Chapter

Huckleberry Finn without Polemic

Jonathan Arac

in Impure Worlds

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231782
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241149 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823231782.003.0010
Huckleberry Finn without Polemic

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Mark Twain naturalizes Huckleberry, as part of the American frontier landscape taken in and uttered by an uneducated youth, the techniques of impressionist prose so important in so much ambitious Western writing from Flaubert to Conrad and beyond. The privilege of sensitive spectatorship is extended from the leisure class down the social scale, bringing to fulfillment an experiment that in the early nineteenth-century British poetry of William Wordsworth had met a far more mixed response. Huck is not wholly formed by his culture, yet he is shown to believe in the social customs governing slavery, even though he breaks them in allying himself with Jim, and at several points quite specifically acting to protect Jim. Readers applaud his actions and laugh indulgently at his self-doubts and self-castigations. In its time, Huckleberry Finn was understood as realistic for its evident refusal to idealize.

Keywords: Huckleberry Finn; Mark Twain; Flaubert; Conrad; spectatorship; British poetry; William Wordsworth

Chapter.  6286 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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