book-reviews

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

Rating: ★★★★

Huckleberry Finn is an American classic by the highly-quotable Mark Twain. Together with a prequel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain paints a rich picture of the life of young boys in the South in the days before the Civil War.

The novel is an interesting blend of idyllic drifting along the Mississippi river on a raft, amusing superstitious exchanges, outrageous escapades and a warmhearted racial reconciliation and rejection of slavery. Twain writes entirely from Huck's own perspective, with a distinctively childlike southern drawl flavouring the entire narrative.

What really struck me about the style was the way quite dark events -- Huck's abduction by his father, his witness of shootings and death -- are integrated into a mostly upbeat tale without being ridden over or ridiculed. Huck just seemed to move on -- to shake off what had happened and get on with enjoying life at his liberty.

The central event of the novel is Huck's decision not to turn in Jim, the runaway slave he had been travelling with. The rather innocently criminal boy, raised to believe that such an action would damn him to hell, eventually decides that he may as well be damned -- that he must just be 'wrong' and may as well accept it.

That event, however, is not the end of the book. Somewhat getting over its midway seriousness, the story continues to more outrageous escapades, culminating in a ridiculously convoluted (and unnecessary) 'prison-break' which is both hilarious and a little patience-testing for the reader.

While Tom Sawyer is perhaps better for a simpler lighthearted boy's tale, Huckleberry Finn makes a suitable complement, and the deeper core to this novel makes it as worthwhile for adults as for children and escapist teens.