Hemingway said, "“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel because it addresses America's greatest wrong (slavery) using a hilariously irreverent and iconic narrator (Huck). Although it satirizes America, the novel is very American.
It's a classic because it's a bridge from Old World (The Odyssey) to New World, because it's written with such a youthful voice, and because it is the synthesis of rogue and rebellion:
- The novel is a picaresque (a novel told by a rogue, rascal). Huck, even though he lies and ditches his dad and school, is morally superior to everyone in the book, except maybe Jim. Huck becomes the biggest winner by being an outsider (the biggest loser).
- The novel is anti-European: Huck dupes the Duke and the King (symbols of Europe)
1. most European characters define themselves in context of family
2. Huck is saying that he doesn’t define himself with others or the past (birth of the American rebel)
a. Not defined by family
b. Not defined by society
c. Not defined by old world values
d. Not defined by old literature
- The novel is very antinomian (rebellious), and it is descended from the great American spirit of moral, artistic, and political rebellion
1. Antinomian definition: “through faith or experience of God’s grace, you live outside the law”
2. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: a list of complaints
3. Melville’s (Moby Dick) “No in Thunder”
4. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Civil Disobedience: chose to live outside pro-war (Mexican War) society
5. Hester Prynne (Scarlet Letter) as adulteress, forced to live outside Puritanical society
6. Huckleberry Finn: chose to live outside pro-slavery society
a. Huck says, “I’m so lonesome I could die”
b. Twain’s intro: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot will be shot.”
He's calling out proponents of slavery, the North, the South, Republicans, Democrats, Christians, parents, schools, whites, Europeans, and critics of the book. As such, he's going after nearly everybody.