|Posted by susanjmcleod on October 26, 2011 at 2:35 AM|
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mark Twain is my favorite American author and this is his masterpiece.
It is so entertaining that you don't even realize how profoundly it made you think until you're finished. The horror and sin of slavery comes through loud and clear without even the good-hearted characters questioning the institution. Casual observations on breaking up families by selling them and the fact that a free black man can't be stopped by walking around like everybody else until he's been in the state long enough to be seized and sold, sent shivers of horror through me. Twain makes us see how evil this is while maintaining a straightforward narrative. It appears to be an adventure travelogue with plenty of colorful and amusing characters. But there are scathing indictments delivered through the medium of the unlikely hero, a poor boy raised by an abusive father, whose heart bests his conscience in the end. The fued between two families that almost wipes them out, the malicious frauds the Duke and the Dauphin, may be filtered through Huck's more innocent eyes, but we can see clearly them for what they are. I must say the last part of the book is a little silly when Tom Sawyer reappears and instigates a ridiculous melodrama that puts Jim through unnecessary indignity and travail. Then it's wrapped up neatly with a bow on top. But even my least favorite parts of the story hold my interest because the characters are so wonderfully drawn and alive. Mark Twain was very funny and very gifted, but he was a cynic too, and his vast experience and intelligence brought him to despair of humankind. Yet he is a master at telling a human tale.