Monday, September 26, 2011

Celebrate the Freedom to Read: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain

Wayne Dowdy celebrates

I have read this book often during the course of my life and each time I learn something new about the world I live in. As a child I identified with Huck’s outsider status and was thrilled by the adventures he and Jim experienced floating on the river. For years I dreamed of building my own raft and taking it downtown so I could escape down the Mississippi and disappear into the Indian Territory. As a young adult I was shocked at the racist cruelty inflicted on the runaway slave Jim, even by his friends Huckleberry and Tom Sawyer. Like Huck, I ignored the evil embedded in the adventure story the first time around.

When I read it again through an adult’s eyes I realized that Twain was exposing, and even ridiculing, slavery. In many ways Jim is the most intelligent and human of the book's characters and it is through him that we learn how wicked slavery truly was. The reader is not the only one who discovers this fact. Huck eventually comes to the conclusion that his friendship with Jim is far more important than the guilt he feels for undermining slavery by helping Jim to escape. When he decides he’d rather go to hell than betray Jim, Huckleberry Finn not only condemns racism and slavery, he also celebrates the triumph of simple human kindness over a barbarous institution.

-- Wayne Dowdy, Central Library


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