Hemingway thought that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the inauguration of American literature, so highly did he respect the original voice and narrative genius of Mark Twain, displayed in this, his most famous novel.
Priya read the narrative of Tom Sawyer and his friends forming Tom Sawyer's Gang by signing an oath in their blood. It has all the craziness and hyped up desire for adventure and highway robbery that youth can dream up. Priya said Tom Sawyer comes across as far more of a villain than the relatively innocent Huckleberry Finn, whose imagination, being less wild, is more grounded in the practical arts of survival and escape. Gopa talked of the obvious leadership qualities of Tom Sawyer who had the capacity to conduct his pals into bad ways, though not from evil intent. Kavita mentioned the incident in Tom Sawyer, a novel Mark Twain wrote eight years earlier, where Tom could convince the other boys to pay him for the fun of whitewashing a fence.
Comparing TS and HF is a standard question in literature studies.
Kavita adverted to the use of the word 'nigger,' now a term of extreme racial prejudice. Except, as Joe pointed out, when used by an African American comedian about other African Americans. It's still frequently used in the rhymes by rap artists who have the licence to use the word and yet not give offence.
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Sunil said the book was banned in Boston, at that time a hotbed of primness and prudery, so much so that the slogan 'Banned in Boston' became a great selling point for books! Here is the account from the wikipedia entry:
“Upon issue of the American edition in 1885 several libraries banned it from their shelves. The early criticism focused on what was perceived as the book's crudeness. One incident was recounted in the newspaper, the Boston Transcript: The Concord (Mass.) Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain's latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The library and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people."
KumKum's chosen passages are Mark Twain at his best describing life along the river Mississippi. The carefree nature of Jim and Huck's floating on a raft down the river was the focus of the passages she chose.
Gopa referred to a novel of Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide, which has similar descriptions of life in the Sunderbans area of mangrove swamps beside the river Meghana, so wide you cannot see the other bank from one side:
We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done.
Sunil read from a Puffin Books edition he borrowed from a library with an introduction by Darren Shan, who wrote “a short essay, in which I talk about why I liked the book and why I recommend it. [It] is one of my all-time favourite books.” Hemingway considered Huckleberry Finn to be the book that inaugurated American literature, although that honour is usually reserved for Moby Dick.
Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR
The passage she read speaks of the joy with which Jim anticipates his coming freedom, if he can get past the town of Cairo (a fictitious town), and enter northern territory where slavery was abolished. Huck, on the other hand, is having a pang of conscience at helping a slave get free from his owner, Miss Watson, who had helped Huck to get his education:
"What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you that you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knowed how. That's what she done."I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead.
Here's a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and yet's got to set stock-still for six whole months before it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger, and—"
"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he. "You've put on considerable many frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You're educated, too, they say—can read and write. You think you're better'n your father, now, don't you, because he can't? I'll take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut'n foolishness, hey?—who told you you could?" "The widow. She told me." "The widow, hey?—and who told the widow she could put in her shovel about a thing that ain't none of her business?" "Nobody never told her." "Well, I'll learn her how to meddle. And looky here—you drop that school, you hear? I'll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to be better'n what he is. You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear? Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write, nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't before they died. I can't; and here you're a-swelling yourself up like this. I ain't the man to stand it—you hear?
they've took my nigger, which is the only nigger I've got in the world, and now I'm in a strange country, and ain't got no property no more, nor nothing, and no way to make my living;' so I set down and cried.
Preeti said (optimistically) that little children until the age of five or so are the “forms of God on earth.” Huck Finn sees the world wide-eyed and somehow or other finds his way forward. An episode Preeti experienced (may not be relevant to the novel) was seeing a farmer beat and hang a dog; this was in an illustration for a children's book which she bought at a book fair for her nephews. She was horrified to discover this when she got home.
I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below there and out in the middle of the Mississippi. Then we hung up our signal lantern, and judged that we was free and safe once more. I hadn't had a bite to eat since yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage and greens—there ain't nothing in the world so good when it's cooked right—and whilst I eat my supper we talked and had a good time. I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.
Chapter XIX (page 105/106/107)
Two or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swam by,they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely. Here is the way we put in the time. It was a monstrous big river down there sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them. Then we set out the lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound anywhere perfectly still just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line that was the woods on t'other side; you couldn't make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around ; then the river softened up away off, and warn't black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbledup voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak and there's a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they've left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the songbirds just going it! Soon it was night out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kind of things we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let usthe new clothes Buck's folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn't go much on clothes, nohow.
Sometimes we'd have the whole river all to ourselves for the longest time.
Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water; and maybe a spark—which was a candle in a cabin window; and sometimes on the water you could see a spark or two on a raft or a scow, you know; and may be you could hear fiddle or a song coming over from one of them crafts. It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could 'a'laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
After midnight the people on shore went to bed, and then for two or three hours the shores was black no more sparks in the cabin windows. These sparks was our clock the first one that showed again meant morning was coming, so we hunted a place to hide and tie up right away.