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Huckleberry Finn (Usborne Classics Retold) Paperback – 23 Feb 2007

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1,110 reviews
979 of 1,013 people found the following review helpful
A controversial masterpiece 11 Feb. 2000
By JLind555 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Okay, we all know the plot, so there's no sense in rehashing it; but this book has generated a great deal of heat and very little light lately, it's been banned in some school districts and attacked as racist garbage, so this review will address the question: Is "Huckleberry Finn", in fact, a racist book?

The charge of racism stems from the liberal use of the N word in describing Jim. Some black parents and students have charged that the book is humiliating and demeaning to African-Americans and therefore is unfit to be taught in school. If there has been a racist backlash in the classroom, I think it is the fault of the readers rather than the book.

"Huckleberry Finn" is set in Missouri in the 1830's and it is true to its time. The narrator is a 13 year old, semi-literate boy who refers to blacks by the N-word because he has never heard them called anything else. He's been brought up to see blacks as slaves, as property, as something less than human. He gets to know Jim on their flight to freedom (Jim escaping slavery and Huck escaping his drunken, abusive father), and is transformed. Huck realizes that Jim is just as human as he is, a loving father who misses his children, a warm, sensitive, generous, compassionate individual. Huck's epiphany arrives when he has to make a decision whether or not to rescue Jim when he is captured and held for return to slavery. In the culture he was born into, stealing a slave is the lowest of crimes and the perpetrator is condemned to eternal damnation. By his decision to risk hell to save Jim, he saves his own soul. Huck has risen above his upbringing to see Jim as a friend, a man, and a fellow human being.

Another charge of racism is based on Twain's supposed stereotyping of Jim. As portrayed by Twain, Jim is hardly the ignorant, shuffling Uncle Tom that was so prevalent in "Gone With the Wind" (a book that abundantly deserves the charge of racism). Jim may be uneducated, but he is nobody's fool; and his dignity and nobility in the face of adversity is evident throughout the book.

So -- is "Huckleberry Finn" a racist book? No. It's of its time and for its time and ours as well, portraying a black man with sensitivity, dignity, and sympathy. If shallow, ignorant readers see Jim as a caricature and an object of derision, that's their problem. Hopefully they may mature enough in their lifetime to appreciate this book as one of the greatest classics of American literature.

And for those who might be wondering -- this reviewer is black.

Judy Lind
110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
Twain at his best! 23 Aug. 2004
By Dennis Phillips - Published on
Format: Paperback
Back during my school days this was still not a book that was considered to be politically incorrect and so I was supposed to read it. As was far too often the case, I got by on little more than watching the movie version and never bothered to read this masterpiece. A few months ago I picked up a copy to put in my library for my grandson to use when he got old enough to go to school. Unfortunately this has been classified as a children's book and so I had little intention of reading it when I bought it.

After discussing a book about President Grant and Mark Twain with a friend I decided that I should read this book and I soon found out just how much of an adventure I had been missing. Twain's well deserved reputation as a storyteller is on clear display in this book from cover to cover. The reader is drawn into the lives of the characters to the point of being really disturbed when something bad happens to them. Sure, they steal and they lie but you will love them in spite of everything.

The story basically follows the adventures of young Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim. Finn is trying to escape has father and the efforts of the townspeople to civilize him while Jim is trying to escape slavery. More to the point, Jim is trying to escape being sold down the river, which was always a worry for slaves in the upper south.

There is a strong moral point to this book as Huck slowly learns to love Jim as a friend and not think of his skin color. Early on Huck is worried about helping a runaway slave and isn't sure what to do. Having been raised in Missouri, Huck has been taught that helping a slave run away is one of the worst sins imaginable and that African-Americans are pretty much worthless except as slaves. It takes a while for the truth to come to Huck but he finds that he is determined to help his friend get his freedom, no matter what. Huck ends up risking his own life to do just that.

This book is a pure joy to read and I suggest you read it without looking for a political agenda. Just let the story flow and enjoy each word. The dialects used may slow you down a bit at first but they add so much to the flow of the book that they are quite indispensable. This is a wonderful story, full of youthful innocence and backwoods charm. Just one little warning though, once you start reading you won't be able to put this book down.
80 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Not formated properly for Kindle 8 Jan. 2011
By tracy - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While I have no complaints about
Twain I do have to fault this version
of his
book as it is impossible to read on
the Kindle
because of improper formatting. Every
page looks
like this and that makes it very
to read.

