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"Martin D. Zehr" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 19 Feb 2010 17:42:34 +0000
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The comments of Ann and Michael regarding the complexity of the novel and
the lack of any convenient handle for imposing "good" and "evil" on the char
acters' attitudes and behavior toward slavery and/or racism are, in my
opinion, spot on.  The fact that Huck is generally a likeable adolescent
"sound heart" sometimes allows untutored glimpses, maybe even insight,
regarding the constraints of the "deformed conscience" doesn't, in the final
alysis, mean that he can make a real escape from his own chains, except in a
very literal sense, by "lighting out for the territory."  Huck, after all
, despite his befuddlement with Tom Sawyer's elaborate schemes to create an
orchestrated escape for Jim, in the end plays along, so that Jim, technica
lly "freed," is no "freer" (?), just as the end of Reconstruction in March,
1877 meant that the "freed" slave is re-captured and re-enslaved by Jim Cr
ow.  (Toni Morrrison says this much more eloquently in her introduction to
the Oxford edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of the best defen
ses of the "cheating" chapters).  In the end, the lack of clear demarcations
of "conscience" in the characters, especially Huck, is one of the aspects
 of the novel that makes it so credible, disturbing, and lasting.

Martin Zehr
Kansas City, Missouri