huck-finn

I apologize dear reader(s), for being gone so long.  My blogging has been stymied by other obligations.  I have been reading like crazy, however.   I promised to get back to y’all about that.

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I decided to devote some of new year to books that high school or junior high has ruined for millions.  Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are two of these.  I must admit I was looking for the same lightning in a bottle as To Kill a Mockingbird.  Alas it was not to be, though I can’t say I’m disapointed either.

Tom Sawyer has been accurately described as a children’s book about a boy.  I would venture to guess that if it were written today it would not make the best seller lists.  What it lacks in complexity, it doesn’t make up for in plot.  There is a lot of action and adventure and not much substance.  One wonders how one boy got into so many scrapes in such a small amount of pages!  I must be getting older, because I wonder about Aunt Polly’s fitness as a guardian.  Though her Mary seemed to turn out alright.  All in all, it’s over too soon and not much of it sticks with you, besides the whitewashing scene.  Though cultural prevalence probably has more to do with that than anything.

Huck Finn, on the other hand, is long on substance and has a depth which Tom does not.   This could be, of course, because Twain intended for this story, though about a boy, to be read by adults.  Here is where Twain hits his stride.  There are snippets of genius from the mouth of an “innocent”  in between long stretches where nothing much happens besides the raft floating on south.  (Authors Note:  Does anyone else wonder where they went number two?  In the river I’m supposing. . .).  Here too, is where Twain’s dry humor is given free rein.  This book is made to be tasted slowly and appreciatively, not gorged on in one sitting.  English students, whizzing through the pages to get to the end (and there are many pages, probably too many), are sure to miss the funniest or most poignant parts.  

The Huck in this story is much more interesting.  He shows himself to be far smarter in his own story than in Tom’s.  He’s richer, darker and somehow much more good.  I almost don’t believe that he would have followed Tom into such scrapes as described in Tom.  Tom may be charismatic, but Huck isn’t much of a follower.

My childhood impressions were, for once, in concert with my adults ones. I remember hating Tom Sawyer and loving Huck Finn.  The difference between the two is, to me, so obvious.  Though they are similar on the surface, one is light and airy, but easily forgotten.  The other is much darker, intense and more solid – like choosing between Hugh Grant and Hugh Jackman. 

No contest.

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