Mark Twain

one of the great authors of all time. Writes about American frontier life and south. Writes during 1800's.

"The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"

This story was written during the time of the Civil war and Abraham Lincoln's death.

The setting is in California. This was largely unsettled and everyone was settling for the gold rush.

The guy wins the contest by stuffing the frog with quail pellets so it can't jump. This story was the first of Twain's trickster figures. Other tricksters in the stories especially Tom and Huck. It is good for the roll of a kid because they like to play pranks. Lying is their way of outsmarting the over bearing beasts we call parents and teachers. Other pranksters Elmer fud and bugs bunny

Huck Finn

It is a sequel to Tom Sawyer. There is no time lapse between the two books. This book is more serious and has deeper issues. It is controversial because of the slavery issue and racism or at least perception of racism. Huck is a character of his time. This book is a book of rags to riches. Huck is not the type of kid you would not want your kids to play with. Huck does not want to be civilized, no school, church. He wants to smoke, drink and swearing. He lies like a rug, is dirty and wears rags. The village wanted him to be civilized when he got money. Trying to bring him into the class. These things made the book controversial.

Popular in south because of dialect; each person has his and her own dialect. Twain wrote the voice of the people. Horatio Alger wrote rags to riches. This is what is wrong with America. Many said no to Huck Finn because Huck was such a bad role model.

They said it would corrupt the minds of the children.  He's worse than MTV!!!!
Huck & his readers are separated by a great divide, the Civil War. One thing that Huck cannot know and that we can't forget is that looming out in front of him is this great conflict. He is dealing with the same issue that the country will in 10-15 years -- slavery. Huck's stance with slavery is a major theme in this book, also intertwined is the stuggle of Huck toward maturity to manhood. It will be defined as his reaction to this institution as it impacts Jim. Here Twain picks out a theme that comes out over and over in his writing issue is what we will about slavery and these heroes do the same thing, abolish slavery. Huck frees this one slave. Lincoln is in the back of Twain's mind during the book. The reason is Lincoln worked on a flat boat to take goods to port down south.  Along the way he saw slavery up close and saw it was wrong.

Huck comes to his maturity with out truly cluing in. He lived in a society that was against abolitionist. He thinks he is wrong about freeing Jim but Jim is his friend so he will do it anyway. Twain is condemning the south not Huck. If Huck were more respectable he would have been able to turn in Jim.

This gets into whether Huck is a reliable or unreliable narrarator. He is writing from a limited perspective he is a kid. We are able to see he is doing the right thing, even though he doesn't think he is doing the right thing.

Huck's growth toward maturity.

According to Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, heroes in myth and fiction typically go through a three-stage process in their growth toward maturity -- separation, initiation, return.  He describes the process this way:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.  (Campbell 30)
The plot of Huck Finn is rather loose at times; nevertheless, it is unified by this theme of separation initiation and return.

Separation - Initiation - Return

We can see Huck go through this process
  1. Separated from his community.
  2. growth experience and initiation
  3. return.

Introduction: life in the community

In order to become a man you have to leave your community. We see Huck going around St. Petersburg, MO, being treated like and acting like a boy.  He goes to school & church and gets into mischief with the other boys, who form a gang led by Tom Sawyer.

Chapter 3

We played robber now and then about a month, and then I resigned. All the boys did. We hadn't robbed nobody, we hadn't killed any people, but only just pretended.

Well Tom found out there was going to be a whole parcel of Spanish merchants and rich A-rabs was going to camp in Cave Hollow with two hundred elephants, and six hundred camels, and over a thousand "sumter" mules, all loaded down with di'monds.

It was really a Sunday school picnic. They busted it up and Huck says oh well they have been enchanted to look like a Sunday school picnic but they are really A-rabs.

We busted it up, and chased the children up the hollow; but never got anything but some doughnuts and jam.

Then the teacher charged in and made them drop everything, busting up the gang.

Tom and Huck are together, and they are both boys at this stage.

I.  Separation

Huck gets separated from the community; his dad kidnaps him. His dad wants the money and it is also jealous and resentful. His dad is thinking that Huck should not be better than him. So his dad locks up Huck. After Huck gets out. Huck and Jim run away. In order to become independent you have to leave. Huck goes down the river; we see his growth develop in stages.

II.  Initiation

The Mississippi River is where Huck grows up.  He is on his own & must grow up fast to take care of himself & Jim.  Along with other stuff in the novel, there is an over all progress of Huck's character.

