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fanuzzir
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Chapter 16 as a breaking point

Twain seemed to have everything going for him with Jim and Huck on their journey downriver; a great theme, a great plot, and a great friendship. And yet he broke the whole thing up after chapter 16, and put the novel aside for a decade until he could finish the novel. What happened? Why did he abandon his novel at this point?
jd
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jd
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

I am wondering if it could be that the river runs into the deeper south and the tale then becomes less of an adventure. Or perhaps he had difficulty keeping the same events from happening on the river and therefore gave the group a new setting to get into trouble with. How about the symbolism of solid ground as opposed to the flowing river, - just brainstorming here, jd
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

Nice brainstorming it is. Twain does return to solid ground, and lo and behold, race relations become what they were when Huck left Hannibal, Jim becomes a minor character, and Huck starts playing a role in a southern family feud. Like none of the fellowship on the raft ever happened. This is a traumatic start to the second half of the novel for many, but it is arguably closer to Twain's real feelings about social life and personal ethics, particularly once Huck gets involved with the con men.
jd
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jd
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point



fanuzzir wrote:
Nice brainstorming it is. Twain does return to solid ground, and lo and behold, race relations become what they were when Huck left Hannibal, Jim becomes a minor character, and Huck starts playing a role in a southern family feud. Like none of the fellowship on the raft ever happened. This is a traumatic start to the second half of the novel for many, but it is arguably closer to Twain's real feelings about social life and personal ethics, particularly once Huck gets involved with the con men.




Fanuzzir - When Twain put aside the book for a decade he was in the midst of the carpetbagger south. When he picks it up his characters are feuding like the hatfields and mccoys and are of dubious characters like the con men. Is Huck the inoccence lost of the old south and symbolizes the emergence of the new South or what he hopes will be the new South???? still brainstorming.-jd
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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

You're asking the question that has puzzled so many literary hitorians and scholars. Twain does seem to have turned his back on the liberal outlook of the first half, which had Huck, his white southern hero, following the lead of a fugitive slave. That apparently was too subversive for Twain to continue. Putting his hero back on dry land and having him act out a tired southern stereotype of Hatfields and McCoys is one way of saying that Twain became more interested in satirizing social conventions than in breaking them. The rest of the novel, though departing from the great theme of the shared quest for freedom, becomes closer to Twain's own heart and mind.
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JesseBC
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

I don't know why Twain did this, but I could make some guesses based on chapter 16.

I don't see this chapter at all as saying "so much for racial harmony." Huck shows a remarkable ability to think about moral complexity.

He realizes that, in legal terms, he's stolen from Miss Watson and he knows stealing is wrong and that he could get in a lot of trouble for it. But he also realizes that, on some deeper level, Jim has become a human to him and not a thing that can be stolen -- not a realization for which society is prepared to reward him.

His surface conclusion alone reveals some acquired maturity: he's only going to follow society's rules to the extent that they conform with his conscience.

Not to the degree that he's going to flaunt it publicly -- he still lies to protect Jim; he doesn't defiantly declare that he's rescuing a runaway slave. He hasn't had some heavy-handed epiphany to become an abolitionist and always mask "the n-word" like a good little non-racist.

But give the kid a break...he's only what?...12? And he has acquired the ability to think so far beyond what he's been taught that he can question social mores and make his own moral decisions with a certain amount of confidence.

But what Huck doesn't say in so many words is even more revealing and shows that he's evolved beyond a point which most people ever do: he's been able to assimilate that slaveholders can still be good people even though what they're doing is wrong. Part of why he feels guilty isn't so much the stealing as that Miss Watson is a good and kind person.

The inability to reconcile this seems to keep thwarting humanity. We think certain parts of history could never repeat themselves (e.g. the Nazis, the slaveholders, etc.) because those were reprehensible people and since we're good people, enlightened people, we would never do those things.

But that's the tricky part -- Nazis and slaveholders weren't bad people. And by our inability to see and admit that, we keep doing these morally repulsive things over and over.

Maybe Twain got stuck on that, on reconciling that these people with hateful, bigoted beliefs and practices could still be good people. Maybe the whole idea just confused and depressed him so much that he had to take a break for awhile.

It's interesting to me that I can't remember anything about the plot after this point except for the one major revelation. I have to wonder if maybe some people wanted this book banned, not for its purported racism, but because it might encourage children to question the rules.





fanuzzir wrote:
Twain seemed to have everything going for him with Jim and Huck on their journey downriver; a great theme, a great plot, and a great friendship. And yet he broke the whole thing up after chapter 16, and put the novel aside for a decade until he could finish the novel. What happened? Why did he abandon his novel at this point?


