Compare and contrast the critiques by Lionel Trilling and Jane Smiley with your own critique of Mark Twain's classic Huckleberry Finn.

Essay by JimFlan24High School, 11th gradeB, January 2004

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published by Mark Twain in 1885 and warned readers that "persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished, persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." (Twain) Shortly following their reading the novel, critics began their arguments as to the quality of the novel. Some, like Lionel Trilling's Introductory to Huckleberry Finn published in 1948, felt that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was "one of the world's great books and one of the central documents of American culture." (Trilling, V) On the other hand, as there is always an opposing view, critics like Jane Smiley who wrote her criticism Say it Ain't So, Huck in Harper's Magazine in January of 1996, feel that "Huckleberry Finn has little to offer in the way of greatness." (Smiley, 62) I agree with Lionel Trilling wholeheartedly.

In terms of the racial implications and its style and structure, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a great novel that perseveres through the critics' misjudgment and prevails as a great piece of American literature.

Smiley calls The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn racist. The character of Jim is said to be "pushed to the side of the narrative, hiding on the raft and confined to it," (Smiley, 63) while the theme of the story is supposed to be the relationship between Huck and Jim. Smiley makes a good point that Huck and Jim don't even consider simply crossing the Mississippi to Illinois, a free state. Smiley feels that "neither Huck nor Twain takes Jim's desire for freedom at all seriously." (Smiley, 63) There is never an effort to simply cross the Mississippi into a free state. Instead, they travel down the Mississippi to...