Mark Twain,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
(Webster & Co., 1885; Penguin, 2003)

If there's any book out there that needs no introduction (or review, to be honest), it's Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Yet here I am reviewing it. I must admit (not without a fair share of embarrassment) that I just now got around to reading this American classic for the first time. I never had to read it in school, and to some degree I felt pretty familiar with the novel even without having read it -- that's just how popular and important Huck Finn is to the social fabric of America.

Nowadays, with political correctness running amuck all over the nation, many of our young people are told not to read this novel. In fact, legions of voices cry out for poor little Huck Finn, that beloved rascal of literature, to be banned from schools and libraries -- for the crime of using the n-word, a word commonly used by both blacks and whites up and down the Mississippi during Huck's time (not to mention numerous hip-hop artists of today).

Turning a blind eye to the fact that Twain made the slave Jim a noble, human, easygoing fellow with his heart always in the right place (unlike Huck's other companions), the literary fascists contend that this novel is poison to the minds of youngsters. One can only imagine the reaction Twain would have to the hysteria his book incites today (although he would certainly not be surprised, as he had to fight censorship of this book from the date of its publication).

One of the great ironies of the "Ban Huck" brouhaha is that young people will surely find this novel much more entertaining than the vast majority of other literary classics they are asked to read. This is a very funny book, especially once "the duke and the dauphin" arrive on the scene and, later, when Tom Sawyer meticulously plans out Jim's rescue from captivity (no thanks to the captors, who didn't even try to make it as difficult as Tom says it should be). Young readers will also relate to and understand this book, a fact that should give rise to spirited discussions in class. Don't we want our kids to be excited about books and reading?

The more outrageous the hissy fits thrown over the "dangers" of Huck Finn, the more important it is for everyone, young and old alike, to go out and read Twain's novel. Whenever someone tells you not to read something, it's important that you go out there and read it -- and discover whatever it is the book-banning loonies don't want you to know. Prove to them that you are intelligent enough to know the difference between the social values of the past and present, fiction and reality, right and wrong, etc. Think for yourself. Read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

review by
Daniel Jolley

1 September 2007

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