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ch 15

It is grim when Huck fools Jim telling him all what happened in the fog was just a dream. Jim was genuinly worried and it looks like Huck just makes a fool of him.

ziki
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

[ Edited ]

fanuzzir wrote:
Twain seemed to have everything going for him with Jim and Huck on their journey downriver; a great theme, a great plot, and a great friendship. And yet he broke the whole thing up after chapter 16, and put the novel aside for a decade until he could finish the novel. What happened? Why did he abandon his novel at this point?




What can happen on a river? It is a bit limited setting (like a sea and a boat, i.e. Pequod in Moby-Dick). Here they are on a raft and they need to hide, so they can't meet many new people. Twain puts the characters into a danger a few times but dramatically he can't just repeat that 'trick' over and over again. Something else needs to happen at this point. Their intention is to move up north from Cairo but then if he let's them escape now, it simply brings about the end of the whole story. Moreover, it doesn't build up to a very exciting tale either. The story line in this case remains too simple.

Technically I can therefore understand that MT faced some troubles here. He probably needed to figure out what he wanted to say. The conveyed message up till now is not very surprising. It basically says that if your life situation is unbearable just get away. That might be a suggestion but it is a rather limited advice especially when you want to write a novel with some substance. So, he had two runaways, he kept them floating for a while and now what?


What an interesting question you asked!
I really wonder now what will happen and how he finds a solution that turns it into a great American novel.


ziki
who keeps talking to the ghosts here :smileyvery-happy:

Message Edited by ziki on 04-09-200701:29 PM

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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point



fanuzzir wrote:
Nice brainstorming it is. Twain does return to solid ground, and lo and behold, race relations become what they were when Huck left Hannibal, Jim becomes a minor character, and Huck starts playing a role in a southern family feud. Like none of the fellowship on the raft ever happened. This is a traumatic start to the second half of the novel for many, but it is arguably closer to Twain's real feelings about social life and personal ethics, particularly once Huck gets involved with the con men.




hmmm.... spoiler...you shouldn't give the story away so easily :smileysad:

ziki
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JesseBC
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

I was looking into this a bit to see if I could find an answer and everything I found on the subject said the original manuscript showed that Twain set it aside after Chapter 18, not Chapter 16. Which changes the whole question.





ziki wrote:

fanuzzir wrote:
Twain seemed to have everything going for him with Jim and Huck on their journey downriver; a great theme, a great plot, and a great friendship. And yet he broke the whole thing up after chapter 16, and put the novel aside for a decade until he could finish the novel. What happened? Why did he abandon his novel at this point?




What can happen on a river? It is a bit limited setting (like a sea and a boat, i.e. Pequod in Moby-Dick). Here they are on a raft and they need to hide, so they can't meet many new people. Twain puts the characters into a danger a few times but dramatically he can't just repeat that 'trick' over and over again. Something else needs to happen at this point. Their intention is to move up north from Cairo but then if he let's them escape now, it simply brings about the end of the whole story. Moreover, it doesn't build up to a very exciting tale either. The story line in this case remains too simple.

Technically I can therefore understand that MT faced some troubles here. He probably needed to figure out what he wanted to say. The conveyed message up till now is not very surprising. It basically says that if your life situation is unbearable just get away. That might be a suggestion but it is a rather limited advice especially when you want to write a novel with some substance. So, he had two runaways, he kept them floating for a while and now what?


What an interesting question you asked!
I really wonder now what will happen and how he finds a solution that turns it into a great American novel.


ziki
who keeps talking to the ghosts here :smileyvery-happy:

Message Edited by ziki on 04-09-200701:29 PM




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KristyR
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point


JesseBC wrote:
I was looking into this a bit to see if I could find an answer and everything I found on the subject said the original manuscript showed that Twain set it aside after Chapter 18, not Chapter 16. Which changes the whole question.





That changes everything doesn't it. That chapter was heart breaking. It doesn't even really seem to fit in with the rest of the story. We read about so many different kinds of families in this book - Huck and the Widow Douglas, Huck and Pap, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, Jim and his family, the Phelps - most are disfunctional in some way. What was Twain trying to say about families? Why did he place Huck in the middle of the fued between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons? Why did Huck need to watch them destroy each other? Was it to show him that no matter how respectable people were, they could still be wrong? Maybe Twain wasn't sure what direction to go after this chapter. Where should Huck go next, how would the effects of what he witnessed change him... He's already seen so much violence in his young life, will he turn to violence or abhor it?
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

I thought Chapter 18 was hilarious!

