Class Act

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Written By: Mark Twain

Book Published by: Penguin Books

Reviewed by Justine Manzano

     When my English professor assigned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to my college Literature class, I immediately had my doubts.  I must have read this book at least three times for school already and I didn’t really love it either of those times.  Plus, there is an inherent problem with this book that I knew I couldn’t overcome: the incredibly free use of the N-Word.  Yeah, you know it.  The infamous one.  I completely understand that it is used for historical correctness…it’s still not an easy word to read. 

      Let me tell you a story…this one time, I was writing a chapter of the novel I am working on while riding the train.  Now, I blush when I write the semi-dirty scenes—hell, I blush when I write a kissing scene, let alone something a tad more graphic.  Naturally, I’m writing a scene that was only slightly sensual, and a 14 year old girl sitting next to me with an empty seat between peaks over my shoulder.  She then tells her friend, “Look, she’s writing one of those dirty books!”  I was mortified.  Now, after an experience like that, try reading a book with the N-Word plastered all over half the pages on the subway!  Now, get picked to have to read a chapter in front of the class.  I couldn’t help but think that my professor hadn’t thought this out at all.  I’m a 5 foot 4 inch white girl from the Bronx!  This was not a good idea!

     But I have to admit, the N-Word wasn’t the only reason why I had a problem with this sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer…the real problem was a secret that I’ve decided to share with you.  Ready?  Here goes…I hate The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I’ve now read it three times and I’ve hated it every single time.  I don’t know what it is, but it moves ridiculously slow in my opinion and not one of the characters in it are likeable, except for Jim, but he’s treated like an idiot for most of the novel.  I know that this novel is supposed to be “The Great American Novel” but I just don’t know.

     Perhaps, I should start with the plot.  After The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck, Tom’s friend, had been taken in and had begun to be civilized.  This boy who had grown up being beaten by his drunken father and who was poverty stricken was taken in by a nice old widow.  But when his father returns to try to take the money he made in the first book, Huck fakes his death to escape him and escapes down the Mississippi River in a raft.  In his travels, he runs into an escaped slave, Jim, that belonged to Huck's neighbor.  Together the two travel, running into numerous misadventures while trying not to be recognized as they struggle to get Jim to the free North and as Huck gripes with his own conflicting versions of the truth—is Jim an owned man, a slave that Huck is stealing from his owner?  Or is Jim a person who deserves his freedom?    

    It’s strange, because I had assumed that I would have grown to like this novel with my maturing sense of literature, but still, this book had me yearning for the final page in a very different way than I normally do—I wanted this book to end!  While I did gain an appreciation for some of the satire found in the novel and gained surprise in discovering that the accents no longer bothered me as they did when I first read them, this classic novel still dragged and didn’t interest me nearly as much as it was supposed to.

    My final Class Act of the Fall 2005 semester has a message.  Just because a classic is assigned to you in school, you don’t have to enjoy it.  You can still learn something from it.  I learned a great deal about satire when reading this book even though I hated every minute of it.  Despite any other more grand idea you may have, Professors assign these books for a reason.  Just make sure you’re honest with yourself—it’s okay not to like a classic, as long as you give it a chance. 


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