I’m not sure how I managed to avoid reading… any Mark Twain at all during my school years. It was never assigned, and I was too busy reading various other things, I guess. And after listening to it now, I can tell you I would never have made it through this book even if it were assigned — straight to SparkNotes I would have gone.
This is largely because of the dialect business, which is hard enough to understand as spoken to you via a lovely audiobook narrator, and which, upon opening up my paperback copy of the book, is a little overwhelming in print. It is also because of the distinct lack of plot, which I am getting more accepting of in my old age but would have bored me to tears in high school.
So I cannot really tell you what this book is about, if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading it yourself, except that there’s a kid and he fakes his death and goes off down the Mississippi with a runaway slave. And while he’s doing it, some seriously nutty stuff happens.
But I can tell you that I quite appreciated the book, which I felt portrayed Huckleberry Finn as a very realistic kid, even if his circumstances were not realistic at all. He faced tough decisions that he reasoned his way through as best he could, and went against some of his greatest instincts in doing so. I can definitely get behind that.
And of course, there’s been that whole thing recently about the use of the word “nigger,” which is in fact quite prolific throughout the book. I personally think its use is quite valid, and that “slave” would not have quite the same effect of placing this book solidly in the time period and mindset that Twain is writing about. It’s obviously not a word I’d like to bring back into fashion, but you can’t deny its existence any more than you can deny the fact that Jim was running away from slavery in the first place.
Recommendation: Totally worth a read if you haven’t managed it yet; best if read with a sense of Twain’s sarcasm.