    A.  Lost in the Fog

The first moment of his growth occurs in chapter 15. Their plan all along is to hang a left at Cairo, Illinois. But they keep going south because of the fog. The fog is a symbol of Huck's moral lapse here. They get separated in the fog, Jim is on the raft and Huck is in the canoe. After awhile it clears up. He decides to go down stream to try and catch up with it. It was a monstrous big river and he looked down stream and saw a black speck here and a black speck there and it was the raft.
"Jim was setting there with his head down between his knees, asleep, with his right arm hanging over the steering oar. The other oar was smashed off, and the raft was littered up with leaves and branches and dirt."

So she'd had a rough time.

I made fast and laid down under Jim's nose on the raft, and begun to gap, and stretch my fists out against Jim, and says:

"Hello, Jim have I been asleep? Why didn't you stir me up?"

He is playing a trick on Jim. Jim is not in the mood to have a trick played on him. Huck does it to just to do it. Huck learns that his tricks have an impact on the people he cares about. He fools Jim into thinking it is a dream. He then has to interpret the dream. Jim gets the idea from the bible. "The whoops were warnings."

Jim then realizes it was a trick. Huck asks what the leaves stand for and Jim says,

"When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos'broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no mo' what becom er me en de raf. En when I wake up en fine you back agin', all safe en soun', de tears come en I got down on my knees en kess'yo'foot I's so thankful. En all you wuz thinken' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool ov ole Jim vid a lie, Dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."

Then he got up slow, and walked to the wigwam, and went in there, without saying anything but that. But that was enough. It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed his foot to get him to take it back.

Huck asks what is this, Jim says it is trash and so is Huck. He calls him trash because how he acts.
This is Huck's first great breakthrough -- understanding actions have consequences.  This is a breakthrough that does not automatically come with age.  Many Tech students seem totally surprised when they get in a wreck when they are drunk & speeding.  They can't believe it could happen to them.

    B.  The Note

Huck goes through another crisis in chapter 31. This is the crisis that centers around a note. He  feels ashamed about what he is doing for Jim because Jim is property and he has been taught all his life slaves are property and you have to return them to their master. Would feel ashamed if he saw anyone in town again, which is why growth takes place away from the community.

He is thinking what kind of person does that make me for steeling Miss Watson's slave. His conscience is kicking in.  The conscience awakened by Jim now threatens to turrn against him. It is very dangerous for Jim at this point.

He starts worrying about his salvation, his wickedness. The thing he must do to save his soul is to turn in Jim. So he writes the note.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now.

Do we think this is the right thing for Huck to do? No it is not. His religion has been tainted by the system of slavery.

I laid the paper down and set there thinking--thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time, in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, and somethimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see hem standing my watch on top of his'n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was trembling, a minute, sort of holing my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll go to hell"--and tore it up.

He chooses his own friend's life over his. Are we to think this damns him? Huck is willing to give up his life for his friend Jim. This is the moment of full maturity. At this point he is a man.  What he sees as his destruction, we see as his salvation.  We look at the note differently than Huck does because he is a child of his time & we of ours.  This is the difference the Civil War has made in our perspective -- now everyone believes that slavery is wrong.

Huck is a rascal who risks his life to save another & thus shows himself to be more noble than the "good" people who ignore the problem of slavery.  Oscar Schindler (Schindler's List) was a real-life example of a rascal who uses his wits & cunning to save others & thereby becomes a hero.

III.  Return

Chapter 33

Since Huck is unable to get back up the river to return to the community of St. Petersburg, MO, Twain brings Missouri to Louisiana in the form of Tom Sawyer.  This is Huck's return, as if from the dead. Tom shows up & thinks he's a ghost. Tom is still a boy, Huck is a man. Huck says lets free Jim. Tom knows Jim is already free. They make this elaberate plan that gets Tom shot. This trick of Tom showes how much Huck has matured and Tom stays a boy.

We have skipped a great deal of good incidents.  One of my favorites is the one involving Boggs & Sheburn.  Boggs TALKS tough; Sheburn IS tough.  Boggs is like a yapping lap dog, Sheburn like a big guard dog that just sits there & growls softly.
Ch 21

Boggs comes to town once a month to get drunk.

