I knew that I was in for something special when the book began thus:
Most people know the story of Huckleberry Finn. The back of my penguin edition states "when Huck escapes from his drunken father and the 'sivilizing' Widow Douglas with the runaway slave Jim, he embarks on a series of adventures that draw him to feuding families and the trickery of the unscrupulous 'Duke' and 'Dauphin'".
I have gone through several drafts of this review attempting express the breadth of issues that Twain so magnificently weaves into his tale about little Huckleberry's adventures. Twain shows us everything from the worst side of human behaviour such as slavery and child abuse, to the generosity of spirit displayed by even the most beaten and downtrodden of individuals. The penguin book states it thus: "Beneath the exploits, however, are more serious undercurrents - of slavery, adult control and, above all, of Huck's struggle between his instinctive goodness and the corrupt values of society, which threaten his deep and enduring friendship with Jim".
In the character of Huckleberry Finn, Twain has perfectly combined the full range of human nature. I loved seeing his character unfold throughout his many adventures. At time I wanted to reach out and hug him and other times I was deeply challenged by the views and feelings he expressed.
I was held captive by the story as I waited to see which part of Huckleberry would triumph: the part effected by the "corrupt values of society" or his "instinctive goodness" that meant that Huckleberry was able to see Jim as a man in his own right, who deserved a life of his own.
Even if I wanted to ignore Twain's instructions and provide an in depth analysis of all the social issues displayed so realistically and passionately in this book, I would be incapable of doing so. Instead I want to leave you with two of my favourite quotes from the book.
The first is from runaway slave Jim. He has just recounted a story where he gave 10cents to another slave because he had a dream which told him to do so would bring him good luck. Instead, he never sees the money, or any particular good luck, again. The following exchange takes places between Huckleberry and Jim:
"(H) 'Well, it's alright, anyway, Jim, long as you're going to be rich again some time or other'. (J) 'Yes - en I's rich now, come to look at it. I owns myself, en I's wuth eight hundred dollars. I wisht I had de money, I wouldn't want no mo'."It is sad to think of someone assessing their self worth according to how much they are worth at a monetary level and yet I found the way in which Jim is able to see the good through the bad, the fact that he owns himself and is therefore a rich man to be very poignant.
Lastly, my favourite quote from young Huckleberry. This quote so perfectly displays Huckleberry's unfailing childish logic and his honest approach to life and himself. He is recounting the superstitious lessons that he has learnt from Jim when he says:
"Jim said that bees wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because I had tried them lots of times myself, and they wouldn't sting me."
I can't wait to read Huckleberry's adventures over and over again.