It’s been quite a while since I read this great old classic. I have a fondness in my heart for the book as I do about stories featuring children of this age group. But I did fear I might not like it as much now that I have read so many other adventure books (The Graveyard by Neil Gaiman, for one) under my belt. Fortunately, Huck didn’t disappoint me.
As most of you know, this book is the tale of a 13-year-old-boy in Missouri in about the 1870s. Huck’s mother is dead and his father is an abusive drunk who is seldom around. Huck is living with Widow Douglas in a clean house with nice clothing, good food, school and church.
Having to behave himself, go to school and church is just too much for Huck. Its not “normal.” He longs for his freedom and the ability to go where he wants, when he wants. So Huck runs away. Also running away is Jim, a slave that belongs to a neighbor woman. They didn’t plan to run away together, but they both end up on an island in the Mississippi River and end up traveling down the river from there.
Huck and Jim look out for each other, which is good. They need each other because, as they learn, there is quite a bit of danger and evil in the world. The two travel by raft and sometimes a canoe and meet a wide variety of characters. There is a family in the middle of a feud, numerous villagers and farm folk, and an amazing pair of con-men.
The con-men are the King and the Duke. They specialize in fleecing people in small towns out of their cash. Huck is forced to fall in with them for a while, but he really doesn’t like or trust them. Although they are dishonest, they do provide a lot of entertainment and adventure.
Coming back to this novel after so many years did cause me to see some things I didn’t remember seeing before. The racism and frequent use of the “n” word surprised me. Although it was years after the civil war, slavery was still openly practiced with no talk about it being illegal. This time I also noticed Huck’s growing sense of morality. He wrestled with the idea that he should turn in Jim as a runaway slave. He couldn’t do it, however, as he begins to see Jim as a fellow human being and a friend.
There is so much to think and talk about in this novel. It has great discussion material for any age group, from both historical and philosophical points of view. The literature itself can also keep a discussion going for a long time. The story is written as a conversation with all the regional colloquialisms, which I liked. I felt a part of what was going on.
If you haven’t read this old classic in a while, I suggest you give i a try. It definitely fits into a good summer reading list.