On this day in history, in 1885, Mark Twain published “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”! Did you know that Mark Twain was a pen name, that his real name was actually Samuel Clemens? Twain saw this book as a sequel to his 1876 novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, but this book also saw a more serious approach as well as it focused on the institution of slavery and other issues of the south at that time.
This wonderful classic of American literature told the tale of Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim, a runaway slave as they rode a raft down the Mississippi river. If you’ve read the book you know that he ran way because he was about to be sold and separated from his wife and children; Huck went along with him to help him get to Ohio. What I really liked about this book was it’s satirical take on slavery, racism, religion and the overall social attitude of that era. To me Jim was strong, generous and brave as well was wise, whereas the other characters were shown to be violent, stupid and/or selfish. Huck was very naive to me, but the way he ended up questioning society’s attitude in general was just outstanding.
This book has not been without controversy, however, heck a month after it’s publication it was banned by a library in Concord, Massachusetts, saying it’s subject matter was “tawdry” while the narrative voice of Huck was “coarse and ignorant”. Other lemmings, sorry, I mean libraries, followed suit, which followed long after Twain’s death in 1910. In the 1950′s various African American groups protested it, saying it was racist in it’s portrayal of black characters even though others said it displayed a strong criticism of racism and slavery. Even more recently, there have been attempts to edit the book, most notably as of late to remove all reference to the “N” word, replacing it with slave. But I think the best judge of this book is another literary genius, Ernest Hemingway, who once famously said that this book marked the beginning of American literature. He also said, “There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
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