I’ve been misguided in my prior judgment of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As my first reading of Huck Finn, the linguistic techniques used by Twain in writing this novel emerge fresh – unclouded by a previous experience with the text – and candidly influence my perception of the book’s driving forces. I’m not sure I could have wholly appreciated, as a child, the nuanced way in which Twain is able to portray the speech of such varied dialects. Reading this novel without the background of my study of the English language’s context and development, would probably have resulted in my dismissal of it as a simple adventure story. Surely a notable relic of American children’s literature and national character, but nothing more.
Of course, that impression would be proved insufficient to judge the true merit of Huckleberry Finn. Twain’s linguistic skills are of a very high caliber, shown through his ability to methodically depict a number of American dialects in this text. The vernacular speech leaps from the pages – it’s fascinating to hear it do so – and crumbles the years past between my childhood (the one without Huck) and my… post-childhood (the one discovering Huck’s charms). Huck Finn is delightful because he is pure and simple in a novel that may not be quite so simple. I caught myself laughing out loud several times towards the end of the book.
And besides, who can resist Twain’s “Notice” preceding the body of the text? “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 in it will be shot…”