Some things are always good, no matter how much time passes. Classic rock, classic jeans and literary classics including “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain are just some of the things I love.
The book club I’m in chose this book to read and we discussed it today. I had read it more than 20 years ago as a high school student in Michigan. I wasn’t sure if I would still like it or find it relevant in today’s day and age of texting, Twitter, reality TV and “helicopter” parents. The world’s much more complicated, more enlightened in many ways, but more dangerous in other ways.
I was happy to find I loved the book as a modern woman, reading it merely for pleasure and not so I could come up with a snappy, five-paragraph essay as a 15-year-old girl back in the day.
There are few authors who are as eloquent and humorous as Twain. I love how he made me laugh with passages about sad situations that should have made me cry, including Huck’s father’s drunken rants and escapades. Twain had a talent for weaving humor and tragedy together in a way that’s realistic and insightful. In one chapter, when Huck was taken in by the Grangerford family, he was looking at morbid pictures and poems created by Emmeline Grangerford, who died as a teenager. I was struck with the sadness of her untimely death, when I read Huck in his trademark, straight-shooting manner saying “I reckoned that with her disposition she was having a better time in the graveyard” and I laughed out loud. Twain knew how to use dark humor years before we were inundated with it in today’s vampire movies and the 1988 film “Heathers.”
Besides the humor, Twain touches on racism in this classic. As one member of the book club wisely said, “Huckleberry Finn” is an “anti-racism” book. The dialogue and references to slaves’ lives and how they were treated are disturbing and made me cringe. I think that’s just what Twain wanted us to feel to realize how unjust life was for African Americans at that time. Twain smartly used the character Jim and his friendship with Huck to show how getting to know people from other backgrounds can erase stereotypes and fear. He created a beautiful tale of friendship between Jim and Huck.
“Huckleberry Finn” touches on so many topics important today. I can relate to the boy’s spirit of adventure and feeling like he doesn’t quite fit in given societal expectations. The topics of racism, family relationships, loneliness and struggling to make a living are as relevant today as they were in the 1800s.
I can only hope I could write something some day that will be enjoyed and analyzed more than 100 years from now. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying the classics.