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on 13 January 2011
It is interesting that my reading of Mark Twain's classic stories has coincided with a literary argument about a newly published version that has censored some of the terms that are not politically correct in the modern world (I should emphasise that this is the original version with the naughty words). I am sure opinion is divided about such a move, but I cannot help but feel that such words, incorrect as they are now considered, should not be removed from masterpieces that were written so long ago. Many students have grown up on a diet of compulsory books that were poured over at school, of which Mark Twain's often featured, and surely the debate over slavery and racist terminology is one that everybody should be exposed to.

Of course, this aspect is a minor part of a collection of stories that paint an endearing picture of mid 19th century smalltown USA. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are a mischievous pair, always thinking up new games and having the kind of childhood that many an adult would wish to have copied. The book gives a real insight into how their community functioned, the spirit that bound it together and the rules upon which it was built. The language used is, by Twain's own admission, his take on the many dialects from the Mississippi basin, and whilst it does not always flow as smoothly as modern English, it is easy to understand. It is not for me to pass judgement on the quality of the books, there are many people who are far more qualified than me to do that, but the stories are simple, beautifully written and draw the reader into a world that we have left behind.

I never read this at school, but wish that I had.
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on 25 August 2004
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 to 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.
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VINE VOICEon 8 September 2010
Tom Sawyer (TS) of course is the idealised half of the story, recounting glorious days, and childhood escapades : oozing innocence and nostalgia from every sentence. There is an undeniable charm and sweetness to this perfect world, where good always triumphs, and where each chapter is as benign as the stuff you might find in Tom's pocket: "a piece of blue bottle glass to look through... a fragment of chalk... four pieces of orange peel..."

From witnessing murder, to being stuck in caves, the reader never suspects a bad ending for anyone but the baddies themselves. Tom is always utterly safe. I suspect that's why we readers love TS, because it takes us to the idyllic childhood we all wish we'd had, but that can never truly have existed... envisioned as it is in a vacuum, free from danger, free from conscience.

Writing Huckleberry Finn (HF) a few years later, the author was unwilling to repeat this feat. Although there is humour and boyish-shenanigans aplenty, Twain was no longer able to ignore the racism in America at that time, nor indeed "whitewash" slavery from this work as he had TS. Twain uses his "sequel" to focus on the escaped slave Jim, and his search for freedom, recalled through the eyes, and more importantly, the rhythmic vernacular of Huck.

Many scholars now read HF as a satire of American attitudes at the time; the farcical treatment of Jim towards the end of the novel is seen as a parallel to the continued gross injustices suffered by the black population after the abolition of slavery. It is Jim's kindness and compassion that shines through, whilst Huck struggles throughout with his own (and society's) views towards slavery in the light of the reality of Jim. Opponents cite the use of the "n" word, and humour at Jim's expense, as being proof that Twain did nothing more than repeat and condone stereotypes of the time, but this seems the knee-jerk response of a rather cursory reading. Regardless, there's no doubt that Twain felt guilt on behalf of his nation: it's a fact that he paid the tuition fees for one of the first black students to study Law at Yale, writing: "We have ground the manhood out of them, & the shame is ours...".

