Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...

We kicked off our Middle School Socratic Book Club in October with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  After reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer last October 2015, I thought it would be a good place to begin, sort of as a follow-up.  Twain did not disappoint.  As a matter of fact, the opening paragraph of Huck Finn begins....
You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but that ain't no matter.  That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.  There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.  That is nothing.  I never seen anybody but lied, one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly - Tom's Aunt Polly, she is - and Mary, and the Widow Douglas, is all told about in that book - which is mostly a true book; with some stretchers, as I said before. 
Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884, post Civil War.  However, his story is set pre-Civil War.  Twain drew much criticism for his novel.  It was actually banned in 1885 for the first time, less than a year after publication, for being “trash and suitable only for the slums.”   Huck Finn has seen many bans since and continues to be one of the most challenged books of all time.  I did not realize this when I chose this book for our club, but at the same time, I'm glad we read it and would not shy away from it based on these controversies.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a very important piece of American literature.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just that, an adventure novel about a boy.  If you've read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, you may remember in the end that Tom and Huck acquired a large sum of money.  The Widow Douglas then took Huck Finn in for her son and tried to 'sivilize' him.  However, Huck does not want to be civilized. He eventually fakes his death, meets up with Jim, Miss Watson's runaway slave, and together they float down the Mississippi River, jumping from one adventure to another. The river is a symbol of freedom that not only runs through the middle of our country, but also the middle of the story. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn holds themes of loyalty and brotherhood.  In addition, Twain uses irony to drive home a point about equality for all men. 

I used A Socratic Discussion with The Classics Club DVD by Adam Andrews to aid in prep for our first class.  I love the way Andrews discusses a book in order to better understand the author's point.  In the DVD, he shows us things like Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Denouement, Conflict, Plot, etc.  Ruben loved Huck Finn!  He watched the DVD with me and really enjoyed Andrews' jovial personality and apparent love of literature.  It really brought the book alive for him.

I am using The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain as my Banned or Censored Book in the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge.

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