Home > Book Reviews > Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I’m not sure if I mis-remember what classic books I read up through high school or if I just don’t remember the plots.  I am 100% sure that I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; in fact I can remember buying the book when my parents took us on a summer trip that included Hannibal, Missouri.  (I wonder what ever happened to that edition?)  I thought I had read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but I now suspect that I had read selections from the novel, or perhaps an abridged version for children.

I selected this novel from the Essential Man’s Library on the artofmanliness.com, which is part of my 101 goals in 1001 days list.  I found an audiobook and Janet and I started to listen to it when we drove to Minnesota in early September.  We only listened to approximately 2 minutes before we had to shut it off; the narrator attempted to read the book in a similar dialect in which the book was written.  It was almost unbearable.

Several weeks later, I tried it again.  After about 30 minutes or so, the dialects started to disappear into the text.

My favorite parts of the novel:

  • The articles to which each member had to sign in blood to belong to Tom Sawyer’s gang.  I laughed at how Tom used half-remembered stories and histories to create his blood-thirsty gang, how his imagination could fill in details of Arabic caravans and ransoms, and how many of the gang members had trouble getting free to rob and pillage because their parents wouldn’t let them out.
  • The episode with the snakes and rats.  Tom Sawyer wanted to recreate those same adventure stories (like The Count of Monte Cristo) where prisoners had to use, for example, spoons to dig out of castles.  To make Jim’s captivity and eventual escape more real, the two boys decided to capture snakes and rats for the cell.  Unfortunately, the trap of rats was stored safely under his aunt’s bed and Tom’s cousin opened it, just to see if the rats would exit the cage.  The snakes were captured in a bag, but it wasn’t tied tightly enough, while the two went to supper.  Huck couldn’t understand why rats would disturb the aunt so much and why snakes dropping from the rafters down her back would make her scream.  And, then Huck’s wistful comment that even though they captured some more, the original group was better.

The episode of the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons and the antics of the King and the Duke were completely unfamiliar to me.

When I mentioned the book to Janet, she vividly remembered Huck’s attempt to dress as a girl and what tests were used to discover that he was really a boy.

For me, the major theme seemed to be deception:

  • Tom’s self deception via his imagination
  • Huck faking his brutal death
  • Huck attempting to disguise himself (1) as a girl to get local information — he’s caught; (2) as an orphaned boy in the home of the Grangerfords — with tragic results; (3) as a valet — somewhat better results after he tells the truth
  • The King and the Duke

I found it to be an enjoyable read, very witty at times, with a strange mix of naivete and self-reliance.

4 out of 5 stars (Sept 20, 2010)

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  1. October 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm

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