Monday, December 9, 2013

A worthwhile journey with Huck -- "The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn" Book Review

by: Uel Ceballos

I first saw “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” in animation when I was 7 or 8 years old. That was back in 90’s when such animated TV program was being aired every morning. I followed Huck’s adventure on television together with other animations like “Little Women”, “Princess Sarah”, “Remy”, and a lot of other more. “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” was one of my favorites; I do really love Huck, his character and his passion for adventure. I would love to see that same animation again but I just didn’t know where to find it. Being young then, I only saw the story as simply the fun escapade of a young boy who traveled his way on a raft and met a lot of different persons along his journey. Until now that picture of Huck with his straw hat covering his face while he was lying in all comfort to the branch of a tree is still marked vividly on my memory. Huck’s adventure is something that I will never ever outgrow.

I never fully understand the deeper message of its story until I finally read its novel written by Mark Twain. This classic literature is something that is worth a million times of reading because of its significant themes, cool delivery, and amusing conversations. When I started reading on the first few pages I began to wonder that something might be wrong with my copy because the words and sentences seemed odd and wrong (English language is not my mother tongue thus I’m only familiar with the standard version) until I realized that the book is written all throughout in vernacular English and that never diminish my enjoyment of the novel. This new language experience had in fact amazed me that along my reading I was finally getting used to it as if I’d been there in that same place once and I’m all too familiar with their native way of speaking.

The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn was a sequel to Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Tom Sawyer. The Adventure of Huck told the story of Huck’s exciting journey as he escaped his alcoholic father by faking his own death (this part was really amazing, the way that Huck made it appeared like he was murdered by a trespasser on their cabin). While moving his way on the river through the canoe that he happened to find, he reunited with Jim who was a runaway slave. Another good thing that you would love about Huck is his good heart, though he was white and Jim was black and there were lots of instances that Huck thought bad of himself for keeping a runaway slave, still Huck never surrender Jim because he knew that all Jim wanted is just to be free. Jim was not a bad guy and Huck knew that very well as Jim also stood as his guardian along their voyage. Their friendship grew deeper and as you follow along their journey you would be entertained by their witty debates and arguments.

As a child, one will see this novel as a fun and exciting story of a quest that is equipped with moral lessons about friendship, adventure, and worthwhile childhood. Reading it as a grown up is another thing, because one will definitely see this book of Mark Twain as a parody of the American moral system back in the 19th century wherein Huck was caught up in his era’s social climate. One of the major themes that were being explored in the novel was the issue of slavery which was interconnected with racism. In here one would find out how things were for black people like Jim during that era in the America and probably in other parts of the world; how the blacks were treated inhumanely, being traded and seen as unintelligent and unimportant. This novel had garnered numbers of criticisms, accusing Mark Twain for being racist because he used in here the word “nigger”, had made fun of Jim’s superstitions and beliefs, and made Jim followed passively to whatever Huck and Tom (Tom Sawyer appeared in the latter part of the story to help Huck on his plans) wanted him to do even though the things were obviously ridiculous and nonsense. In my opinion, I didn’t see Mark Twain that way, I believed he was just reflecting the real scenarios through this novel of his – he used “nigger” because that was the way then that most white people addressed the black, and he made Jim followed to Huck and Tom because the black people then knows better than to go against any white folks even though those white people are their closest friends. Meaning, Mark Twain just wrote the book as exactly as what he thought the society was looked like. 

Another theme issue that was being explored here is the feud between families and clans that still exists nowadays in a modern way. This is one of the most sensitive issues that are quite unfit for a young to see or read about. There was a part in the story wherein Huck had lived with a very rich but generous family but this family was in feud with another family for already a long period of time. The rest of what happened is left for you to read and find out but that was really one piece of the story that made me feel so heavy and depressed for Huck’s part. Lots of things come along Huck and Jim’s journey including the “Duke” and “King” who had made Huck’s adventure more thrilling. I came to love not only Huck here but Jim as well for his good intentions and sincere care for Huckleberry Finn.

The novel with its heavy social issues is indeed unhealthy for young minds to read – colloquial words, violence, harsh social environment – but the story of Huck minus those heavy issues is quite perfect to encourage the youth to explore life and get themselves out in the box! 

Another thing that also amazed me about this book is the way that Mark Twain used a young character and exposed him to various social issues that are all beyond his young mind to fully comprehend. In spite of this, Mark Twain found his way to resolve Huck’s supposedly-for-adults conflicts by using the boy’s pure and innocent conscience and that’s really the most admirable part in the story. Such plot technique which was somehow similar to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird set the awkward situation of using young characters in a story and have them directly experience and feel the impact of weighty social issues – some may see this as quite harsh for a literary publication but let’s not forget the fact that such events are what really happen in reality, there’s no use denying it even in literature.

For this novel that is full of controversy but still gaining more respect and fame as years go by, I’ll drink on it with perfect 10 Cups of Latte! Cheers to Huckleberry Finn!!!