I appreciate this is a rather serious review for a book often cited as being for children, but I think the absence/presence of race and slavery are vital to a deeper understanding of the works. I do recommend buying an edition that includes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: reading only one of these novels would do them both, and the author, an injustice.
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Tom Sawyer is the first great coming of age American novel. In addition, Tom Sawyer is one of the most endearing characters in American fiction. This wonderful book deals with all the challenges that any young person faces, and resolves them in exciting and unusual ways.
Like many young people, Tom would rather be having fun than going to school and church. This desire to enjoy life is always getting him into trouble, from which he finds unusual and imaginative solutions. One of the great scenes in this book has Tom persuading his friends to help him whitewash a fence by making them think that nothing could be finer than doing his punishment for playing hooky from school. When I first read this story, it opened up my mind to the potential power of persuasion.
Tom also is given up for dead and has the unusual experience of watching his own funeral and hearing what people really thought of him. That's something we all should be able to do. By imagining what people will say at our funeral, we can help establish the purpose of our own lives. Mark Twain has given us a powerful tool for self-examination in this wonderful sequence.
Tom and Huck Finn also witness a murder, and have to decide how to handle the fact that they were not supposed to be there and their fear of retribution from the murderer, Injun Joe.
Girls are a part of Tom's life, and Becky Thatcher and he have a remarkable adventure in a cave with Injun Joe. Any young person will remember the excitement of being near someone they cared about alone in this vignette.
Tom stands for the freedom that the American frontier offered to everyone. His aunt Polly represents the civilizing influence of adults and towns. Twain sets up a rewarding novel that makes us rethink the advantages of both freedom and civilization. In this day of the Internet frontier, this story can still provide valuable lessons about listening to our inner selves and acting on what they have to say. Enjoy looking for fun in new ways!
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on 10 December 2000
My mum read this to me (aged 8) and my brother (aged 10). We thought it was very funny and all the adventures Huck had were really cool. I liked the part where he said: "Telling the truth is like sitting on a keg of gunpowder and lighting it just to see where you'll go". It made us laugh a lot. We learnt a lot about superstitions, like touching a snakeskin brings bad luck, and a hairy chest makes you rich. But it wasn't funny to find out about how people used to think about slaves.
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on 6 June 2010
I bought his book for my husband who mentioned he had read Huckleberry Finn as a boy and had loved it. As this had the prequel "Tom Sawyer" included I thought he would like to read it again. I was right. He was delighted and has spent each evening chuckling away saying to me how funny it is. One note of warning, Mark Twain wrote this book a long long time ago and uses politically inappropriate language for the black people in the story but, if you can overlook this, it is a great book.
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on 21 July 2005
This is an enjoyable book with language used by olden day children, which gives excellent effect. It has thrilling and exciting chapters and adventures which are sometimes funny, strange or even scary. Mark Twain used a lot of adjectives to describe scenes, settings and characters. Something like "In a DREARY mood". He made the book Adventurous, Funny and Legendary. The characters in the book are well described and sounded really interesting. Mark Twain also used strong verbs and adverbs to make the story come to life. I think a lot of people would enjoy reading it.
I would recommend that children aged 10-13 to read this book. However people younger or older can as easily enjoy it as much as anyone else.
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on 5 January 2008
For some reason I decided to re-read this over Christmas (I hadn't read it since I was at school) and I'm so glad I did because it was much more fun and far more interesting and perceptive than I remembered.

It draws a picture of a time and place I know little about but seemed utterly convincing and I was really struck by the amount of superstition the characters in the book displayed - adults as well as children. Parts of it reminded me of my own childhood (in Essex - a long way from the Mississippi!), parts of it were very touching and parts of it were laugh out loud funny.

It's a gentle read, and the writing is both stylish and wry. I'm going to re-read Huck Finn as soon as I get time!
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It's my birthday on the 4th of July and lucky me I got an early present. My wife has bought me a Kindle. So I have been downloading all the books I want to read in the next few months. I did a blog on the TV series Huckleberry Finn and his Friends and have always planned to read the Mark Twain novel. Well I have now read it and am very aware of the debate that is ongoing on the necessity to remove all traces of the word "nigger" from the books. I make this clear now. I am not a racist. But I am also not one to beat around the bush and hide words with obvious meanings. Mark Twain used this word many times in this book and I'm not going to disguise it by using the "n" word etc.

Over a hundred years ago we all know of the treatment the black people received at the hands of the white man. It is a history that should leave an uncomfortable feeling for every generation of people. Great spokesman like Martin Luther King summed it up in his speech "All men are free and equal". It is such a shame that it took years for us to realise this and it is amazing that white on black racism is happening today. The question I ask though is ... Is it right to forget this ever happened and sweep it under the carpet.?

With the new edition of Huckleberry Finn censoring the word "Nigger" to "Slave" they are effectively teaching our new generations that the persecution never happened. What is more ironic about this debate is that the book itself is Anti-racist. It tells the story of a slave trying to gain his freedom with the help of his friend Huckleberry Finn.

As stated earlier, when people hear this word they should be ashamed, they should be uneasy. We should all nod our heads and acknowledge the atrocities that us as a human species dictated to a race of people. Sugar coating it for a new generation is wrong and I'm sure in time the treatment of black people in our history will be forgotten if actions like this continue. We should never let this happen, just like we should never forget what happened to the Jews in the holocaust.

Our history is here to teach us our mistakes. Looking to our future I feel the same as Morgan Freeman. Perhaps if we focused more on what we can achieve as a people and less on what ethnic race we belong to the world may start to become a better place.
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on 27 February 2006
Huckleberry Finn is illustrative of the world, not only in the cosmopolitan characters entering and leaving the story, but also in the way people react to it. One reaction is that it is a racist novel, mentioning the word nigger 121 times. The people who interpret the novel in this way seem only glance at the surface and delve no deeper. They probably do this in all other aspects of their life. The second type of person will look deeper, as though delving into the depths of the Mississippi River setting. They will see past the racism of Huckleberry Finn himself as Huck comments on the definite signs of humanity and equality in Jim. They will see the underlying message, of how he is the product of a terrible system and look into the other messages encountered in the journey of the book. To this type of person no other novel can be so fascinating, yet remain humorous all the while.
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