Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain's Creative Process

Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain's Creative Process

Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain's Creative Process

Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain's Creative Process

Synopsis

Vic Doyno offers a new, accessible, and innovative approach to America's favorite novel. Doyno presents new material from the revised manuscript of "Huckleberry Finn" and also draws upon Samuel Clemens's unpublished family journal, his correspondence, and his concerns about the lack of international copyright law.

Excerpt

Why is Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn such a fascinating, challenging book? Why do generations of Americans fall in love with this novel? Both scholar-critics and the general public have developed a complex attitude of love, enthusiasm, disappointment, and puzzled respect toward this masterpiece. This study began with curiosity about a beloved— but sometimes disappointing—masterpiece. As I have read the book repeatedly, for over thirty-five years, my understanding has grown. Now friends and civilized enemies who have read pre-publication versions of this book state, happily or grudgingly, that this study “solves” or resolves the ending of Huck.

Is it possible to say or think anything new about Huck?. Yes, if we explore four relatively unstudied resources. The most important changes in understanding occurred for me about twenty years ago when I started to examine closely Twain’s famous manuscript version. This portion of the manuscript, now in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, corresponds to about 55 percent of the novel and preserves valuable evidence about this era of Twain’s best artistic achievement. Prior to 1883, Twain had written much less than half of the book. Then in 1883 and 1884, in a period of extraordinary energy and concentration, he completed the novel. In this relatively short period, he composed more than 23 chapters and, with pen and with pencil, revised the manuscript at least three times before getting it typed. He also revised his last, complex, two-stage typescript before it was set in print. He made, in all, well over 1000 changes; as we can easily imagine, many revisions had several dynamic, interacting effects. Because of a fortunate accident, we have this rich resource which enables us to learn precisely how Twain composed and completed his manuscript, how he conceived and revised at such a high level of achievement. He was, of course, the first reader of his growing novel; we can discover how he wrote and read and re-wrote and re-read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The manuscript version—with its cancellations, insertions, and rearrangements—offers us the rare opportunity to look over the author’s . . .

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