Date of publication: 2017-09-03 05:39
Likewise, Twain offered Huck Finn to a country where parents, educators, and politicians worried that children, especially boys, were too exposed to violent media, that they were too susceptible to amoral market forces that made them anarchic and violent themselves. The twenty-first-century reader lives in a country worried about the exact same things, only with fresher media. In fact, the debate over children has changed so little over the last century—across a variety of issues—that Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson, in Grand Theft Childhood , describe the history of that debate as “déjà vu, all over again and again.”
Back at the island, Huck builds a decoy campfire far from the cave and then returns to the cave to tell Jim they must leave. They hurriedly pack their things and slowly ride out on a raft they found when the river flooded.
One stormy night, they come upon a wrecked steamboat. Against Jim&rsquo s objections, Huck goes onto the wreck to loot it and have an &ldquo adventure,&rdquo the way Tom Sawyer would. On the wreck, Huck overhears two robbers threatening to kill a third so that he won&rsquo t &ldquo tell.&rdquo One of the two robbers manages to convince the other to let their victim be drowned with the wreck. The robbers leave. Huck finds Jim and says they have to cut the robbers&rsquo boat loose to prevent them from escaping. Jim responds by telling Huck that their own raft has broken loose and floated away.
My university students tuned in Huck on a higher frequency: his loneliness was theirs, and they were hungry to put a name on it. With the least encouragement, they could generate papers about Huck Finn and video games, Huck Finn and the Hunger Games , Huck Finn and teenage smoking, Huck Finn and social media, Huck Finn and ADHD. Education students trained to teach adult fiction and eschew classics found, instead, a classic that felt like today’s adult fiction, if only one twisted the lens. They saw how Tom and Huck weren’t just two kids with fishin’ poles but embodiments of the axiom common in childhood studies that “the make their own histories”—that they are amazing yarn spinners, cultural salvage artists, controllers of their own narratives.
Neither is Huck Finn a model of successful interracial politics, nor a book that we should regard, in our rearview mirrors, as essentially retrograde. Here, perhaps, it is more comic than we have considered, or than the national conversation can easily hold: moral satire in powerful ways, but also unnerving burlesque about things few modern Americans find funny. And yet, precisely because it is both these things, it is also truly and disconsolately visionary about how the culture doesn’t always go forward but sideways, even backward, on matters of race and freedom.
Okay, aside from how gross this passage is, notice the contradiction. Huck says "his children" when he's talking about Jim, but then, just two words later, says that those children "belonged" to a different man. Does Huck realize this contradiction, on some level? Or is this Twain, pointing out how much Huck still has to learn?
Huck and Jim head for the robbers&rsquo boat. The robbers put some stolen items in their boat but leave in order to take some more money from their victim inside the steamboat. Jim and Huck jump into the robbers&rsquo boat and head off as quietly as possible. When they are a few hundred yards away, Huck feels bad for the robbers left stranded on the wreck because, after all, he himself might end up a murderer someday. Huck and Jim find their raft and then stop so that Huck can go ashore to get help.
The story of Huck and Jim has been told in six or seven earlier movies, and now comes "The Adventures of Huck Finn," a graceful and entertaining version by a director named Stephen Sommers , who doesn't dwell on the film's humane message, but doesn't avoid it, either. The transformation of Huck is there on the screen, although much more time is devoted to the story's picaresque adventures, as Huck and Jim meet a series of colorful characters - including some desperate criminals, some feuding neighbors, and the immortal con men the King and the Duke.
The woman looks at Huck suspiciously and asks his name. He replies, &ldquo Mary Williams.&rdquo When the woman asks about the change, he tries to cover himself by saying his full name is &ldquo Sarah Mary Williams.&rdquo She has him try to kill a rat by throwing a lump of lead at it, and he nearly hits the rat, increasing her suspicions. Finally, she asks him to reveal his real male identity, saying she understands that he is a runaway apprentice and claiming she will not turn him in to the authorities. Huck says his name is George Peters and describes himself as an apprentice to a mean farmer. She lets him go after quizzing him on several farm subjects to make sure he is telling the truth. She tells Huck to send for her, Mrs. Judith Loftus, if he has trouble.
And then Huck and Jim drift onto the subjects of race and slavery, and Huck is bound to admit, after Jim explains it to him, that black people have the same feelings as everyone else, and are deserving of his respect. This process of Huck's conversion is one of the crucial events in American literature. Some cannot admire it and think it should not be taught in schools because Huck, like every boy of his time, used the word "nigger." They are very short-sighted.
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