Those voices can greatly enrich students' understanding of both the issues Huckleberry Finn raises and the vernacular style in which it raises them. It is a book that puts on the table the very questions the culture so often tries to bury, a book that opens out into the complex history that shaped it -- the history of the ante-bellum era in which the story is set, and the history of the post-war period in which the book was written -- and it requires us to address that history as well. Indeed, it is to avoid confronting the raw pain of that history that black parents sometimes mobilize to ban the novel.Tags: How To Write A Report AssignmentEssays On Theme In The CrucibleBachelor Schreiben LassenGeorgetown College Application EssaysWhy Is Cheating Bad In School EssayDissertation BindenEssay ChoosingOwl Chemistry HomeworkAbstract Of Research Proposal
Huck's voice, combined with Twain's satiric genius, changed the shape of fiction in America, and African-American voices had a great deal to do with making it what it was. Du Bois was right that the problem of the twentieth century is the color line, one would never know it from the average secondary-school syllabus, which often avoids issues of race almost completely.
Expose your students to the work of some of Twain's African-American contemporaries, such as Frederick Douglass, Charles Chesnutt, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Like a Trojan horse, however, Huck Finn can slip into the American literature classroom as a "classic," only to engulf students in heated debates about prejudice and racism, conformity, autonomy, authority, slavery and freedom.
She is President of the Mark Twain Circle of America and editor of the 19-volume Oxford Mark Twain. Despite the fact that it is the most taught novel and most taught work of American literature in American schools from junior high to graduate school, Huckleberry Finn remains a hard book to read and a hard book to teach.
Adapted from a talk given at the July 1995 Summer Teachers' Institute at The Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut. The difficulty is caused by two distinct but related problems.
First, one must understand how Socratic irony works if the novel is to make any sense at all; most students don't. I think under most circumstances, however, they are obstacles you can deal with.
Secondly, one must be able to place the novel in a larger historical and literary context -- one that includes the history of American racism and the literary productions of African-American writers -- if the book is to be read as anything more than a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (which it both is and is not); most students can't. It is impossible to read Huck Finn intelligently without understanding that Mark Twain's consciousness and awareness is larger than that of any of the characters in the novel, including Huck.If we lived in a world in which racism had been eliminated generations before, teaching Huck Finn would be a piece of cake. The difficulties we have teaching this book reflect the difficulties we continue to confront in our classrooms and our nation.As educators, it is incumbent upon us to teach our students to decode irony, to understand history, and to be repulsed by racism and bigotry wherever they find it. It's unfair to force one novel to bear the burden -- alone -- of addressing these issues and solving these problems. Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Professor of American Studies and English at the University of Texas, is the author of Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (Oxford University Press, 1997) and Was Huck Black?Mark Twain and African American Voices (Oxford University Press, 1993).By the time he wrote Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Clemens had come to believe not only that slavery was a horrendous wrong, but that white Americans owed black Americans some form of "reparations" for it.One graphic way to demonstrate this fact to your students is to share with them the letter Twain wrote to the Dean of the Yale Law School in 1885, in which he explained why he wanted to pay the expenses of Warner Mc Guinn, one of the first black law students at Yale.These two problems pose real obstacles for teachers. Indeed, part of what makes the book so effective is the fact that Huck is too innocent and ignorant to understand what's wrong with his society and what's right about his own transgressive behavior. One must be skeptical about most of what Huck says in order to hear what Twain is saying.In a 1991 interview, Ralph Ellison suggested that critics who condemn Twain for the portrait of Jim that we get in the book forget that "one also has to look at the teller of the tale, and realize that you are getting a black man, an adult, seen through the condescending eyes -- partially -- of a young white boy." Are you saying, I asked Ellison, "that those critics are making the same old mistake of confusing the narrator with the author?I chose this site for affordable prices and excellent support. People come to us to get assistance with their academic tasks and get just that.We do not ask why you are unable or not willing to do it on your own once you contact us with words like “Help me do my homework.” You must have your reasons, and our main concern is that you end up getting a good grade.