Saturday, October 11, 2014

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Huck Finn by E. W. Kemble

v     This book, written in 1884, is the sequel to the Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

v     Although it was written after the Civil War in 1860, the events take place before the war happened.

v     This book is far more controversial than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, because it deals with the subjects of slavery and racism. This book is a satire of American society.

v     This book makes use of vernacular English - the characters speak in strong dialect. Many critics have complained about this, as well as the use of racial stereotypes and slurs, for example, the 'N' word.

v     One example of the vernacular is the first sentence which Twain changed repeatedly: He first wrote, "You will not know about me", which he changed to, "You do not know about me", before settling on the final version, "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; but that ain't no matter."

v     Twain mocked his critics. When the Concord, MA, public library banned his book, he said, " Apparently, the Concord library has condemned Huck as 'trash and only suitable for the slums.' This will sell us another twenty-five thousand copies for sure!"

The Plot:

v     The story begins with Tom helping Huck sneak out at night, from the home of Widow Douglas, and her strict sister Miss Watson, whom Huck doesn't like. Miss Watson owns a slave named Jim, and the boys have to be quiet so he doesn't hear them.

v     The boys go out to play, but Huck's father finds them, and takes Huckleberry back to his cabin in the woods.

v     Huckleberry fakes his own death while his father is out, and sneaks off for Jackson's Island, where he and Tom had played pirates in the last book.

v     There he finds Jim, who has also run away. Miss Watson had wanted to sell him to some brutal slave owners who live down river. Jim plans to escape to the north, to Cairo Illinois, a free state. There he can work to buy his family's freedom.

v     At first Huck feels bad for helping Jim, a runaway slave, but they become friends, and the older Jim becomes his protector.

Jim & Huck on the Raft, by Achille Sirouy

v     The Mississippi River floods, so Huck & Jim get on a raft for safety. The see an old house floating down along the river and check it for food. Jim finds a dead body, and won't tell Huck who it is.

v     Huck returns to town, dressed as a girl, to learn what the town thinks happened to him. Everyone thinks he was killed, either by his dad, or Jim, and the promise of a reward has prompted a manhunt. A posse plans to check Jackson's Island that night, so Huck & Jim pack up their raft and leave down the river.

v     After various adventures, Huck & Jim are separated, after their raft is hit by a steamboat, and Huck ends up in Kentucky. There, he is taken care of by a kind family called the Grangerfords. They are rich, and they have a boy named Buck who is Huck's age. They quickly become friends.

v     The Grangerfords are feuding with another family called the Shepherdsons, similar to the families in Romeo & Juliet. When Buck's older sister elopes with a young Shepherdson boy, the families fight, and all the male Grangerfords are killed, including Buck. Huck goes to find Jim, who has fixed their raft. Jim thought Huck had died, and is shocked to see him.

Jim and the Ghost, by E. W. Kemble

v     Near the Arkansas border, Huck & Jim join two grifters (con artists) who pretend to be royalty from Europe. One claims to be the long lost son of the Duke of Bridgewater, while the older man pretends to be the son of Louis XVI of France. He calls himself the Lost Dauphin.

The Grifters, by Achille Sirouy

v     These grifters run a number of scams in different towns, using Huck & Jim in various ways. They sell tickets for a play, which only lasts a few minutes. Then they go to a funeral, where they claim to be long lost brothers of a dead man, to get his inheritance.

v     When Huck steals the money to give it back to the rightful family, the Duke and Dauphin sell Jim. Huck decides, "Alright, then, I'll go to hell!" and goes to find Jim and free him.

v     Jim is being held on Silas Phelp's Plantation. Silas was expecting a young nephew named Tom to visit, so Huck pretends to be him. Then, as luck would have it, their nephew is none other than Tom Sawyer, who finally arrives. Huck tells Tom everything, and Tom decides to help Jim too. Tom pretends to be his half-brother Sid.

v     Huck warns the town about the Duke & Dauphin, so when they come to town, they are tarred and feathered. This was a common punishment in these times:

v     Tom plans Jim's escape, but when they try it, Tom gets shot in the leg. Jim won't leave him, and takes him to a doctor, who helps Tom, but takes Jim back to the plantation.

v     Before Jim is punished, Tom's Aunt Polly comes to the farm. She gives the news that old Miss Watson is dead, and, in her will, she freed Jim! He was really free the whole time! And Tom knew too, but he thought escaping would be much more fun. And, it turns out the dead man in that floating house at the beginning, was actually Huck's father, so Huck is free too. Sally Phelps wants to adopt him, but Huck wants to run away to Indian territory.

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