Literary Criticism: Other Works By/On Mark Twain

Students who read the novel under a teacher's guidance showed "Significantly greater positive change" than those students who read the novel on their own.

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Our data indicate that students who read the novel as part of an instructional unit demonstrated both a deeper sensitivity to the moral and psychological issues central to the novel a number of which deal with issues of race and a more positive attitude on matters calling for racial understanding and acceptance. These students were also able to interpret the novel with greater literary sophistication than those students who read the novel without instruction. Additionally, these students were significantly more accepting of contacts with Blacks than were the other students involved in the study.

Based on these studies completed eleven years apart I and , it appears that in the right circumstances Huckleberry Finn can be taught without perpetuating negative racial attitudes in white students or undermining racial pride in black students. One has only to run a mental scan across the nation's news headlines to glean a portrait of the present state of American race relations.

Such a glimpse betrays the ambivalence present in the status of blacks and their relations with whites. In "Breaking the Silence," a powerful statement on the plight of the "black underclass," Pete Hamill delineates the duality of the American black experience. Admitting the dismal reality of continued racist behavior, Hamill cites "the antibusing violence in liberal Boston, the Bernhard Goetz and Howard Beach cases in liberal New York, [and] a some places.

Literary Criticism on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay

Hamill's article points to a fundamental fissure in the American psyche when it comes to race. Further, these details suggest that the teaching of Twain's novel may not be the innocent pedagogical endeavor that we wish it to be. When we move from the context into which we want to deposit Huckleberry Finn and consider the nature of the text and its creator, matter becomes even more entangled.

Though devotees love to praise Huckleberry Finn as "a savage indictment of a society that accepted slavery as a way of life" 55 or "the deadliest satire First, the ambiguities of the novel are multiple. The characterization of Jim is a string of inconsistencies.

Huckleberry Finn Literary Criticism

At one point he is the superstitious darky; at another he is the indulgent surrogate father. On the one hand, his desire for freedom is unconquerable; on the other, he submits it to the ridiculous antics of a child. Further, while Jim flees from slavery and plots to steal his family out of bondage, most other slaves in the novel embody the romantic contentment with the "peculiar institution" that slaveholders tried to convince abolitionists all slaves felt.

Twain's equivocal attitude toward blacks extends beyond his fiction into his lifelong struggle with "the Negro question. Leaving slaveholding Missouri seems to have had little effect on his racial outlook, because in he wrote home to his mother from New York, "I reckon I had better black my face, for in these Eastern states niggers are considerably better than white people. In a letter proving that Twain had provided financial assistance to a black student at the Yale University Law School in was discovered and authenticated by Shelley Fisher Fishkin.

Washington in championing several black causes. Instead, this should make it the pith of the American literature curriculum. Active engagement with Twain's novel provides one method for students to confront their own deepest racial feelings and insecurities.

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Though the problems of racial perspective present in Huckleberry Finn may never be satisfactorily explained for censors or scholars, the consideration of them may have a practical, positive bearing on the manner in which America approaches race in the coming century. Notes 1. Sculley Bradley et al. New York: Norton, Nicholas J. Karolides and Lee Burress, eds. This information is based on six national surveys of censorship pressures on the American public schools between 19 6 5 and Most scholars express opinions on whether or not to ban Huckleberry Finn in a paragraph or two of an article that deals mainly with another topic.

Shelley Fisher Fishkin has given the issues much more attention. In addition to authenticating a letter written by Mark Twain that indicates his nonracist views see n. Hitchens 2 5 8. Allan B. Ballard, letter, New York Times 9 May 19 8 z. Fall : 6. Kaplan At this point in his autobiography, Hughes discusses the furor caused by Carl Van Vechten's novel Nigger Heaven, published in See David L.

Fiedler 5. Again, see Smith's essay. Fiedler 6; see also Smith's discussion of this passage. Kaplan ib. Mark Twain, quoted in Woodard and MacCann 76 emphasis added. Woodard and MacCann Hoxie N. Fairchild, letter, New York Times, 14 Sept.


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For a defense of the early Jim as an example of Twains strategy to "elaborate [racial stereotypes] in order to undermine them," see David Smith's essay. Mailloux's discussion of "rhetorical performances" in Huckleberry Finn bears kinship to M.

Critics of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay

Bakhtin's discussion of the function of heteroglossia in the comic novel. In "Discourse on the Novel," Bakhtin identifies two features that characterize "the incorporation of heteroglossia and its stylistic utilization" in the comic novel. Twain himself acknowledges the painstaking attention he paid to language in the novel.

Clearly, through his play with the "posited author" Huck, Twain's motive is to unmask and destroy various socioideological belief systems that are represented by language.


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  • So what Mailloux refers to as rhetorical performance Bakhtin identifies as the heteroglossia struggle. Thus Jim's successful appropriation of Huck's argumentative strategy dismantles the hegemony of white supremacy discourse present as Huck's language. Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel," trans. Mailloux Leo Marx, "Mr.

    Trilling, and Huckleberry Finn," American Scholar 2. Robert Sattelmeyer and J. Donald Crowley Columbia, Mo. James M.

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    Mark Twain Literary Criticism

    Though he ignores Jim and his aspiration for freedom in Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor, in a more recent, related article, "A Hard Book to Take," Cox returns to the evasion sequence and treats Jim's freedom in particular and the concept of freedom in general. He contends that Twain had recognized "the national he [myth] of freedom" and that the closing movement of Huckleberry Finn dramatizes Twain's realization that Jim is not and never will be truly free.

    Further, no one, black or white, is or will be free, elaborates Cox, "despite the fictions of history and the Thirteenth Amendment. Cox, Mark Twain The Effects of Reading "Huckleberry Finn" Pete Hamill, "Breaking the Silence," Esquire Jacqueline James Goodwin, "Booker T. English Journal , Nov. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.

    Huckleberry Finn may be the most exalted single work of American literature. Praised by our best known critics and writers, the novel is enshrined at the center of the American literature curriculum. The most taught novel, the most taught long work, and the most taught piece of American literature, Huckleberry Finn is a staple from junior high where eleven chapters are included in the Junior Great Books program to graduate school. Written in a now vanished dialect, told from the point of view of a runaway fourteen-year-old, the novel conglomerates melodramatic boyhood adventure, farcical low comedy, and pointed social satire.

    Yet at its center is a relationship between a white boy and an escaped slave, an association freighted with the tragedy and the possibility of American history. Linking their complaints with the efforts of other groups to influence the curriculum, we English teachers have seen the issue as one of censorship, defending the novel and our right to teach it.