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truth



jonclinch wrote: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?




I think it is both. The truth which is always there is covered by the social habits we almost unknowingly accept (=conditioning) and as you mature hopefully it can get peeled off if awareness is your lucky star.

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word

[ Edited ]
Was the word nig**r always derogatory or was that just a word at that time?

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 03-17-200703:54 PM

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

When I read this as a kid (junior high English class, natch), the assumption was that Huck and Jim's journey is a learning-and-growth experience primarily for Huck. In part because he learns to overcome his inherited racism.

Reading it again as an adult, I see not only how much that relegates Jim's character to the status of scenery, but how it also contains an element of "good Negro" condescension (something I've noticed in a lot of latter-day slave narratives published since about 1970 -- the black characters are, if not always good, at least never very bad).

So now I'm looking at the ways in which their journey may also have been a learning-and-growth experience for Jim too. I've forgotten much of the story, but I doubt Jim is going to be the same person at the end as he is at the beginning and Huck may be as valuable to Jim's personal changes as Jim is to Huck's.





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


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get'em ransomed



fanuzzir wrote: I don't know where to start, there are so many of my favorite passages here.




One part that stood up for me was in chapter II:

(in short)
we keep them till they ransomed....what's that?...I don't know....Then how do we do it if we don't know what it is?.....Why blame it all, we've got to do it.

It's in the books.

------
This is so typical (for better or worse I'd say), when not knowing how to do things properly one usually learns dearly through some inevitable catastrophy.
I practiced that approach IRL this week :smileyvery-happy: On the plus side: those learnings are unforgettable!

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

[ Edited ]

JesseBC wrote:
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.







We can hardly come up with ancient interpretations because we read the text in our own time. I think as usually there are layers: satire, critique, humor but underneath always the raw thruth that is devastating in its core. However, people cope with that pain in different ways....cover it, try to disregard it, try to forget it, at best feel it and heal it.

i.e.
Huck is on the verge of not being accepted into the gang just because he has no family (to kill). I do feel his pain in that moment and I'd call it devastating.

He is different, he learned how to live with it but still he knows he is an outcast in some way. He has his freedom but that could lead us to a discussion what freedom really is...he has no choice...freedom presupposes a seeming choice.

Huck copes with the situation and comes up with an idea to offer Ms. Watson instead and this time he slides through the gate. Next time, again, he can't be sure. That is the trouble for a minority.

He isn't accepted in the society for what he is, when he has the need. He's got his foot on a first step first when he found the treasure=got rich, got Thee Money (in T. Sawyer).

It's a bleak prospect for many today to see such magic to happen.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 03-18-200703:17 AM

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



ELee wrote:
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.




It's such a unproductive method to judge things as good or bad using others' moral as a measure. Even if advantage or disadvantage is more or less the same, perhaps it is a bit more flexible because at least it allows you to take different perspectives and consider your own attitudes. There seems to be more willingness to be accountable.

For some people who grow up in less than ideal circumstances this is a typical approach: they find their way through and out and become stronger because of it. Others sink in the mud.

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


friery wrote: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.




I am not sure how these symbols could help here& how to use them well....but river is moving, it is an always changing situation; raft is just floating on it, on the raft you have a place (home) but it is 'safely unsafe', the geography-> you are placed on the border of different states=attitudes, you manipulate your raft best you can to get where you need to get, the element of-> 'journey'.

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

This seems very important somehow, but I'm not sure why...

I suppose it depends on the lens through which one is viewing the symbolism of their journey -- and I don't know what most of those are -- but, let's pick Huck and Jim's journey as a symbol of the American narrative.

Then what's Twain saying about our American story if "running away is never enough, but also never quite possible"?

It's way too early for some kind of nihilistic futility about the death of the American dream, right?

And it's way too early to bear any resemblance to the faddish way Westerners adopted Eastern religion and then started spouting cliches about the infinite journey of standing perfectly still.

Or is it more along the lines of: We can never grow up until we shirk convention, but part of growing up is accepting how limited our ability to shirk those conventions really is?

Hmmm...is that basically the lesson of every coming-of-age tale? The hero must journey far only to realize that he (and it's rarely a she), in some sense, just wants to go home?

In any case, it does seem to suggest some limits on the ability (or even the wisdom) of the quintessentially American experience of going someplace else and reinventing yourself.





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



JesseBC wrote: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.




