Thursday, 18 February 2010

On this day...

'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' was first published in America in 1885, two months after it hit British and Canadian shelves. The novel, written by Samuel Clemens under the frequently used pen-name of Mark Twain, and considered one of the 'Great American Novels', is the first major work of American literature to be written in the vernacular. The protagonist had previously been introduced in Twain's 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' and narrated two subsequent adventures, leading many to believe that Twain intended the novel to be a sequel.

Two decades on from the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, the novel explores themes of racial prejudice, often depicting the white characters as selfish, stupid or even violent. Thus it incurred much controversy, the Concord Libray dismissed it as 'tawdry' and 'coarse', lending itself better to 'slums than to intelligent, respectable people'. Such a reception earned it the title of fifth most challenged book of the 1990s in the United States. Yet, it was not without praise. Ernest Hemmingway deemed it 'the best book we've had' from which 'all modern American literature comes'. 

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes... but do you know why the American edition was delayed two months? Part of the story is here.

    I disagree that the vernacular of the book is so important. James Russell Lowell's The Biglow Papers had already presented what he called a "Yankee dialect" in 1848. Edgar Poe explored the Southern voice in "The Gold-Bug" in 1843. Still, it's a great work of literature, despite the controversies.