It's satire, after all, and the absurdity of the whole situation is exaggerated. Here are these two families, feuding for so long that no one even remembers what started it, but they're willing to knock each other off without even pausing to think that they don't know why they're doing it. Then they sit in church, listening to sermons about Christian love, with their guns between their knees, too sheep-like to even recognize their own hypocrisy.

Twain just skewers that kind of unthinking conformity to the most ridiculous social conventions.

I suppose we should move this into another folder since we're going beyond Chapter 16. But, then, I think there's only 3 of us still here, so maybe it doesn't matter. I still haven't finished the book though. I'm only on Chapter 27.





KristyR wrote:

JesseBC wrote:
I was looking into this a bit to see if I could find an answer and everything I found on the subject said the original manuscript showed that Twain set it aside after Chapter 18, not Chapter 16. Which changes the whole question.





That changes everything doesn't it. That chapter was heart breaking. It doesn't even really seem to fit in with the rest of the story. We read about so many different kinds of families in this book - Huck and the Widow Douglas, Huck and Pap, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, Jim and his family, the Phelps - most are disfunctional in some way. What was Twain trying to say about families? Why did he place Huck in the middle of the fued between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons? Why did Huck need to watch them destroy each other? Was it to show him that no matter how respectable people were, they could still be wrong? Maybe Twain wasn't sure what direction to go after this chapter. Where should Huck go next, how would the effects of what he witnessed change him... He's already seen so much violence in his young life, will he turn to violence or abhor it?



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Re: Chapter 18

We would have to make a new folder, no one discussed anything past Chapter 16! I definitely see what you mean about the satire in Chapter 18. I guess it just struck me as a little too true. I have a tendency to think about that time period as very violent and somewhat lawless, and very removed from our own time. Then again, we have so much senseless violence in our world, we read about people killing each other over nothing in the news every day. Is the fued between the two families really any different than rival gangs fighting each other over turf?

It's also the first time we really see Huck shook by anything. I have a 10 year old son and I kept thinking about him being in a similar situation.

I have finished The Adventures of Huck Finn, but I'm only on chapter 4 of Finn. There was a lot more discussion when we did The Adventures of Huck Finn on the old BNU. It died an early death here. I think it would have been better if we could have had 2 months to complete the readings, and if we hadn't lost our moderator!
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ch 18 and onward

[ Edited ]

JesseBC wrote:
I was looking into this a bit to see if I could find an answer and everything I found on the subject said the original manuscript showed that Twain set it aside after Chapter 18, not Chapter 16. Which changes the whole question.







...but maybe not....because by the end of ch 18 they are back on the river again.....and "then what?" = same dilema again.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 04-24-200701:21 PM

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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point (spoiler whole book)

[ Edited ]

KristyR wrote: That chapter was heart breaking. It doesn't even really seem to fit in with the rest of the story. We read about so many different kinds of families in this book - Huck and the Widow Douglas, Huck and Pap, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, Jim and his family, the Phelps - most are disfunctional in some way. What was Twain trying to say about families? Why did he place Huck in the middle of the fued between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons? Why did Huck need to watch them destroy each other? Was it to show him that no matter how respectable people were, they could still be wrong? Maybe Twain wasn't sure what direction to go after this chapter. Where should Huck go next, how would the effects of what he witnessed change him... He's already seen so much violence in his young life, will he turn to violence or abhor it?





Interesting points, Kristy; I finally finished the book but I am seized by some odd kind of amnesia, LOL; I almost forgot half of it again...toward the end of the book I got bored by the "Sawyerish tricks" when they appeared again. I can't understand why Huck holds him in such high esteem. Huck is more interesting character for me.

I feel that I would need to read it one more time, just for structure. It is a steady slow read book, like the river. :smileyhappy:

Huck and Jim return but the world is not the same after their time on the raft.

What you said in your post leads probably further to Finn, Jon's novel.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 04-24-200701:22 PM

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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point

I think you can just title the post by the appropriate chapter number...or oyu can star a new thread, too, if you want.

You summed it up well, Jesse. I just read the book for plot this time. Later I'll need to do some thinking about it.

I'll be checking in here.

ziki
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JesseBC
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Re: Chapter 18

That's the mark of good satire -- when it makes you laugh and makes you uncomfortable at the same time.

