How would I rate the three works, Romeo and Juliet, A Farewell to Arms, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in terms of quality, as if I were a book critic, with discussion of how successful each...

How would I rate the three works, Romeo and Juliet, A Farewell to Arms, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in terms of quality, as if I were a book critic, with discussion of how successful each work is, whether the author succeeded in what he was trying to accomplish with the work, and how engaging the characters and stories are?


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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Romeo and Juliet

Poetry, imagery, time as both trope, and an element of plot structure all contribute to the beauty of the age-old story of tragic lovers in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. After meeting Juliet, Romeo and she fall passionately in love amid the bitter hatred of their families. Soon, the tragic action begins, and Romeo is soon swept up in fate:  

This gentleman, the Prince’s near ally,
My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt
In my behalf. My reputation stained
With Tybalt’s slander.—Tybalt, that an hour
Hath been my kinsman! O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper softened valor’s steel! (3.1.71-77)

In the hands of William Shakespeare, this ageless story becomes poetic, violent in its emotions of both love and hatred, contrasted with the images of light and dark. Thus, the beauty of love becomes meteoric as beauty falls to earth and sets fire to an overmastering fate that propels the characters to their doom. After Romeo is banished, Juliet herself succumbs to the violence of emotions as her parents demand that she marry, not knowing that she is already married. She takes a vial of sleeping potion and worries that she may not awaken as she hides in the family catacomb,

And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Or, if I live, is it not very like
The horrible conceit of death and night,
Together with the terror of the place—(4.3.36-40)
In the end, time ends for the young lovers' passion which has driven them in its violence, 
A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head. (5.3.321-322)
A Farewell to Arms
Having declared this novel his own version of the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet, Hemingway's narrative told by his main character, Frederic Henry, is a tale of a fated love of an American in the Italian army and an English girl named Catherine Barkley. After Henry is injured, he meets Catherine in the hospital where she works as a nurse. At first, they pretend to be in love so they can forget the world that lies in wait for them; Catherine shelters him with her long hair, forming a tent over them. Then, they truly fall in love, but the war and the debacle of Caparetto lies in wait to foil their love
Perhaps the weakness in the plot is Henry's defection from the Italian army, but Hemingway is a Modernist, not a Romantic. This act of Frederic Henry is his reaction to the meaninglessness of life, his effort to create his own "separate peace." for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.
Hemingway's is a war novel and Henry is a disillusioned man, who feels isolated and disillusioned. When Catherine dies, Henry walks out into the rain. 
It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

The Adventures of Huckleberrry Finn

Perhaps one of the most controversial of American novels, Twain's novel has been censured or maligned many times. Called by Ernest Hemingway the genesis of all American novels, Twain's novel is an incomparable adventure story, but its narrative also satirizes the sanctimonious, the romantic, the criminal, and the charlatan.

The Mississippi River and the raft on which Jim and Huck float, become  symbols of spiritual baptism and hope and idealism. Away from the institution of slavery, Jim shows the boy affection, and Huck feels happier than he ever has.

It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we laughed — only a little kind of a low chuckle.... nothing ever happened to us at all — that night, nor the next, nor the next.

On the shore, there is hypocritical institutionalized religion as well as the mindless acceptance of custom, and the holding of antiquated and romanticized ideals. After realizing that Jim is human in his feelings and thoughts, Huck decides that he will go ahead and "go to hell" because he cannot turn him in to Miss Watson.

When the Duke and the King are tarred and feathered after they swindle people, Huck tries to prevent the townspeople from harming them, but he is unsuccessful.

It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another." 

Twain's novel is a success at satirizing the romanticized customs of the South such as the feuds of the Grangerfords, the religious hypocrisy that allows slavery, and the social bondage of custom.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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