When I was in Mrs. Neidz’s 9th grade English class, I tried to bluff my way through discussions using only the Cliffsnotes version of reading Huck Finn. I hoped it was good enough to help me pass the quizzes. During the class, I found myself interested in the story and actually wished I had read the book. Never enough to actually read it, though. It took me over ten years to actually read it for myself. I earned a D in 9th grade English, by the way.
Huck Finn is a classic for a reason: it is really, really good. Part adventure down the Mississippi, part friendship between Huck and Jim, part social commentary on the treatment of blacks in the South. It is an important book, and no high school student should graduate without reading it. Sadly, many teachers today shy away from it because of the overabundance of the use of the N-word, a hyper-reaction to political correctness. Most educated readers will quickly see that this is as racist as Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is cannibalistic.
I’ve taught Huck Finn many times, and I still find new aspects to appreciate and enjoy about the book. And for those familiar to the story, the scene when Huck tears up the letter and decided to “go to Hell” is perhaps one of my favorite moments in literature.
Huckleberry Finn the boy is the prototype of all teenage angst characters. There’d be no Holden Caulfield with Huck. No young adult fiction without him, although I think that might be a good thing.
Do yourself a favorite and listen to what your high school English teachers probably told you: Read Huck Finn. You will enjoy it.
Cool kids who have already read the book understand what this means:
In case you are wondering what my teaching handouts for students look like, here they are: