Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Penguin Classics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 2014 edition

Penguin Classics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Mark Twain.  Introduction and Notes by R. Ken Rasmussen. Penguin Group (USA). November 2014. 272 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780143107330.

Penguin has also reissued an edition of the classic novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a tale that has more controversy surrounding it than the Tom Sawyer story penned by Mark Twain.   For this is the story of Huck Finn, a young boy who travels with a runaway slave, Jim, for the purpose of obtaining his freedom.

Huck is fleeing his alcoholic father’s abusive ways, a part of the story that may seem like adventure initially when read at a young age but which becomes a journey surrounded by starkly harsh reality.  Huck’s cheery attitude must be a partial façade that covers over a mass of wounded spirit.  At times those wounds leak out in the cruel way he speaks to Jim.  However, living in a stable family environment is not something Huck can stand as proved by his escape from the widow Douglas. He has something of the “wild” in him, perhaps a tad of his father’s spirit or upbringing than we would admit.  Either way, Huck is beholden to no adult, not even Jim, at least not early on in the story; later both change because of the intimate conversations they have on their dangerous journey down the Mississippi River, including getting involved in a family feud, consorting with thieves, pretending to be his old buddy Tom Sawyer, and much more.

Rasmussen has again penned an interesting introduction in which he explores the “bad boy” image Huck seems to have maintained for as long as it existed, the false comparisons with Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the lack of purpose other than adventure with some morality embedded within the story, and more. 

Huckleberry Finn is a wonderful story about a young adult who shows his simple and unrefined nature over and over in the way he craves but fears danger, his wise nature when he sees through the duplicity of those who claim to care for their slaves (using the “n” word common in that time of history), his own prejudice when he threatens to turn Jim in which would have guaranteed the most brutal punishment possible if not death), and so much more.  They will meet friendly men and women and thieves of every type as they travel downriver.

Reread this new edition and note the genius of Mark Twain who writes stories that can be perceived as just that or with layers of critical satire that forced America to confront its lack of tackling severe problems such as dysfunctional families and parenting, criminal activities pervading every town in America, the acceptable and unacceptable values within the friendships and acquaintances made by Huck, the lack of adult courage that stood out in stark relief through the actions of a young boy, and finally the need to find justice in the most intolerable circumstances of time, without the hindsight of history to help!

This reviewer loves this book and highly recommends it as a first, second or umpteenth read – a TRUE CLASSIC, a MUST READ!

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