Weren't those also two strong streaks in Clemens' character/life? He travelled & he invested in new inventions....hoping for success while falling into a pit.
He married a nouveau riche, n'est-ce pas? And he wanted to be 'somebody' and succeeded.

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

That's a really good point!

Funny...I was recently in the Missouri Bootheel (where much is made of Mark Twain and that this was the setting for his stories). And while those in the Bootheel very much consider themselves Southerners, there is this feeling there of being caught between two very different regions of the country.





friery wrote:

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



JesseBC wrote:
That's a really good point!

Funny...I was recently in the Missouri Bootheel (where much is made of Mark Twain and that this was the setting for his stories). And while those in the Bootheel very much consider themselves Southerners, there is this feeling there of being caught between two very different regions of the country.





friery wrote:

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.





Since the "south" was burdened with slaves, thus Missouri was a "slave state" and was part of the South????? Missouri was a very racist state at any rate, the KKK had open- come as you are parties and BBQ's and supported local and statewide politicians with great success in the 20's and 30's and then became a little more subterranean after - during the 40s and 50s. Big Farming communities counted the KKK meetings as a social event, and time to visit with your neighbor - imagine.
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



JesseBC wrote:
When I read this as a kid (junior high English class, natch), the assumption was that Huck and Jim's journey is a learning-and-growth experience primarily for Huck. In part because he learns to overcome his inherited racism.

Reading it again as an adult, I see not only how much that relegates Jim's character to the status of scenery, but how it also contains an element of "good Negro" condescension (something I've noticed in a lot of latter-day slave narratives published since about 1970 -- the black characters are, if not always good, at least never very bad).

So now I'm looking at the ways in which their journey may also have been a learning-and-growth experience for Jim too. I've forgotten much of the story, but I doubt Jim is going to be the same person at the end as he is at the beginning and Huck may be as valuable to Jim's personal changes as Jim is to Huck's.





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, thanks for being frank about your earlier experience with the novel. I think the furor over the n word in some circles today is a healthy sign that we are reading the novel more at face value than for the supposedly universal message that we want to find underneath. If Huck does realize that Jim is his true counterpart and soul mate in life, then it is certainly against his will. At any rate, he abandon's the idea int he second half of the novel anyway, and essentially starts over. So much for brotherhood.

As to your second point: when first we meet Jim, Twain is recycling some of the stereotypes of the gullible slave from popular "plantation folklore," the most familiar to us being "Uncle Remus Tales." These fed the appetite of a national reading public for funny, touching stories about the good old days of slavery after they had spend millions of dollars and thousands of lives destroying them in the Civil War. The subsequent portrayal of Jim is very much influenced by what are called slave narratives, true stories of escape and liberation that were a staple of abolitionist rhetoric during the run-up to the Civil War and often written by escaped slaves themselves. So there you have it: two sources for Jim: one racist, the other abolitionist. You can't get much more divided.

Jim does grow by the way--you'll find he's running away for much more than his own freedom. He's the adult in the story, the true hero with something to lose.
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



ziki wrote:

JesseBC wrote:
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.









I think if you factor in Huck's age, which is about twelve or thirteen, you would find that it is not unreasonable to hold his experience accountable to other children's. Twain is very much interested in social setting and the nature of the underclass here--he's not just making fun of the Christian middle class but trying to make the case that some people just do not belong. In these chapters, he punctuates his "boys tale" with some creepy evocation of loneliness and superstition as well, which is his attempt to put you inside the weird mind of an uneducated runaway who can't read, who doesn't believe anything, who has no family or friends. He's not just a cipher of American freedom but a painstakingly drawn social type.
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Nihilism



JesseBC wrote:
This seems very important somehow, but I'm not sure why...

I suppose it depends on the lens through which one is viewing the symbolism of their journey -- and I don't know what most of those are -- but, let's pick Huck and Jim's journey as a symbol of the American narrative.

Then what's Twain saying about our American story if "running away is never enough, but also never quite possible"?

It's way too early for some kind of nihilistic futility about the death of the American dream, right?



