I reread this classic of American Literature while I was on a road trip across many Western American States. I have several thoughts, most of which are easily summed up by the fact that, the last time I read this book I was twelve or thirteen. Upon reflection, I realized that the N-bomb was not a word I should be dropping, but I didn’t quite realize why. It’s a catchy word. It rolls easy off the tongue. It’s problematic. I didn’t realize when I was in middle school that the real problem with the word was it’s history. It was a word that was used to label a great many individuals as chattel rather than people. Now, Mr. Twain, for all his white privilege seems to have figured a way to cut to the heart of this problematic term and it’s common use in a piece of fiction firmly couched within that historical moment between the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War. He wrote the story as a first person narrative from the point of view of a largely uneducated boy who himself has had to escape his drunken, abusive father by faking his own death.
I don’t want to be an apologist for Huck Finn’s choice of words, but here I am, trying to excuse it by saying he didn’t really have any more appropriate words in his vocabulary. So I guess I’m being an apologist. Mark Twain, makes a creative decision that, as much as anything else, adds verisimilitude to this wild account of two people pooling their resources to escape the forces that would carelessly exploit them.
I’m not going to go on and on, because this is, after all, the internet. No one really wants to stare at any page that long. They just want to scroll on to the cat gif. So I’ll keep it short. Over the course of this book, Huck Finn becomes more than a little bit woke. Tom Sawyer, on the other hand, is pretty much a jerk.