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Annotated Bibliography on Huckleberry Finn and Racism

Info: 1004 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 12th May 2021 in Literature

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Annotated Bibliography:  Ending Controversy

Budd, Louis J. "Afterword: Mark Twain and the Sense of Racism." Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 25 (2000): 151-58. Print.

 In the article, Budd is discussing the time in which Twain grew up in, one of racism and inequality. The main point emphasized in this piece of writing is that Twain’s racial point of view is not entirely his fault. The surroundings in which he was raised in resulted in his outlook on slavery; “Anybody tempted to belittle twain for swaying back toward racism should ponder how difficult it was to think otherwise in the 1800’s and early 20th century.” (page 155) Rather, his family kept Blacks as slaves during his childhood, and maintained the standpoint that they were inferior to Twain and his family. As the times changed, Twain became more insightful about the issues that Black people faced, although he continued to hold the same attitude. This shows his conflicting viewpoints causing people to question is authenticity, like Budd claims, “I question Twain’s credentials as, overall, a consistent antiracist. I

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Williams 2 emphasize “overall” because discussing only Huckleberry Finn ignores both the rest of his career - he would write and socialize for another twenty-five years - and also the changing political, economic, and sociocultural context during those twenty-five years.” (p. 152) The author suggests that Twain was a man of his time, yet he was a progressive, maintaining a paternal attitude towards Blacks. Budd believes Twain is a paternal figure to the slaves; he is kind and generous but is also authoritative and condescending.

Chwast, Seymour. "Selling 'Huck Finn' Down the River." New York Times. New York Times, 10 Mar. 1996. Web.

In the article, Chwast writes about how people like Jane Smiley admire The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn novel. Chwast writes how Smiley compares Harriet Beecher’s Stowes novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn. Jane Smiley concludes that, in contrast to Uncle Tom’s CabinThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn creates the idea that racism will not go away just by pure actions, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin promotes, but by altering Americans feelings toward African Americans and seeing them as full human, just like Huck did to Jim throughout the novel. Smiley backs up her argument that actions toward racism will not work and cites historical figures, like John Brown and Nat Turner, who were killed for taking action against racism. Jane Smiley also compares the books’ two endings. She concludes that Uncle Tom’s Cabin ending represents hopelessness, where Stowe’s vision represents the tragety of slavery as a instituion and blacks always being a inferior race to whites. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ending however, is a little more optimistic, as Jane Smiley concludes that Jim’s future as a free man, who is able to be reunited with his family, remains an open question at the end of the book. Chawst ends the article by citing people like John Wallace, who believe The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is racist and should not be given to children to read. The conflicting points of view of the book between Jane Smiley and John Wallce connect to the ending of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This isbecause the book ends on a note of uncertainty, just like how Americans are still uncertain on how to feel about the book today, as Huck realizes that he’ll have to leave again toward the American west and will have to seek out a new place in which to feel at home. This makes us have hope for Huck, and people in American society today like John Wallace, that their time on the “river” becomes part of a much larger journey toward acceptance, understanding, and compassion.

Nilon, Charles H. "The Ending of Huckleberry Finn "Freeing the Free Negro."" Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn. Durham: Duke UP, 1992. 62-76. Print.

In this article, Nilon starts off by connecting the ending of Huckleberry Finn to real world events that were going on in the 1870s when Twain was writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Nilon gives a historical background of Mark Twain’s life and the historical background gives the reader insight on how Twain’s views on antislavery and racism came to be subjects inside his books. Although Twain’s irony can confuse readers, Nilon feels as though the book is an ironic triumph. The ending signifies the failure of Reconstruction and its “changes.” Nilon explains that during the Reconstruction era in the 1880s, there was an increase in black officeholders, but blacks were still denied political recognition and sometimes had to sharecrop and get lynched in order to survive. Despite the effort for social equality, his depiction of the South shows whites continuing to be cruel to blacks.  This reference was written to show how even though there were black officeholders, violent discrimination was still in place. This also connects to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because, on the Phelps farm at the end of the book, the story falls back into stereotyping common African American caricatures, and, to return to the boys adventure mood at the beginning, is kinda like admitting defeat and giving up on what Huck and Jim strived for, which was equality between races. Nilon ends the article by analyzing Jim’s character. Jim trusts whites and helps Huck and Tom, but he is always regarded as a “nigger.” Twain’s interpretation of his characters ultimately relates to the race relations of the present period that Twain was writing in.

 

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