Sophomores, you’ve got the Unit Test on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tomorrow. I’ve given you a copy of the study guide in class, but I wanted to add it here, too, just to make sure that you have it.
One of the points on that review that students have been struggling with is the question about Huck Finn as a Great American Novel. Let’s walk through some of those points.
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn marks an emergence of regional dialect in the writing. Think about the other works that we’ve read up to this point. The language was much more formal and standard. Even Walt Whitman, who was known for writing in an easy-to-access style and language, used more formal language than what we find in Huck Finn.
- In this novel, you see a reckoning between public law and private conscience. Huck Finn argues with himself more than once about what he should do–what the law says to do (turn Jim in) or what his conscience says to do (help him run away). Emerson and Thoreau wrote about civil disobedience and following laws that are just laws, but this is one of the first real times that you see this idea examined in an American novel. In the end, Huck decides “I’ll go to hell” rather than do what he finds morally wrong.
- The topics in this novel are timeless. If you look at the list of themes in this novel, you will see that they were applicable when Huck Finn was published and they’re still applicable today.
- This novel highlights America’s long and difficult relationship with race. Though slavery isn’t part of America law today, there are still struggles with race now in contemporary America.
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn marks an emergence of an American voice. Even if you took out the specific names of places, etc., this novel reads truly and authentically American. From the themes to the scenery to Twain’s social commentary, this novel represents much of American thought.
As you prepare for your test, keep these points in mind and think about different ways each point might be illustrated in various sections of the novel.
Make sure that you bring something to read tomorrow. When you finish your test, you should be reading for your book talk (Ethan Frome or Unbroken) that should be completed by March 10, or you can start reading The Great Gatsby. You should have already purchased The Great Gatsby when you bought your books this semester, so make sure to bring your copy to class on Friday. Your first reading homework for The Great Gatsby is Thursday night, so make sure that you start off this unit prepared!