Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Well, I finally did it. I finally read me some Mark Twain. I knew I always meant to sit down and read some Mark Twain, but I simply never got around to doing it.

That was until I found a combined copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn sitting on a shelf in the house I used to live in when I was still living in Westlock. (For the record, the official titles are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But, since it’s a combined book, the titles were combined. However, the two stories are clearly separated.)

I have to say, they were quite interesting books to read. I already had a bit of an idea of what they would be like and what the story was, given that the books have been spoofed by many different TV shows. But, as is usually the case, the spoofs leave a lot out.

In both books, I had some trouble understanding everything, which had to do with the type of English used by Twain. It was Southern U.S. English, so it was chock full of words and turns of phrase that aren’t seen today.

One example that sticks out is “warn’t,” which appears to be what we today call “wasn’t” or “weren’t.” In some cases, it really was a form of “weren’t,” and it was only “warn’t” on account of the Southern drawl Tom and Huck had.

In the Huckleberry Finn story, I really had a hard time with the speech of a certain set of characters — the niggers. Their nigger-speak was quite difficult to discern in written form.

Now, at this point I’m sure you’re all calling me some form of racist for using the word nigger. Well, as an erstwhile scholar, I feel justified in using the terms Twain used, even though they’re out of vogue now. In short, grow up. I’m using it in context, which is acceptable.

Back to the nigger-speak. Yes, that was how they spoke, or how Twain interpreted them as having spoken, but it’s quite foreign to today’s eyes. Today’s ears surely could understand it, but to see it written down, it was quite a challenge to understand.

Since I’ve brought up the now-racist language in the books, or rather assumed you, my loyal readers had accused me of something, I may as well touch on that.

I actually thoroughly enjoyed the now-racist language in these books. Why? Because I’m tired of all this politically correct B.S. that today’s society throws at us. I think it’s refreshing to read something that just calls it like it is. Now, it’s necessary to remember that when Twain was writing these books in the 1870s and 1880s, such language (nigger, injun, etc.) was common for everyone.

No one thought of the devious meanings. I dare say no one even saw anything wrong with the words. I would argue there’s nothing inherently wrong with those words, only that they’ve been stigmatized because of the past negative situations in which they were used.

I wouldn’t go around proclaiming that Black people should be called niggers, nor that Natives should be called injuns (although some do prefer to be referred to as Indians), but strictly speaking there is nothing wrong with those words. In my opinion, of course.

Anyway, I seem to have rambled off my planned course. Oh, who am I kidding? I never really plan any of these things out.

So with that in mind, I’m going to wrap this up. I want to get to reading some Margaret Atwood. The Blind Assassin is an interesting read, for different reasons than Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were.