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Explore these questions with writers like Langston Hughes and Carl Sandburg, who have mastered the art of bringing a scene or emotion to life." Narrated by poet Jane Hirshfield.

The course is not designed as a historical survey course but rather as an introductory approach to poetry from various directions - as public or private utterances; as arranged imaginative shapes; and as psychological worlds, for example."


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In the case of Mark Twain, the fact of the matter is that we are more apt to accept the flaws in even his greatest works because the author stands behind them as an animated and amiable presence. That presence is often cagey, evasive, or antic, and his persona as Mark Twain is itself a mask. Nevertheless, in the author sometimes yields entirely to the voice and sensibility of its young narrator, and when that happens there is magic in the book. As often, when Twain is indignant or contemptuous, he speaks through other characters or works through sly subterfuge, having Huck describe events that may merely puzzle a boy who has no sense of humor much less an appetite for satire but that adult readers understand all too well.


Cox, James M. (1966)[complete book free at Open Library].

Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, founded the Favorite Poem Project shortly after the Library of Congress appointed him to the post in 1997." Select and click on videos on home page or click the Videos link for more recorded readings of favorite poetry read by celebrities and other people throughout the United States.

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Twain’s gruesome ending of the novel is not only fitting but it is also realistic because it is a reflection of the reality that Blacks have to face in White America. T.S. Eliot echoes the appropriateness of the ending of the book when he asserts, “For Huckleberry Finn, neither a tragic nor a happy ending would be suitable. No worldly success or social satisfaction, no domestic consummation would be worthy of him; a tragic end would reduce him to the level of those whom we pity” (288). It is likely the unapologetic realism of the final scenes of the novel that agitates critics and readers.

Here is another fine resource for finding criticism.

Publishing Huckleberry Finn twenty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Twain’s novel is a critique of the status quo of America. Life for Blacks did not improve drastically after the Emancipation. The Proclamation established Blacks as freed people, but not as equals with their White counterparts. There were countless new obstacles that Blacks were overcoming as a result of the legacy of slavery: racism, bigotry, classism, and segregation were only some of the types of systematic oppressions that Blacks face after freedom. Therefore, it is impractical for critics, like Leo Marx, to want Twain to portray Jim as a happy, freed man at the end of the novel. Marx claims, “…The most serious motive in the novel, Jim’s yearning for freedom, is made the object of nonsense” (294). It seems that Twain knowingly and rightly mocks the idea of freedom for Blacks. As a man who wrote this book in a post-emancipation era it was obvious to him that freedom for Blacks was theoretical and not actual. This type of theoretical freedom is depicted in the last few chapters of the novel, where it is revealed that even after Miss Watson frees Jim, Tom continues to treat Jim as a slave. This portrayal of Jim, a freed Black man still held in bondage, parallels life for Blacks post-emancipation. Even though they are free, Blacks do not have the liberty to do as they wish. Thus they enter a new type of psychological and physical form of slavery where limits and rules are imposed on them by White America.

Toni Morrison’s (from , edited by Shelley Fisher Fishkin)

Huck’s and Jim’s journey is also an accurate and realistic depiction of the culture that existed in America’s South in 1804. Slavery was not only prevalent, but considered a necessary evil by White Southerners. Whites likely knew that slavery was wrong and conflicted with their professed Christian values. In the Constitution, for example, the word slavery is never mentioned; instead, enslaved people were referred to as “other persons.” Even with so many guilty consciences, slavery continued until 1865. From the beginning of slavery in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 to its end in 1865, it took America over 240 years to fully acknowledge the evils of slavery. It took America over 240 years to view Blacks as humans rather than as slaves. Is it not an unrealistic expectation of critics, therefore, to expect Huck to see Jim as a human after a few months in a raft?