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At least the children can write, a little...
am 14. April 1999
It amuses me no end to see so many irate reviews, obviously written by spoiled schoolkids resenting their stoopid 'ol teacher making them read this stoopid 'ol book by some stoopid 'ol dead guy.
There's rich material there for a cynic like Twain, or even more for one the likes of Ambrose Bierce or H. L. Mencken. Tiny, immature, ill formed minds incapable of grasping a truth deeper than Nintendo or Playstation lash out in outrage at a genius who holds up a mirror to expose their ignorance.
The fact is, this is THE American experience of the 19th century, a microcosm of the defining characteristic of our country's beginning and of our national shame and curse. How did a nation, conceived in liberty, holding self evident so many truths about Man's rights, institutionalize the degredation of Black Americans, the utter denial of their very humanity? How could the noble idealistic American eagle ever swallow such a poisonous pill?
Huck's bitter determination to "go to hell" in order to save his friend Jim is to me the most moving and courageous moment in all literature. Huck "knows" that Jim is not really human, that he is mere property, that he has no rights and deserves no consideration, and that Huck's social duty is to return the slave owner's lost property. Yet he knows even more deeply that Jim is his friend, mentor, companion, and in not saving him he will lose his own soul, regardless of what his society holds to be true. Thus Huck makes himself an outcast and outlaw in civilized society, and thus he prefigures the cataclysm of the Civil War, in which this vile contradiction nearly destroyed our nation. All the blood spilled during that war, however, has not expunged our Original Sin, and we have been paying for it ever since, and perhaps always shall.
So try to expand your mind, at least accept the concept that the past is not a Real World episode in period costume, that people of another time did think and talk and act differently, that what "everybody knows" today will surely be as ludicrous a century hence as slavery may seem to us now. Reflect, also, on the courage of those who recognized evil ahead of their time and stood up to it, even though in this case such a hero is a fictionalized semi-literate boy.