This week (February 13-19) in literary history – Cotton Mather died (February 13, 1728); Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest premiered in London (February 14, 1895); Charles Dickens is celebrated in New York City at the Boz Ball (February 14, 1842); Fyodor Dostoyevsky married Anna Snitkina (February 15, 1867); Novelist Richard Ford was born (February 16, 1944); J.D. Salinger married Claire Douglas (February 17, 1955); Moliere died (February 17, 1673); Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published (February 18, 1885); Novelist Toni Morrison was born (February 18, 1931); William Faulkner completed Light in August (February 19, 1932); Nobel prize winning author Andre Gide died (February 19, 1951)
Highlighted story of the week -
On February 18, 1885, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published. Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Twain saw Huck's story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.
At the book's heart is the journey of Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, down the Mississippi River on a raft. Jim runs away because he is about to be sold and separated from his wife and children, and Huck goes with him to help him get to Ohio and freedom. Huck narrates the story in his distinctive voice, offering colorful descriptions of the people and places they encounter along the way. The most striking part of the book is its satirical look at racism, religion and other social attitudes of the time. While Jim is strong, brave, generous and wise, many of the white characters are portrayed as violent, stupid or simply selfish, and the naive Huck ends up questioning the hypocritical, unjust nature of society in general. Aside from its controversial nature and its continuing popularity with young readers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been hailed by many serious literary critics as a masterpiece. No less a judge than Ernest Hemingway famously declared that the book marked the beginning of American literature: "There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
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Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and the recently published America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Schiffer Publishing, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s Books, Amazon and other fine book sellers.
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