I tried changing the font sizes and
the line
spacing as well as the orientation
of the
pages but I still could not get this
file to flow properly. Whatever
is responsible for formatting this for
Kindle needs to try again, because this
just does
not work.

I downloaded the Original Unabridged
Tom Sawyer
at the same time and that version
has the
same issue with the hard line breaks
into the formatting. Hopefully
else can put out better versions of
books that will be easier to read
on the
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Edition of a Classic Work 31 July 2002
By mp - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mark Twain's 1885 novel, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," has had a long history, during which it has been and still is both reviled and celebrated. Essentially the story of the picaresque travels and adventures of a young Missouri boy and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, in 1840's America. Taking cues from books like "Don Quixote" and Jonathan Swift's works, and a fraught relationship to Sir Walter Scott's historical romances and those of his protege, James Fenimore Cooper, Twain constructs a masterful first person narrative, through the eyes of 14 year old Huckleberry and a profound and hilarious satire on American culture.
"Huckleberry Finn" begins in tension - Huckleberry's fortune and wardship with the well-meaning widow Douglas has him in a bind. The widow wants to 'sivilize' him, taking him out of the happy go lucky, easy going lifestyle he loves, while his fortune of six thousand dollars has him living in perpetual anxiety of his father, a violent drunkard whose absence only makes Huck more anxious about his return. When Huck's pap does return, sure enough, Huck is remanded, more or less, to Pap's custody, and kept prisoner in a secluded cabin. Though he is no longer being 'sivilized,' his time with Pap becomes more and more tense and lonely, driving Huck to stage his own death and run away from Pap and from civilization. Early in his escape, on a small island in the Mississippi River, he meets Jim, a slave from his town of St. Petersburg, who has run away, planning to raise money in the north to buy his family out of slavery. Together, Jim and Huck form a friendship that will take them up and down and all around the Mississippi River.
"Huckleberry Finn" deals with a great many social issues, and none more interestingly than with conventional morality. With Huck, he effectively creates an outside position from which to view American culture as he sees it, with all of its pretentions and faults. Huck doesn't put much stock in widow Douglass' or Miss Watson's strictly defined notions of religion or morality - throughout the novel, we see him in constant conflict with himself over the fine line between what is considered right and wrong, and what is accepted as such. Huck's inner negotiations with prayer and morality, good and evil, are at the heart of the novel. His post-Emersonian, proto-Nietzschean manner of dealing with himself and his relationship to society is fascinating and compelling. His relationship with the runaway slave Jim, of course, is also a focal point of the novel - the ways in which Jim and Huck depend on and care for each other is both moving and of course, socially and politically suggestive and significant, especially in the historical context of the novel, both the setting, prior to the Civil War, and its published era, at the tail end of Reconstruction. Those who would be offended by racial epithets in common parlance during this time period would be advised to take historical context into account before railing against the novel's racial politics - if one gets unduly caught up in nitpicking such things, one falls into the trap of the satire, become a target in the process.
As satire or black comedy, "Huckleberry Finn" has at every moment the ability to make us laugh out loud at ourselves and at the situations in the novel - from the fraudulent actions of the King and the Duke, to Tom Sawyer's needlessly elaborate scheme to free Jim from slavery, to well-born cultured families feuding, to all the cross-dressing that goes on in the novel (and there is a lot of it!). Again, though, as black comedy, we may often catch ourselves laughing, then wondering, hey, that isn't very funny - this is the brilliance of Twain's artistic achievement; to make us laugh while looking critically at ourselves. A book that is uniquely American, Twain's humour, wit, and style contribute to give us a look at both Antebellum and post-Reconstruction America through the eyes of innocence and experience, to see how far the nation had come since the days of Washington, and how far it still had (and has) to go.
This 1998 Norton Critical Third edition of "Huckleberry Finn" is truly amazing. It restores the entire text from the manuscript, including among other things, the "Raftsman's episode" and all of the original illustrations. The supplementary materials in this edition are top-shelf also, with excerpts covering the controversy surrounding the novel, from its publication to the present. The critical selections are excellent as well, especially the incisive and yet startlingly personal essays by T.S. Eliot and Toni Morrison. This is probably the best current edition out there of this tremendous, and tremendously complicated American classic.
108 of 120 people found the following review helpful
Shameful and pathetic... 5 Jan. 2011
By Bigmouth - Published on
Format: Paperback
It's shameful and pathetic that any publisher would presume to censor Mark Twain by sanitizing Huckleberry Finn as Barron's has done. I urge anyone who loves literature to boycott this travesty of an edition.
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