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fanuzzir
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Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

For those of you who want to get a head start: these are devastating chapters that show the struggle of a lost boy to live among "sivilized" people. There's comedy, and caricatured characters, but there is also lyrical writing about loneliness that will have you thinking ahead to solitary moments on the river. I don't know where to start, there are so many of my favorite passages here.
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JesseBC
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

It's funny...despite some of the darker elements in Huck Finn, I would never think to describe it as "devastating." It's wicked satire of religious people and polite society. Huck is his own kind of iconoclast, but, despite his circumstances, I would never think to pity him. That seems too modern and child-centered an interpretation.





fanuzzir wrote:
For those of you who want to get a head start: these are devastating chapters that show the struggle of a lost boy to live among "sivilized" people. There's comedy, and caricatured characters, but there is also lyrical writing about loneliness that will have you thinking ahead to solitary moments on the river. I don't know where to start, there are so many of my favorite passages here.


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notice

Notice

"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."

Shot? I am leaving.

ziki
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fanuzzir
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Re: notice



ziki wrote:
Notice

"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."

Shot? I am leaving.

ziki


I love that opening. So self-deprecating and defensive. Twain is clearly playing off the regional, down home Southern comic persona that had made him famous. He doesn't want you to know he has any serious intentions. Maybe he doesn't want himself to know.
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ELee
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I found Huck's approach to life refreshing and engaging, even though I realize that it came about due to [much] less than ideal circumstances. I like the way he comes to a decision/conclusion about things: instead of right/wrong or good/bad, his outcomes are based on whether something is "an advantage" or "a disadvantage" in terms of his own experience. He's also game enough to try something he is doubtful about on the off chance that there might be something to it.
jd
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jd
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I find Hucks approach more than refreshing but amazing given his circumstances. He does have a certain pluck for getting into to trouble and pulling himself out, but I feel the driving force to his antics are his father and his wish to get away from him. Most of the father figures in the story are temporary and flawed. He is truly an orphan and must fend for himself with guidelines good and bad, from the various people he encounters during his adventures.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



jd wrote:
I find Hucks approach more than refreshing but amazing given his circumstances. He does have a certain pluck for getting into to trouble and pulling himself out, but I feel the driving force to his antics are his father and his wish to get away from him. Most of the father figures in the story are temporary and flawed. He is truly an orphan and must fend for himself with guidelines good and bad, from the various people he encounters during his adventures.


I think one of the striking things that you see in the early chapters is Huck's absolute immunity to matters of morality as taught by middle class families and the Christian religioun. It is easier for us today to call someone like this a "freethinker" but for Twain's contemporaries, the idea of someone walking around untutored by these entities was literally a non-entity, off the cultural map. That's why you see Twain using dialect so freely in these early chapters as well--his hero does not sound like an American literary character but speaks in his own made up language.

I hope everyone will look closely at Huck's first encounter with Jim: such a character has casual racism born and bred in the bones. We are not talking here about someone who is just a "free spirit."
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jonclinch
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Oh, absolutely.

Huck's movement toward fully embracing Jim as a human being is so central to the book.

And here's a question.

Do you folks see that movement as a maturation and change of heart, or as a peeling away of society's veneer to reveal the truth that's been in his bones all along?

Does it matter?

Did it matter to Twain?

-- J




fanuzzir wrote:

I hope everyone will look closely at Huck's first encounter with Jim: such a character has casual racism born and bred in the bones. We are not talking here about someone who is just a "free spirit."

-------------------------------
http://www.readfinn.com
http://www.jonclnch.com
jd
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jd
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I think Huck can certainly identify hatred because of his pap and as he matures he is able to make a choice to behave in a less hateful way. He also does not have the constraints of society to live with, so his friend can be a black -jd
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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



jd wrote:
I think Huck can certainly identify hatred because of his pap and as he matures he is able to make a choice to behave in a less hateful way. He also does not have the constraints of society to live with, so his friend can be a black -jd




JD, that's a very canny reply: that Huck's ostracism from the genteel life of Southern society frees him to be both viciously racist and disloyal to his white caste.
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Couldn't it be both? Need we assume that maturation involves an internal sea change as opposed to merely a sharpening of one's internal self?

I'm re-reading this for the first time since I was a kid, so my perspective may change as I go along. But I always saw Huck as a misfit because he was, in many ways, more self-possessed than someone like, say, the Widow Douglas who bought into social convention and appearances.

When Huck eventually sheds the pressure to conform to these conventions, I'd say he both grows up AND becomes more who he truly is. Tentatively, I'd say those two things can't be sharply separated and that this is really the essence of the American narrative about being able to take a journey and reinvent oneself.

While I'd characterize Twain as a skeptic about much of American society, he seems very optimistic about this essential American narrative of journey and reinvention.





jonclinch wrote:
Oh, absolutely.

Huck's movement toward fully embracing Jim as a human being is so central to the book.

And here's a question.

Do you folks see that movement as a maturation and change of heart, or as a peeling away of society's veneer to reveal the truth that's been in his bones all along?

Does it matter?

Did it matter to Twain?

-- J




fanuzzir wrote:

I hope everyone will look closely at Huck's first encounter with Jim: such a character has casual racism born and bred in the bones. We are not talking here about someone who is just a "free spirit."




