Saturday, March 1, 2014

Adventures on the Mississippi

Samuel L. Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain published this follow-up to 'Tom Sawyer' first in England in 1884. A year later it was in America and soon became a classic. It is the first novel written throughout in vernacular English. In the introduction, Twain explains in detail the three different types of dialect he has painstakingly researched and tried to reproduce in the novel. Then he makes the disclaimer that he explained this because he did not want the reader to think that all the characters were trying to talk like each other and were failing.
Mark Twain has a remarkable sense of humour and his imagination comes into full play through the character of Huckleberry Finn.
Huck comes from a single parent upbringing, his father being constantly drunk and continually beating on Huck. Huck believes he has been raised to be bad so on the few occasions when he wants to 'get right with God', he abandons the idea because he doesn't think he has the breeding to hold to it.
To escape his imprisonment by his lout of a father, he fakes his own murder and escapes down the Mississippi on a raft. Along the way he picks up a black slave who has been accused of the murder and they begin to have adventure after adventure. The pickles they get into defy imagination and through the clever and devious mind of Huck they are always able to come up with a plan to escape. They get tangled up with some of the most unsavoury characters the Midwest can produce and always they drift further south along the river. The final adventure finds the slave captured and for sale, and a reunion with Tom Sawyer. The plot to free Jim, the slave, is hilarious and becomes outrageously more complicated than it has to be. These two boys are 'rapscallions' of the first order.
It is all in great fun as the main thrust of the book is humour mixed with a satirical look at attitudes toward the slave industry. I read this book when I was a kid and I think I appreciated the skill of Mark Twain much more this time around.
3 1/2 stars

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