No way, JBC! You have to think that Twain just watched an entire civilization go down in flames in a recent war that no one wants to talk about, that everyone says is for the best because it beat slavery and introduced sound capitalist, northern principles of free labor into a backward society. Twain is extremely nihilistic in this novel because he knows he can't say anything meaningful about this situation and have himself believe it. He knows that racism is eating away at the national spirit, and he knows that the idea of everything getting better is a joke, and that all the liberal beliefs about progress and understanding are what people want to tell themselves . If you read the last page, you can't find a more hopeless or honest conclusion in all of literature.
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Huck Finn was published in 1884. Certainly not last week, but I wouldn't call that exactly "ancient" either.

I mean, I agree with you that there's an extent to which we can't escape our contemporary perspective and maybe that's why these books continue to be read across generations -- because we can, on some level, bring them into our own time and make them real over a century later.

I'm just saying that, for example, children are viewed differently today than they were in the late 19th century. And we tend to assume that our beliefs about children are right today and they were wrong a hundred years ago. We view children now as more fragile psychologically, more influenced by adults, and less capable of taking care of themselves.

If Huck were a kid today, he'd be placed in foster care, shuttled to therapy twice a week, prescribed large doses of anti-depressants and speed, while adults would be fretting over the damage done to his "self-esteem" and hoping to get him into a support group for children of alcoholics.

So to us, in 2007, Huck's story probably seems more tragic than it would have to Twain's contemporaries (or at least tragic for somewhat different reasons). And I figure that's an important distinction when thinking about the novel.





ziki wrote:

JesseBC wrote:
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.







We can hardly come up with ancient interpretations because we read the text in our own time. I think as usually there are layers: satire, critique, humor but underneath always the raw thruth that is devastating in its core. However, people cope with that pain in different ways....cover it, try to disregard it, try to forget it, at best feel it and heal it.

i.e.
Huck is on the verge of not being accepted into the gang just because he has no family (to kill). I do feel his pain in that moment and I'd call it devastating.

He is different, he learned how to live with it but still he knows he is an outcast in some way. He has his freedom but that could lead us to a discussion what freedom really is...he has no choice...freedom presupposes a seeming choice.

Huck copes with the situation and comes up with an idea to offer Ms. Watson instead and this time he slides through the gate. Next time, again, he can't be sure. That is the trouble for a minority.

He isn't accepted in the society for what he is, when he has the need. He's got his foot on a first step first when he found the treasure=got rich, got Thee Money (in T. Sawyer).

It's a bleak prospect for many today to see such magic to happen.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 03-18-200703:17 AM




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children



JesseBC wrote:I'm just saying that, for example, children are viewed differently today than they were in the late 19th century. And we tend to assume that our beliefs about children are right today and they were wrong a hundred years ago. We view children now as more fragile psychologically, more influenced by adults, and less capable of taking care of themselves.

If Huck were a kid today, he'd be placed in foster care, shuttled to therapy twice a week, prescribed large doses of anti-depressants and speed, while adults would be fretting over the damage done to his "self-esteem" and hoping to get him into a support group for children of alcoholics.




This is a huge topic you embark on. It is interesting to study how children were viewed and treated throughout history (i.e. one can take paintings as a media). It doesn't take long to discover i.e. that child labor was a necessity and a psychological health a 'luxury'. Even in wealthy families and at courts children weren't necessarily treated well so it isn't a matter of money.

If I go on a limb with it I'd say this may also be one of the reasons why humanity is in a mess today, much of the dysfunction is inherited from generation to generation.

I disagree with the statement that we view children as psychologically fragile today but maybe there's at least a tendency to view them as valid members of society not just a nuisance. But the pendulum is now swinging in the opposite direction when children are not included in society from the start in a natural way and that creates other kind of problems.

http://www.continuum-concept.org/

To talk about this topic with any measure of success the debate needs to be very nuanced. The summary you make about how we treat children in troubled situations is cynical and very general and we need to avoid the melee of half truths. I agree with you that Ritalin is prescribed far too often as a convenience while instead one should treat the adults who are the origins of the problem. The child is often just a carrier and amplifier of what is wrong in the systems. I view the plethora of diagnoses of ADHd and alike as another pointer to the fact that children who are very sensitive react to the dysfunction of the systems they are locked in and try to cope with the overload.

But to return to the books at hand:

Take the scenes from T. Sawyer where the children get regular beating from the school master. Is that a way to teach a person how to be human?

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imagine



jd wrote: Big Farming communities counted the KKK meetings as a social event, and time to visit with your neighbor - imagine.



I don't want to :smileywink:

I go for John Lennon's Imagine instead.
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I don't know.