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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Excellent point. Growing up is supposed to occur under the kind tutelage of Widow Douglas and the Judge, two representatives of middle American values, but Huck is clearly going through the motions as long as he resides in a home. There is the disquieting suggestion when he meets up with Pap that he in fact could get used to the lifestyle and listen all day to his father's racist rants, but something tells him that he must complete his flight from convention and repudiate even this outlaw state for still another. That's what I find so gripping about this plot--running away is never enough, but also never quite possible . . .
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friery
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4


fanuzzir wrote:


jd wrote:
I think Huck can certainly identify hatred because of his pap and as he matures he is able to make a choice to behave in a less hateful way. He also does not have the constraints of society to live with, so his friend can be a black -jd




JD, that's a very canny reply: that Huck's ostracism from the genteel life of Southern society frees him to be both viciously racist and disloyal to his white caste.





I have one slight geographic quibble. These posts suggest that the novel is set in the South---but it's not. Most of the action takes place on the Mississippi, between Missouri and Illinois, far from the old South.

If I remember my American history correctly, Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state by virtue of the Missouri Compromise (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_Compromise). Illinois, on the other hand, was a free state. The fact that Twain sets the novel on the margin of these two societies is significant. For example, one could equally see freedom--and slavery--from the raft floating between the two states.

It's also significant that Twain set the novel in what was, at the time, the American frontier. Had it been set in the old South--say, Missippi or Alabama--this would have been a very different book. The frontier presented many symbolic and literary possibilies to Twain. Obvious among these are the possibilities of new beginnings, and the effects of civilization's "taming" nature and the native human inhabitants.
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

A point very much worth making. For a great many people, The Adventures has enormous southern connections; on tour, in fact, I've been asked more than once how a Yankee could dare handle this material. Huck's strong southern associations were among of the reasons I gave Finn so many scenes set in cold and wintry weather.


friery wrote:
These posts suggest that the novel is set in the South---but it's not. Most of the action takes place on the Mississippi, between Missouri and Illinois, far from the old South.

-------------------------------
http://www.readfinn.com
http://www.jonclnch.com
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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I hope everyone realizes the great irony that Twain is creating through geography: Missouri, a slave state, lies next to Illinois, a free state, so to reach the port of Cairo, where Jim and Huck are headed,on the tip of Illinois, they actually have to travel deeper into slave territory. Many versions of Huck come with a map to make this clear: does yours' have one?
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jonclinch
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

It's also a clear statement about the enormous power of ignorance to shape our lives without our even knowing it...



fanuzzir wrote:
I hope everyone realizes the great irony that Twain is creating through geography: Missouri, a slave state, lies next to Illinois, a free state, so to reach the port of Cairo, where Jim and Huck are headed,on the tip of Illinois, they actually have to travel deeper into slave territory. Many versions of Huck come with a map to make this clear: does yours' have one?


-------------------------------
http://www.readfinn.com
http://www.jonclnch.com
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ELee
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

jonclinch wrote:
"Huck's movement toward fully embracing Jim as a human being is so central to the book.
And here's a question.
Do you folks see that movement as a maturation and change of heart, or as a peeling away of society's veneer to reveal the truth that's been in his bones all along?
Does it matter?
Did it matter to Twain?

(Let me preface this with saying that I have read through Chapter 22, so this is written within that context.)

I believe that Huck's discovery that Jim is more than a n****r is a self-discovery, because it was there all along. Huck is too much of a pragmatist to ultimately accept something that somebody else say's is right if he know's it is wrong. Sure, he's a boy on the edge of manhood and he might make some missteps along the way, but I truly think his heart is good and every layer of "veneer" he is strong enough to peel away brings him closer to himself. As he begins by "running away" from the things he knows he doesn't want, he begins a journey toward what he really "is" inside.

I think it mattered to Twain. I think he wanted to identify that certain types of thinking and behavior were not inherent to human nature: that they were a learned and kept in place by a close-minded society.
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ELee
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Map

A basic map of Huck's adventures can be found here:

http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/id-20,pageNum-11.html
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KristyR
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Re: Map

Thanks for the map, my book doesn't have one.
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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



ELee wrote:
jonclinch wrote:
"Huck's movement toward fully embracing Jim as a human being is so central to the book.
And here's a question.
Do you folks see that movement as a maturation and change of heart, or as a peeling away of society's veneer to reveal the truth that's been in his bones all along?
Does it matter?
Did it matter to Twain?

(Let me preface this with saying that I have read through Chapter 22, so this is written within that context.)

I believe that Huck's discovery that Jim is more than a n****r is a self-discovery, because it was there all along. Huck is too much of a pragmatist to ultimately accept something that somebody else say's is right if he know's it is wrong. Sure, he's a boy on the edge of manhood and he might make some missteps along the way, but I truly think his heart is good and every layer of "veneer" he is strong enough to peel away brings him closer to himself. As he begins by "running away" from the things he knows he doesn't want, he begins a journey toward what he really "is" inside.

I think it mattered to Twain. I think he wanted to identify that certain types of thinking and behavior were not inherent to human nature: that they were a learned and kept in place by a close-minded society.




ELee, thank you for a very thoughtful post. I always buck at the notion that a Southern upbringing in a slaveholding society is a veneer that can or should be peeled away. It just shows that we desperately want everyone to be some version of a Northern liberal, and comfort us with the notion that American people without the pressure of social conventions were all anti-slavery and anti-racist at heart. I think that Twain wants to take away that comfort by showing us Huck at his most agonized, such as in Chapter 16, regretting his choice to run away with Jim. His racial attitudes are more than skin deep, I'm afraid.
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