Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Riding the Riverboat of Illusion Twain's 'Huck Finn' Even More Revolutionary Than You Remember

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Riding the Riverboat of Illusion Twain's 'Huck Finn' Even More Revolutionary Than You Remember

Article excerpt

In the acknowledgement pages of "Huck Finn's America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece," Andrew Levy says, "Writing a provocative book about Huck Finn and Mark Twain is about the least provocative thing one can do." Who's he kidding?

My copy of Mr. Levy's book has 196 pages of carefully worded content and 128 pages of notes and documentation. Mr. Levy must have foreseen the coming wave of Black Lives Matter and campus activist movements. He's like: "Somebody's gonna come at my neck for everything I say, so I'm gonna have all my facts straight. ... Come on, now, I don't want no trouble."

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on the first day of 1863. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted citizenship to all people born on U.S. soil, regardless of race. The 1875 Civil Rights Act protected all Americans from racial discrimination. In 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Civil Rights Act. The first "Jim Crow" law - forced segregation - was passed in 1890, 25 years after the Civil War.

At the conclusion of Ava Duvernay's film "Selma," Martin Luther King Jr. explains, "Racial segregation as a way of life did not come about as a natural result of hatred between the races immediately after the Civil War." Racial hatred was engineered through propaganda and politics by those in the pursuit of power.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" appeared in 1884, right smack dab in the middle of the counterrevolution. The good guys were losing. The bastards stole the South, and you can't beat them. It's over. The fight is rigged.

Mr. Levy writes, "Part of him [Twain] believed that most Americans were so committed to their illusions that no amount of reality could persuade them otherwise." So Twain resettled in the North and carried his literary sword onto the battlefield of illusion. …

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