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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sharon McCoy <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 17 Sep 2006 10:16:17 -0400
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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A thought occurs to me--

Unless I'm mistaken, we all seem to assume that Hemingway's speaker means
that the book should end after the Duke and the King sell Jim and Huck has
his crisis of conscience.

But what if the speaker means a different moment entirely?

This recent series of postings has made me notice something I've never paid
much attention to before, especially Hilton Obenzinger's discussion of the
context of the quotation.  As Peter Salwen points out and Hilton emphasizes,
the speaker says that the book should "stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen
from the BOYS.  That is the real end.  The rest is just cheating" (my

When Jim is sold down the river, Huck is alone:  there are no "boys."   Is
this what you meant, Hilton, when you said the comment is "based on
inaccurately remembering the book"?

But what if, rather than an inaccuracy, the comment actually refers to a
different scene?  For at the end, when Tom has been shot and is unconscious
or delirious and Huck is terrified and ineffectual, Jim is stolen from both
"boys" by the lynch mob.

Jim's life is saved only by economic considerations (his owner might make
them pay) and the serendipitous recovery of Tom Sawyer, who reveals all.

Perhaps this is the "cheating"?  Many have been disturbed by Tom's
revelation that Jim has been freed in Miss Watson's will.  I can imagine
both Hemingway and his speaker being more satisfied with Jim's lynching as
the more realistic and logical outcome of the novel.

What do you think?

Sharon McCoy