Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Huck Conclusion- Critical Reading Journal

Here is our triumphant return to the Critical Reading Journal.  Don't forget the requirements for this assignment!

1.  Prior to reading your exerpt of literary criticism, describe how you interpret the end of the novel.  Why do you think so many people are upset by the behavior of Huck in the presence of Tom Sawyer?

2.  Read your article and the following excerpt from a Jane Smiley article from Harper's (cited from the Chicago Reader here).  How would you challenge, defend, or qualify these ideas regarding the conclusion of the novel? 
As with all bad endings, the problem really lies at the beginning, and at the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, neither Huck nor Twain takes Jim’s desire for freedom at all seriously, that is, they do not accord it the respect that a man’s passion deserves. The sign of this is that not only do the two never cross the Mississippi to Illinois, a free state, but the Jackson’s Island scenes show that such a crossing, even in secret, is both possible and routine, and even though it would present legal difficulties for an escaped slave , these would certainly pose no more hardship than locating the mouth of the Ohio and then finding passage up it. It is true that there could have been slave catchers in pursuit (though the novel ostensibly take place in the 1840’s and the Fugitive Slave Act was not passed until 1850), but Twain’s moral failure, once Huck and Jim link up, is never even to account for their choice to go down the river rather than across it. What this reveals is that for all his lip service to real attachment between white boy and black man, Twain really saw Jim as no more than Huck’s sidekick, homoerotic or otherwise. All the claims that are routinely made for the book’s humanitarian power are, in the end, simply absurd. Jim is never autonomous, never has a vote, always find his purposed subordinate to Huck’s and , like every good sidekick, he never minds. He grows every more passive and also more affectionate as Huck and the Duke and the Dauphin and Tom (and Twain) make ever more use of him for their own purposes. But this use they make of him is not supplementary; it is integral to Twain’s whole conception of the novel. Twain thinks that Huck’s affection is good enough reward for Jim.
3.  After viewing the documentary Born to Trouble and reading one of these editorial articles from NYT ,  where do you fall in the debate about the novel?  What are your observations or criticisms of the documentary as a "text"?

Due Monday-

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