Mark Twain - Huckleberry Finn

What do writers say about ‘Huckleberry Finn’? #MarkTwain

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You may already be familiar with the historical controversies surrounding The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. But, what specifically, have writers said about the infamous novel (that has been so frequently banned and challenged in classrooms and libraries)? Read more about what writers have said…

It would take T.S. Eliot to make the lines so inexplicably flow, perfecting capturing what the novel is and becomes. The novel becomes a force to be reckoned with… T. S. Eliot wrote about Huckleberry Finn, saying:

“It is Huck who gives the book style. The River gives the book its form. But for the River, the book might be only a sequence of adventures with a happy ending. A river, a very big and powerful river, is the only natural force that can wholly determine the course of human peregrination…. Thus the River makes the book a great book… Mark Twain is a native, and the River God is his God.”

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald is usually best known for The Great Gatsby, his discussion of Huckleberry Finn tends toward a realistic slant. Here, too, we’re reminded of why The Great Gatsby is such a Great American novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1935) wrote:

“Huckleberry Finn took the first journey back. He was the first to look back at the republic from the perspective of the west. His eyes were the first eyes that ever looked at us objectively that were not eyes from overseas. There were mountains at the frontier but he wanted more than mountains to look at with his restive eyes–he wanted to find out about men and how they lived together. And because he turned back we have him forever.”

Hemingway’s appraisal of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most famous. Ernest Hemingway wrote:

“The good writers are Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain. That’s not the order they’re good in. There is no order for good writers…. All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

Hamlin Hill (1985) says:

“We are aware that Huck cannot live comfortably in any of the worlds he inhabits. He searches for a father he cannot find, having killed, at least symbolically, the legal one. He cannot find a home, at Widow Douglas’s, in Pap’s cabin, on Jackson’s Island, at the Grangerfords, on the raft, or at the Phelps plantation, either because none of his worlds is insulated from outside interference or because he loses them to circumstance or expediency. The entire structure of the novel is one of frustrated attempt to escape from restrictions only to find the refuge susceptible to invasion and destruction. Judith Loftus’s husband is ‘after us’; the slave-hunters and the Duke and Dauphin violate the pastoral immunity of the raft; Tom Sawyer appears at the Phelpses to orchestrate an attempt at freedom.”

In The Smart SetH. L. Mencken wrote:

“I believe that ‘Huckleberry Finn’ is one of the great masterpieces of the world, that it is the full equal of ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ that it is vastly better than ‘Gil Blas,’ ‘Tristram Shandy,’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ or ‘Tom Jones. I believe that it will be read by human beings of all ages, not as a solemn duty but for the honest love of it, and over and over again, long after every book written in American between the years 1800 and 1860, with perhaps three exceptions, has disappeared entirely save as a classroom fossil. I believe that Mark Twain had a clearer vision of life, that he came nearer to its elementals and was less deceived by its false appearances, than any other American who has ever presumed to manufacture generalizations, not excepting Emerson. I believe that, admitting all his defects, he wrote better English, in the sense of cleaner, straighter, vivider, saner English, than either Irving or Hawthorne. I believe that four of his books–‘Huck,’ ‘Life on the Mississippi,’ ‘Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven,’ and ‘A Connecticut Yankee’–are alone worth more, as works of art and as criticisms of life, than the whole output of Cooper, Irving, Holmes, Mitchell, Stedman, Whittier and Bryant. I believe that he was the true father of our national literature, the first genuinely American artist of the royal blood.”

Eric Solomon (1985) said:

“Huckleberry Finn himself is the most American of heroes: he is the boy-man in a male world… and solitary–alone even among others, a first-person narrator who is at home in nature and, like Cooper’s Natty Bumppo, at a loss in town, yet as able to cope with the venality and evil of knaves as any Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler version of the Scout. As alienated as a James Baldwin youth, and as deeply engaged in the search for a proper father as a Faulkner boy, Huck Finn, an American orphan… is, above all, a lonely survivor, one who accommodates to his changing world…”

What would you say about Huck Finn?

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Esther is a full-time freelancer, who draws upon her background to deliver fun and compelling stories. To her, the story and the vehicle(s) of expression are important, but sometimes it's just as essential to explore those areas just outside one's comfort zone. She loves to jump head-first into that deep ravine, and discover where her parachute will take her.


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