last few lines and I agree heartily.

Scott Simon of Weekend Edition:
But take the N-word out of Huckleberry Finn and you take away a chance for students to learn and adults to remember the history that made the story daring and bold before it got labeled and shelved as a classic.

If you want to listen:
http://www.npr.org/2011/01/08/132759360 ... t=1&f=1001



Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:53 am
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Post Re: Huckleberry Finn/ introduction and first thoughts
A problem that no readers of a translation from English have ever had. I suppose some would think that "lost in translation" is a good thing in this case.



Sat Jan 08, 2011 7:33 pm
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