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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a fascinating novel written by Mark Twain, initially released in 1884 in England and then in the US in 1885. Having been recognized as one of the Great American Novels, the novel is among the first to be published using vernacular language in major American Literature and is accentuated by local color regionalism. The story in the novel is narrated in the first person by Huckleberry Finn. He narrates his experience after Widow Douglas and Miss Watson welcomed him to live with them. As they live together, Finn is taught proper manners and religion. Soon afterward, he goes on an adventure to assist the widow's slave, Jim, in fleeing from Mississippi into the free states. By letting Huckleberry Finn narrate his story, the author pursues the US's throbbing contradiction of segregation and racism in an equal and free society.
Upon reading chapter 2, "Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it again" (Twain, 1885), readers can note the new style of writing employed by Twain of using vernacular English and dialect. The style is outstanding and does an amazing job of developing the sense of vividness and authenticity while portraying those fragments of society. This excerpt poses the question of how the use of vernacular reinforces the perception that the whole story deals with individuals who are alienated from mainstream society. The use of vernacular English and dialect in the novel gives the story a periodic, authentic feeling and also assists in developing a sense of an existing place. The words used are simple and can be easily read and understood. The first section in the novel is very enchanting and occurs in Missouri. Huck lives under the care of Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, two older women who are also sisters (Twain, 1885). Despite their attempts to civilize Huck and make him acquainted with religion, Huck found it very hard to settle into the women's civilized life of the church, school, and good manners.
In chapter 8, Jim and Huck can be seen conversing while saying, "Blamed if I would, Jim." "Well, I b’lieve you, Huck. I_I run off” (Twain, 1885). After faking his death and fleeing, Huck encounters Jim, a slave who had just escaped from the village. Huck and Jim are both similar in that they are all running to attain their freedom. However, Jim is running from slavery while Huck is running from the abuse of his father and the restrictive lifestyle of Widow Douglas (Twain, 1885). The above excerpt poses the question of how Huck was able to defy the overstuffed rules he was brought up with.
In many cases during their expedition together, Huck saw Jim as his property. However, readers are not surprised that Huck could still reconcile how his father nurtured him to think about slavery with his decision to assist his friend Jim become a free man. It is interesting how Jim turns into a father figure that Huck had never had in his whole life. Huck is taught what is right and wrong, and as they proceed with their journey, the two travelers develop an emotional bond. Jim successfully nurtures Huck, which is evident in the last part of the novel, where Huck thinks like a man rather than a small boy. This change can be seen during the dramatic prank that Tom Sawyer tried playing on Jim. Whereas Tom was only concerned with going out on an adventure, Huck showed genuine concern for Jim's well-being and safety.
There are many criticisms of Twain's novel, most of which are directed towards using the "nigger” word and the characterization of Jim as some cartoon buffoon. In chapter 8, readers can see the word "nigger" used severally, for instance, in the statement, "But I noticed dey wuz a nigger trader roun' de place considerable lately, en I begin to git oneasy” (Twain, 1885). This poses the question of whether the word “nigger” was used in the novel for artistic reasons. It is true to say that the use of the nigger word in the novel is acceptable as the book was first published in 1885, and describing slaves like Jim in that manner only intended to make the story and characters seem realistic. The word "nigger” is used in the novel 214 times (Twain, 1885). Compared to Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer written eight years before, the word "nigger” is only employed nine times. Today, many readers are not comfortable reading the word "nigger” which is used many times in the pages of the novel. This explains why some critics say that the main intention of Twain was to shock his readers. Indeed, one cannot also deny that the uncouthness and setting of the novel employed by Twain had an important role.
In chapter 31, Huck says, “All right then, I’ll go to hell” (Twain, 1885) after he chooses not to take Jim back to slavery. This raises the question of why does an author who believes that slavery is wrong to develop a narrator who is too ignorant and innocent to counter the topsy-turvy moral universe surrounding him. Since the events explained in the novel happened during the 1850s, three decades before slavery was abolished and before whites started living amongst free blacks, the novel's readers first showed some form of deniability. This is mainly because many people feel that the events in the novel happened a very long time ago and have no connection with present-day life. On a similar note, the uncouth language that Huck uses, more specifically the "nigger" word frisson, made readers worried about going against the rules of polite language. Most importantly, one can note that using the "nigger" words has made readers distracted from acknowledging the full effect of Twain's theme, which is that blacks can be decent, whites can be wrong, the rich can lack intelligence, the bad can be sorry, and the good can act silly (Twain, 1885). Upon reading the novel, readers are made aware that no one is dictated by his or her position on the societal ladder. On the same note, no one is with no sin or does not need redeeming. What is more important in the novel's story is that a white and a black can also be friends.
