The book huckleberry Finn was first published in 1884, by Mark Twain. This book tells of the adventures of Huck; a friend of Tom Sawyer, who was the main character in another book that Mark twain wrote in 1876. This book tells of the adventures of Huck who runs away in the company of a run away slave called Jim and together they travel down the Mississippi river on a raft. The setting of this story is was in the 1850's, a time when slaves were bought in some American states. This paper seeks to discuss the book Huckleberry Finn in depth (Francis,Pauline. & Twain, Mark. Pg.4).
About the author
Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in the American state of Missouri in 1835. When Samuel was twelve, his father died hence he had to leave school in a bid to earn a living. He travelled around America for some time, working as a painter and digging for gold. He later became a pilot on the steamboats that travelled up and down the Mississippi river. Samuel then became a journalist and was famous as a travel writer. This was when he decided to use the name Mark Twain; as it was the call of the pilots of the steam boats when the water's depth was two (twain) fathoms! Mark Twain received worldwide fame for his literary works. He died in 1910, at the age of 75 (Francis,Pauline & Twain, Mark. Pg.4).
The writing of Huckleberry Finn
The literary development of Mark Twain was somewhat haphazard. At one time he remarked that his life was characterized by a series of apprenticeship and that he was actually surprised to discover that he had become a "literary person" at the age of thirty seven. The facts of the composition of the book Huckleberry, Finn gives the reader an insight about the fiction that is the novel. The facts tell us that through Mark Twain's identification with Huck, he imagined himself to be more completely human than he probably was and in doing so, he provided his readers with the same opportunity (Quirk,Tom. Page 10-12).
Literary critics have concluded that Mark Twain had written working notes on the novel even before his river trip in 1882. He did not need to revisit places where he spent time during his youth for him to revitalize his imagination. As it is evident in Huckleberry Finn, Twain was quite capable of "generating within himself" without necessarily having external stimuli, the power to summon vivid recollections to his memories of times that had gone by and more importantly to give these memories form and meaning. Mark Twain's state of mind is was impressive during the writing of this novel, not to mention his vivid remembrance that seemed to have been spurred by his immediate present (Quirk,Tom. Pg.18).
A summary of the plot
The story is set in the mid 19th century in the small town of St. Petersburg, Missouri; Huckleberry Finn has been adopted by the widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson who are eager to teach Huck religion and etiquette. Huck's father, a drunkard however shows up and goes ahead to warn him to quit school. Upon his refusal, Pap kidnaps Huck and he is held captive inside a cabin in the woods. He goes on further to stage his own murder and escapes along the Mississippi river and in the process discovering Miss Watson's slave Jim; who has escaped for fear of being sold. The two escapees find a raft and together, they flee down the Mississippi river. Jim's intention is to go to Cairo, Illinois from where he will follow the Ohio River to get to the free states (Twain,Mark.Sexton,Adam &Park, Hyeondo.pg 1-2).
Huck fears that by aiding a fugitive slave to escape, he is behaving immorally but decides to stick with Jim anyway. In their journey, the two encounter a number of characters that include a gang of robbers in a wrecked steam boat; a pair of genteel Southern families who are involved in a feud that is quite bloody and two conmen who refer to themselves as duke and the king. All in all, Huck must rescue Jim and his friend Tom Sawyer assists him in this attempt (Twain,Mark.Sexton,Adam &Park, Hyeondo.pg 2).
Unfit for Children: Censorship and Race
The "adventures of Huckleberry" Finn probably has one of the longest, most varied and also most persistent history of censorship of all books in the United States. When it was first published, this book was banned by a number of groups and even today, a century later; it is still being challenged consistently. The novel has been objected to the novel because they feel it is unfit for children; despite the fact that its main character and narrator is a young boy. The second reason is that many people find the language used in the book to quite offensive and unsuitable. These particular objections do have a long history; however, many other reasons for advocating against this novel have changed over time (Johnson, Claudia D. pg 30).
Although some reviewers thought well of Huckleberry Finn when it first came in 1884, more of them condemned the novel and was said to be immoral and unfit for children. However, the action that caused the biggest controversy was in March 1885, when the Library Committee of Concord, Massachusetts which was quoted in the Chicago Tribune on March 23rd 1885 to have said that Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn was "rough, coarse and inelegant". It went ahead to further describe the book as "trash and only suitable for the slums". A number of newspapers went ahead to commend the action taken by the Concord Library (Johnson, Claudia D. pg 30).
Many newspapers, especially in Boston, were not happy with the novel and with the Mark Twain's influence on American humorists at the time. This was evident when on the 2nd of April, 1885, The Boston Daily Advertiser wrote of Mark Twain and his imitators: "Nothing has been sacred with them, and over subjects dignified by age, tragedy and romance they have cast the slimy trail of vulgar humorist". During his lifetime, Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn was banned from public libraries of several cities including Denver, Brooklyn and Omaha. In 1905, Brooklyn Public Library took the book out of its children's library section claiming that Huck was dirty, scratched himself, a liar and that his grammar was terrible; that he used the word "sweat" instead of "perspiration". Despite the entire objection, the novel slowly became part of the standard curriculum in many public schools (Johnson, Claudia pg 30).
In the 1950's, the effort eject Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the required classroom reading lists came into the forefront of public debate once again. This time round the objection was primarily on the ground that depicted its black characters in a negative light and the use of the term "nigger" were quite demeaning especially to African American students. These objections continued to be voiced throughout the 20th century (Johnson,Claudia,D. pg 30-31).
A new Birth of Freedom
"Adventures of Huckleberry" Finn is a book that Americans can relate to strongly and with warmth. This has been suggested especially in the books theme where the relationship between Huck and Jim shows deep humanity. In the book, Twain displays the relationship to nature, natural beauty and natural behavior without forgetting the humor in the novel. In the book, Twain illustrates the absence of societal and religious restrictions when the two characters are living on a free floating raft. The novel also into focus the freedom from formal language constrains; this is shown by the way the author pioneers the use of vernacular in a bid to make the characters of the book easier for the ordinary American to relate to (Wieck, Carl F. page 1).
If the book is read at an early age, the adventurous nature of it that includes the fascination of the river, the snakes, the fears and dangers and the friendship between Jim and Huck are some of the aspects that will remain etched in the memory of the reader. However, subconsciously, the reader has probably a lot more. One of the most significant and enduring images that a reader might get from the novel is the fact that people of different races can have a true friendship that is based on equality. The novel also deals with principles that Americans hold dear such as the possibility of a person to escape from an intolerable situation and that religion is not always holy and more importantly that ones conscience has a right to be hard and respected (Wieck, Carl F. pg.1).