I think the joke, as it were, can be extended to any mindless conformity to Just The Way It Is. After all, with gang violence, you're probably still keeping it pretty far removed from your own experience. When what's driving the feud between these two families isn't even bloodlust, but a total inability to see the absurdity of their obedience to what has effectively become the law of the town. They can't question it because it never even occurs to them to question it.

Twain takes this to yet another extreme in the last few chapters.

So does anyone know how to create a new folder for talking about the last third of the book?





KristyR wrote:
We would have to make a new folder, no one discussed anything past Chapter 16! I definitely see what you mean about the satire in Chapter 18. I guess it just struck me as a little too true. I have a tendency to think about that time period as very violent and somewhat lawless, and very removed from our own time. Then again, we have so much senseless violence in our world, we read about people killing each other over nothing in the news every day. Is the fued between the two families really any different than rival gangs fighting each other over turf?

It's also the first time we really see Huck shook by anything. I have a 10 year old son and I kept thinking about him being in a similar situation.

I have finished The Adventures of Huck Finn, but I'm only on chapter 4 of Finn. There was a lot more discussion when we did The Adventures of Huck Finn on the old BNU. It died an early death here. I think it would have been better if we could have had 2 months to complete the readings, and if we hadn't lost our moderator!


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JesseBC
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point (spoiler whole book)

I have about 2 or 3 chapters left to go.

I actually saw a lot of the same things in the Tom chapters as I did in the feud chapters -- a painfully dark and funny indictment of mindless obedience.

I mean, here the boys could spring Jim any time they wished, but they're too busy dithering around to do it just like all the escape scenes in the novels Tom's read -- because That's The Way It's Done. No thought as to what makes sense or what would work or be practical.

Meanwhile, Jim sits there, chained to a bed.

Huck holds Tom in such high esteem because...well...Huck, as we've seen, can be a real idiot. He has a brain and a conscience and sometimes he uses them. Other times he ignores them and gets all puffed up about things like the Solomon story or the "proper" way to spring Jim when he really has absolutely no clue what he's talking about.

I've spent about the last 5 chapters both laughing and wanting to scream, "Just take Jim and RUN, you morons!" :-)





ziki wrote:

KristyR wrote: That chapter was heart breaking. It doesn't even really seem to fit in with the rest of the story. We read about so many different kinds of families in this book - Huck and the Widow Douglas, Huck and Pap, the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, Jim and his family, the Phelps - most are disfunctional in some way. What was Twain trying to say about families? Why did he place Huck in the middle of the fued between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons? Why did Huck need to watch them destroy each other? Was it to show him that no matter how respectable people were, they could still be wrong? Maybe Twain wasn't sure what direction to go after this chapter. Where should Huck go next, how would the effects of what he witnessed change him... He's already seen so much violence in his young life, will he turn to violence or abhor it?





Interesting points, Kristy; I finally finished the book but I am seized by some odd kind of amnesia, LOL; I almost forgot half of it again...toward the end of the book I got bored by the "Sawyerish tricks" when they appeared again. I can't understand why Huck holds him in such high esteem. Huck is more interesting character for me.

I feel that I would need to read it one more time, just for structure. It is a steady slow read book, like the river. :smileyhappy:

Huck and Jim return but the world is not the same after their time on the raft.

What you said in your post leads probably further to Finn, Jon's novel.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 04-24-200701:22 PM




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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point (spoiler whole book)



JesseBC wrote:I've spent about the last 5 chapters both laughing and wanting to scream, "Just take Jim and RUN, you morons!" :-)




:smileyvery-happy: I know, I was like: 'what's going on for christ sake, if Huck was in charge tey'll be out long ago. And TS that knew Jim was actually a free man now didn't say a thing and put him trough all that hassle, weird, methinks.

ziki
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JesseBC
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Re: Chapter 16 as a breaking point (spoiler whole book)

Now that I've finished the book (told ya back in March that I wouldn't finish until May) it's pretty clear to me that this was the whole point. All the characters are unwittingly kind or cruel based on social norms that are purely random in terms of morality -- that's the basis for the satire of the entire novel.

(I still feel guilty talking about this in this folder. I've chewed other members out for doing the same thing. But with our moderator gone, what are we going to do about it, I guess?)





ziki wrote:


JesseBC wrote:I've spent about the last 5 chapters both laughing and wanting to scream, "Just take Jim and RUN, you morons!" :-)




:smileyvery-happy: I know, I was like: 'what's going on for christ sake, if Huck was in charge tey'll be out long ago. And TS that knew Jim was actually a free man now didn't say a thing and put him trough all that hassle, weird, methinks.

ziki


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