In chapter 24, the king is seen saying, "If gentleman kin afford to pay a dollar a mile apiece to be look on and put off in a yawl, a steamboat kin afford to carry 'em, can't it?" (Twain, 1885). This after Huck wanted to go on board with his friend for five miles. The question that this excerpt poses is that is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a story intended to challenge the expectations and prejudices of the period it was published. Indeed, the book reminds people that even people of a different race can develop a strong friendship and show amazing human qualities. This explains why Twain's book is very powerful for more than a century, with its power being derived from its skillful application of detested racial slur. During his first introduction of Huck Finn in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," he was seen as Tom's wild friend as he was always on the go to play truant and search for pirate treasure. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck is the narrator with a distinctly American voice as he shares with readers his viewpoint about slavery and the world and his experience after escaping his abusive father.
In many ways, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a tale about Jim. Jim is a very complicated character because he can go from silly to catastrophic, in some cases even in the same paragraph. He has visions of freedom, not only for himself but also for his family. In chapter 8, Jim wishes to be released as Miss Walton's slave when he says," she pecks on me all de time, en treats me pooty rough" (Twain, 1885). This poses the question of what it implies by being free. It appears as if Jim shares his hope with Huck to get their freedom back because of the immediate threats that they are facing. Readers can also accept how Jim is masterfully handled in the novel. Twain starts by talking about all the stereotypes Americans, then builds on Jim until he comes out as the hero because he sacrificed his freedom to take a wounded white boy to a safe place. This is an amazing and simple statement against racist acts and equality for all. With occurrences such as the recent turmoil following the murder of George Floyd, it is evident how Americans still need Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. America's reflection in the mirror still appears dirty, and there is no denying that equality in the US still has a long time to go. Fortunately, Mark Twain's book will always be around to guide people through. Regardless of all the years, the book still gives confidence for Americans to be tough like Huck and eliminate their wrongheaded beliefs.
In chapter 1, Huck ascertains his opposition to a civilized society when he says, "but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer, I lit out" (Twain, 1885). This raises an important question of how a civilized society controls the lives of people. In the excerpt, it appears natural that a young boy is going against his superior, and readers may dismiss and laugh at his urge for freedom. On the same note, it is evident that the problems that Huck has with the civilized society as founded on his mature observations concerning how worthy that society is. Huck goes ahead to correlate respectability and civilization with a childish game similar to that of Tom’s gang of robbers, where the participants are pretending to be criminals.
In chapter 18, Huck shows how he is sickened by society and contented with his position on the raft when he says, "We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t” (Twain, 1885). This excerpt raises an important question of whether it is possible to do away with the inescapable problems of the world. After escaping the Grangerford-Shepherdson feud, Huck starts comparing the outrageous occasions onshore to the scenery and experience he was having on the raft. To Huck, the raft represented a withdrawal from the external world, the place of good friendship and simple pleasures. The simple food offered to him by Jim tasted delicious in the atmosphere of freedom. Huck and Jim enjoyed a form of utopian while on the raft because they answered to no one. They maintain this idyllic disconnection from society along with its challenges. However, as the raft moves south, unpleasant influences from the dry land evades the raft's peaceful world. Huck has to come to terms with the realistic knowledge that it is impossible to escape the evils of the world.
In the last chapter 43, Huck shows he does not want to be adopted by Aunt Sally when he says, "But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (Twain, 1885). He does this because Aunt Sally does not conform to his perception of freedom. This raises the question of the dangers associated with civilization. Although despite having an interest in the Wild West, Huck also despised the civilized life, it appears he never wants to go back there anymore. Agreeing to move in with Aunt Sally would imply Huck is making the same mistake he did at the start of the novel.
In sum, despite finding it difficult to accept, indeed, the history of America has never been pretty. There are many blemishes that a lot of people do not like since it mirrors a past, they never want to visit. For more than one hundred and thirty years, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has bestowed that mirror and challenged Americans to reflect on their past. Whereas The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the funniest books ever composed by a US author, it is much more. The chapters show that, similar to Huck, many Americans are blind regarding their understanding of their political principles. Since they do not understand the principles, many perceive the government as an entity that restricts their freedom through force. Furthermore, Americans lack an understanding of their administration's basic principles upon which their administration is based. By nature, people have shown that they cannot consider themselves as equals but would instead pretend to be better. This is a critique that is worth pondering by many.
Twain, M. (1885). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: London.