RARA-AVIS: Huckleberry Finn

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 16 Jun 2007

Been a long time since I read this. It was definitely worth rereading, especially after just finishing Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, which helped establish a certain context to it. There's a whopping big irony in the relationship between Twain and Cooper. Twain despised Cooper's writing but he follows closely in Cooper's footsteps. Cooper's Last of the Mohicans portrays a man, Hawkeye, who demonstrates a fierce independence, a concern for others, and a firm belief in a code of behavior all his own. Huckleberry Finn portrays a boy developing the traits that the mature Hawkeye personifies. Cooper's Last of the Mohicans contrasts the civilized world with that of the frontier. So does Huckleberry Finn. Cooper employs some ridiculous disguises. Perhaps more believable, Twain employs disguises, too. And a theme that was near and dear to Leslie Fiedler, Cooper and Twain explore an interracial friendship between two guys.

Hemingway asserted that American writing began with Huckleberry Finn. Why not Cooper who came before him?
 With quotes from Shakespeare introducing some of the chapters, it was Cooper's intention to mark Last of the Mohicans as a great work of literature. The Shakespeare connection goes beyond the introductory quotes. Cooper appears to mimic Shakespeare with his characters' long and flowery speeches. Cooper attempted the colloquial, and he deserves credit for trying, even if the results were uneven at best. Where Cooper failed, Twain succeeded. Twain wrote in a straightforward and clean style that Hemingway declared truly American.

He laid the groundwork for the hardboiled genre.


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