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Can Huckleberry Finn be considered a "Great American Novel" since the last section is...

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dkstreet | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 23, 2008 at 9:31 AM via web

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Can Huckleberry Finn be considered a "Great American Novel" since the last section is of poor quality?

Can Huckleberry Finn be considered a "Great American Novel" since the last section is of poor quality?

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suzeeq7 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted June 23, 2008 at 10:30 AM (Answer #2)

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To provide an answer, one should first examine the parameters of the question. What constitutes a 'Great American Novel'? To my mind it is a work which, as Shakespeare says of acting in 'Hamlet', 'holds a mirror as t'were, up to nature'. One which contextualises human frailties and aspirations, chronicles powerful issues and personalises them. I believe 'Huckleberry Finn', through the 'innocent eye' of its young protagonist does all those things. Set against the vivid, vicious background of racism and prejudice, Twain charts the twists and turns of Huck's moral devlopment via his phyiscal journey along the Mississipi. Despite its flawed finale, Twain through bitter jests and poignant observations ensures 'Huckleberry Finn's'  legacy in the canon of The Great American Novel endures. Without Huck Finn, there could be no Holden Caulfield.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 24, 2008 at 2:19 AM (Answer #3)

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I think so...this novel adequately and accurately depicts life in a certain area of the country during a certain time period.  It is well-written even though some critics may consider the ending not to be of equal quality as the first chapters.  The vivid descriptions and portrayal of regional dialect alone is worth categorizing this novel as "great".  There are many human "uglies" that Twain discusses in this book which also give it merit--prejudice, slavery, religion, education are just a few. 

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slchanmo1885 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted November 26, 2008 at 11:28 AM (Answer #4)

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Hemingway certainly thought so, writing that "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written in 1885, and is still one of the most widely read books today, in countries all over the world. I believe it is one of the Great American Novels in that it makes strong statements about things like racism, slavery, society, religion, friendship, and hypocrisy. Twain mastered the use of dialect in this novel, and for that alone it has been and will be studied for a long time. Even though the institution of slavery is no longer as it was in 1840s America, Huck Finn still speaks to us in all of its commentary on societal ills. Although the ending is arguably weak, it doesn't completely fail, and the famous ending line, "I been there before," inspires readers to question the way they live their lives, all "sivilized."

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 2, 2010 at 1:56 AM (Answer #5)

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Mark Twain's satiric humor is American!  He is the predecessor of Will Rogers and George Carlin, who also comment on the American condition. His insightful observations of humans are both funny and disturbing. For Americans, he has touched upon the idiosyncrasies of many and the ills of our society with humorous prescience. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be on the canon of all high school students.

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