All the loafers looked glad--I reckoned they was used to having fun out of Boggs. One of them says--

"Wonder who he's a gwyne to chaw up this time. If he'd a chawed up all the men he's ben a gwyne to chaw up in the last twenty year, he'd have considerable ruputation, now."

He is always coming into town threatening people. He is like a side show.
Boggs comes a tearing along on his horse, whooping and yelling like an Injun, and singing out--

"Cler the track, thar. I'm on the war-path, and the price uv coffins is a gwyne to raise."

He decides to go after Colonel Sheburn, the richest man in town. This is not someone you'd want to make angry. Boggs insults his honor.
"Come out here, Sherburn! Come out and meet the man you've swindled. You're the houn' I'm after, and I'm a gwyne to have you, too!"

By-and-by a proud-looking man about fifty-five--and he was aheap the best dressed man in that town, too--steps out of the store, and the crowd drops back on each side to let him come. He says to Boggs, mighty ca'm and slow--he says:

"I'm tired of this; but I'll endure it till one o'clock, mind--no longer. If you open your mouth against me only once, after that time, you can't travel so far but I will find you."

Then he turns and goes in. The crowd looked mighty sober; nobody stirred, and there warn't no more laughing.

Boggs made the mistake of being in town at one o'clock.

I looked over there to see who said it, and it was that Colonel Sherburn, He was standing perfectly still, in the street, and had a pistol raised in his right hand--not aiming it, but holding it out with the barrel tilted up towards the sky. Boggs throws up both of his hands, and says, "O Lord, don't shoot!" Bang! goes the first shot and he staggers back clawing at the air--bang! goes the second one, and he tumbles backwards onto the ground, heavy and solid, with his arms spread out.

How does the crowd react to this little shoot out? We are going to lynch him. They crowd around Sherburn's house.
Just then Sherburn steps out on to the roof of his little front porch, with a double-barrel gun in his hand, and takes his stand, perfectly ca'm and deliberate, not saying a word. The racket stopped, and the wave sucked back.
Here he is standing higher than them with a gun, which sobers them up a bit.
He never said a word--just stood there, looking down. The stillness was awful creepy and uncomfortable. Sherburn run his eye slow along the crowd; and wherenver it struck, the people tried a little to outgaze him, but they couldn't; they dropped their eyes and looked sneaky, Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed; not the pleasant kind, but the kind that makes you feel like when you are eating bread that's got sand in it.

Then he says, slow and scornful:

"The idea of you lynching anybody! It's amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a man! Because you're brave enough to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along here, did that make you think you gad grit enough to lay your hands on a man? Why, a man's safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind--as long as it's day-time and you're not behind him.

Southern way is to sneak up somebody. In the North you pray for humility in the south you talk about bravery, but you just as brave and no braver.

"So they always acquit; and then a man goes in the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back, and lynches the rascal. Your mistake is, that you didn't bring a man with you; that's the one mistake, and the other is that you dedn't come in the dark, and fetch your masks."

This reminds us of the KKK. This is a coward's way to deal with it.
"You didn't want to come. The average man don't like trouble and danger. You don't like trouble and danger. But if only half a man--like Buck Harkness, there--shouts 'lynch him, lynch him!' you're afraid to back down--afraid you'll be found out to be what you are--cowards."
They didn't bring a man, only half a man.
"If any real lynching's going to be done, it will be done in the dark, Southern fashion; and when they come they'll bring their masks, and fetch a man along. Now leave--and take your half-a-manwith you"--tossing his gun up across his left arm and cocking it, when he says this.

The crowd washed back sudden, and then broke all apart and went tearing off every which way, and Buck Harkness he heeled it after them, looking tolerable cheap. I could a staid, if I'd a wanted, but I didn't want to.

Huck didn't want to stay because he didn't want to die.

What's the significance of the need to bring a man along?  Had Sherburn actually been brought to trial, he could have pled the "true man doctrine."  In the South of the time, being an adult male didn't make you a man--that's why adult black men were addressed as 'boy'--it was a demeaning term used to show that they hadn't "earned" the status of being called a man.  But being an adult white male wasn't enough to make you a man either.  You had to prove your manhood.  When Boggs insulted Sheburn's honor, he called into question whether Sheburn was a real man.  For Sheburn to fail to act would cost him his status in the community; a true man couldn't let such an insult slip by unaddressed.  Sheburn proved his manhood in taking out Boggs and in facing down the crowd.  These are the types of scenes we associate with Westerns, but this code wasn't limited to the west.