Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-Imagining the American Dream

Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-Imagining the American Dream

Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-Imagining the American Dream

Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-Imagining the American Dream

Synopsis

Analyzes the novel's depictions of blacks and whites and the messages those depictions send. Considers Huck Finn in light of historical records left by slaves and slaveholders in order to determine where the book undermines or upholds traditional racist attitudes, and reviews key episodes in the novel to discover the characters' and the author's attitudes and responses to the slave system. Also discusses controversy surrounding teaching the novel.

Excerpt

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. . . . You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

This scene was conceived, in 1941, by a prominent literary critic as an allegory for the discussion, pursued unendingly by Americans from generation to generation, on culture. The scene appears to represent an exemplary discussion--intense, open. Upon reflection, though, questions arise. Perhaps, rather than serving as a parable for the American cultural discussion, the scene is a rendering of the discussion the critic took part in. Or, to be even more exact, a rendering of that discussion from the critic's perspective.

For, considered from a different perspective, the dialogue's openness turns out to be, if not illusory, at least severely circumscribed. After all, you do not enter a parlor without an invitation. Moreover . . .

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