I'm not from the Missouri Bootheel. I just happened to spend some time there recently. I have lived in Illinois (both Chicago and outstate).

My impression is that people in southeastern Missouri identify with the South and identify themselves as Southerners, while those in Illinois don't. Even though, geographically, they're quite close together.

I don't know why.

However, in that one small stretch of Missouri, I did notice a feeling of being suspended between two different worlds. And I hadn't thought about it, but the novel bears that same feeling.





jd wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
That's a really good point!

Funny...I was recently in the Missouri Bootheel (where much is made of Mark Twain and that this was the setting for his stories). And while those in the Bootheel very much consider themselves Southerners, there is this feeling there of being caught between two very different regions of the country.





friery wrote:

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.





Since the "south" was burdened with slaves, thus Missouri was a "slave state" and was part of the South????? Missouri was a very racist state at any rate, the KKK had open- come as you are parties and BBQ's and supported local and statewide politicians with great success in the 20's and 30's and then became a little more subterranean after - during the 40s and 50s. Big Farming communities counted the KKK meetings as a social event, and time to visit with your neighbor - imagine.


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

I'm confused -- are you saying Huck Finn should be read at face value because there is no universal message and, therefore, those who would ban the book over the word "**bleep**" are reading the novel pretty much as it was intended?



---------fanuzzir wrote:JD, thanks for being frank about your earlier experience with the novel. I think the furor over the n word in some circles today is a healthy sign that we are reading the novel more at face value than for the supposedly universal message that we want to find underneath. If Huck does realize that Jim is his true counterpart and soul mate in life, then it is certainly against his will. At any rate, he abandon's the idea int he second half of the novel anyway, and essentially starts over. So much for brotherhood.

As to your second point: when first we meet Jim, Twain is recycling some of the stereotypes of the gullible slave from popular "plantation folklore," the most familiar to us being "Uncle Remus Tales." These fed the appetite of a national reading public for funny, touching stories about the good old days of slavery after they had spend millions of dollars and thousands of lives destroying them in the Civil War. The subsequent portrayal of Jim is very much influenced by what are called slave narratives, true stories of escape and liberation that were a staple of abolitionist rhetoric during the run-up to the Civil War and often written by escaped slaves themselves. So there you have it: two sources for Jim: one racist, the other abolitionist. You can't get much more divided.

Jim does grow by the way--you'll find he's running away for much more than his own freedom. He's the adult in the story, the true hero with something to lose.
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Re: Nihilism

Well, yes...that makes sense.

I suppose I'm still stuck in the idea that Huck Finn is a "children's" book and, therefore, must be "lighter." Though I really have no cause to think that -- Lord of the Flies is usually assigned at the same age and that's hardly fluffy reading, along with Ethan Frome, which I cried my eyes out over in junior high English class.

Or maybe I'm just stuck in the idea that this sort of angst belongs uniquely to our post-capitalist, post-modern, post-feminist, post-God-and-everything-else contemporary life.

It's probably ridiculous, but I can't help thinking of Mark Twain as what would happen if Charles Dickens and Hunter S. Thompson had a kid. Which would certainly allow for plenty of nihilism, wouldn't it?

Maybe I was just hoping to hang onto Huck as a symbol of that can-do American pluck or some such nonsense.

Anyway, didn't you also tell me that the last line of The Jungle is the most optimistic in all of literature? Did we just happen to hit on those two extremes right in a row or are you normally given to hyperbole? :-)






fanuzzir wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
This seems very important somehow, but I'm not sure why...

I suppose it depends on the lens through which one is viewing the symbolism of their journey -- and I don't know what most of those are -- but, let's pick Huck and Jim's journey as a symbol of the American narrative.

Then what's Twain saying about our American story if "running away is never enough, but also never quite possible"?

It's way too early for some kind of nihilistic futility about the death of the American dream, right?



No way, JBC! You have to think that Twain just watched an entire civilization go down in flames in a recent war that no one wants to talk about, that everyone says is for the best because it beat slavery and introduced sound capitalist, northern principles of free labor into a backward society. Twain is extremely nihilistic in this novel because he knows he can't say anything meaningful about this situation and have himself believe it. He knows that racism is eating away at the national spirit, and he knows that the idea of everything getting better is a joke, and that all the liberal beliefs about progress and understanding are what people want to tell themselves . If you read the last page, you can't find a more hopeless or honest conclusion in all of literature.



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