Huck Finn: an American Masterpiece Essay
Huck Finn: an American Masterpiece
For more than two centuries, American authors have consistently produced outstanding works that have achieved national acclaim and international recognition. Many of these works have achieved have come to be celebrated as masterpieces in American literature and influential in the shaping of our nation. Since its publication in 1884, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has risen to such a status and has been added to the curriculum of most schools. Unlike any other novel of its time, Mark Twain wrote an organic, realistic story drawn from his own personal struggles with being “sivilized” into the proper manners of society.
He employed several literary techniques and methods to insure that his novel would be considered a classic. Three significant aspects of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn include the use of the vernacular, the use of satire, and the depiction of pastoral life in the South. One significant aspect of Huck Finn is the use of the vernacular. One can’t open the novel without noticing distinctly Southern terms like “bullyragged” and “corn-dodgers. ” This use of the everyday language of the common folk adds a great deal of authenticity and believability to Huck’s adventures.
Each character has his or her own bit of a Southern twang. For example, the Dauphin has a traditional, simple accent when he announces to the Wilks family, “Friends all, my poor brother that lays yonder has done generous by them that’s left behind in the vale of sorrers” (214). Nonetheless, the vernacular is most prominent when Jim speaks. For example, when he explains to Huck why Solomon wasn’t wise, he says, “I doan’ k’yer what de widder say, he warn’t no wise man nuther. He had some er der dad-fetchedes’ I ever see” (100).
In fact, Twain’s novel was far ahead of its times. Something new happened with Huck Finn that had never happened before in American literature. It’s a book that deviated from the well-mannered English tradition of the times. Twain’s novel allows a different kind of writing to happen? a natural, realistic kind of writing that jumps off the page with energy and enthusiasm. Indeed, Huck Finn isn’t a book that can be read. It’s a book that talks. Another well-known aspect of Huck Finn is the use of satire.
Twain uses this to explore and poke fun at many aspects of society, and uses Huck’s actions and thoughts to make things like education and the Wisdom of Solomon seem impractical. Religion is frequently satirized in the novel. When Widow Douglas tells Huck about Moses, Huck thinks to himself why she won’t let him smoke, “Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it” (Twain 3). He doesn’t see the point in worrying about people who died three-thousand years ago.
Twain satirizes religion again when he describes the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords listening to a sermon about brotherly love at church with guns in between their knees. He also satirizes the Victorian culture of the time period. When Huck arrives at the Grangerford mansion, he is in awe at the intricate and ornate artwork in the parlor. He comments, “? there was beautiful curtains on the windows; white with pictures painted on them of castles with vines all down the walls, and cattle coming down to drink” (Twain 134). Twain uses Huck to show his own views of the period.
Scenes like the one describing the clock on the mantelpiece clearly get the message across that the Grangerfords’ furniture and decorations are both tacky and absurd. Indeed, Twain has much to say about society and uses his characters to get his point across. The last noteworthy aspect of Huck Finn is its depiction of pastoral Southern life. Twain mentions several instances where Huck and Jim are free from the social constraints and problems of “sivilized” society, describing vivid scenes that call to mind watching the sunset across a pond as the crickets chirp among the cattails.
Huck and Jim are truly free to do as they wish on the lazy Mississippi. Here, Huck treats Jim as an equal without a care as to what others may think. Before the two run into the Duke and the Dauphin, Twain describes the wind along the water, “Then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers” (Twain 151). This tranquil moment demonstrates that the South isn’t all about slavery and racism. It’s about enjoying life without all the worries and duties.
Thanks to Twain, the American ideal of freedom is Huck and Jim rafting down the Mississippi. Twain also depicts the pastoral ideal when he describes the Phelps’ farm as “Sunday-like” and “hot and sunshiny” (Twain 278). He goes on to depict a picturesque farmhouse and lazy gardens. The pastoral ideal has been used to define the meaning of America since its discovery, and it has not yet lost its hold upon the imagination. Quaint scenes like these resonate in America’s heart, hitting strings that evoke a desperate longing for a laidback, carefree lifestyle.
This truly is the closest thing there is to perfection, and Twain himself felt an affinity with this pastoral Southern life. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will forever be revered as a classic in American literature thanks to his artful style and clever technique. Three significant aspects include the use of the vernacular, the use of satire, and the depiction of pastoral life in the South. These characteristics have made this masterpiece what it is today and have captured the hearts of countless Americans and foreigners alike.
Most importantly, Twain’s work set a precedent for future novelists for years to come through its witty language and unique personality. As author Ernest Hemingway commented, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since” (348). Works Cited Hemingway, Ernest. “All modern American. . . ” The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. Ed. Joseph R. Strayer. 1 vol. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Pocket, 1994.