Monday, November 13, 2006

"The Greatest American Novel"?

As I was saying in class,

A friend of one of my friends claims that there is a quote, which stands out in the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that indicates both its thematic depth and reputation as the "greatest American novel."

What quote did you find that supports this claim? Why did you choose that quote?

Click on "comments" below this post to leave your mark.



Rob Gill said...

A quote that indicates the depth or greatness of the novel Huckleberry Finn is, “It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with star, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.” (Page 90) I think that this quote shows the greatness of the book because this is really what life is like. We are the stars and everyone else can see your star and wonder what you are doing or what you are going to be doing later in your life. Stars can really tell a lot more than just a great vision in the sky, but also the vision of someone else. This quote also describes what Huck and Jim do throughout much of their trip. Also the power that Huck and Jim really have just living on the raft, the power that they have in their disguise as other people, and finally the power that they have as they steal their food and the supplies or money they might need for the trip.

Rob Peach said...


Good call. I think that quote is quite beautifully said myself. I remember being struck by it when reading it, underlining it in my book to keep it in mind. I like your use of it as a metaphor for that power which resides in each of us, as figurative or metaphorical "stars." The Greek Stoics believed that there was a "divine spark" in each of us. In your reflection, Rob, I think you touch exactly on that philosophy perhaps without even knowing it. I think that quote, too, gives us some insight into Huck's wisdom--his appreciation for nature and, as you imply, Rob, his power to be free in nature (which reflects that philosophy of "existentialism" that we spoke about today). They have the freedom to enjoy nature. And that's a kind of freedom we all often take for granted in a life that's bound by deadlines and schedules and obligations. Nice work, Rob.

Chris Thiers said...

I think that the most powerful quote in this book makes it one of the greatest novels in American literature is the quote "All right, then, I'll go to hell" (pg. 273). To me, this quote marks one of the most pivotal moments in the book. In this single sentence, Huck goes against the laws and views of society and follows what he thinks is right and what is wrong. He remembers all of the times that he and Jim had on the river, Jim calling Huck his best and only friend in the world, and the fatherly concern he showed towards Huck during their journey down the Mississippi. So instead of writing to Miss Watson and telling her where Jim is, Huck decides to follow his upbringing of "wickedness" and help free Jim from slavery again.

Rob Peach said...

Another good call and well articulated at that. I think that passage one of the most poignant in the novel because it marks, as you suggest, a final break from society's "commandments" and a real jump into the realm of maturity on Huck's part--an act of "good faith" in which Huck takes full responsibility for his actions, even if it means going to hell. Of course we know that he is in "the right."

Sean Gillespie said...

When reviewing the novel I felt that the most powerfuk quote in this "the greatest novel of American literature" was when Huck thinks to himself "I didn't answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn't come. I tried, for a second pr two, to brace up and out wiht it, but I warn't man enough-hadn't the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just give up trying, and up and says-"He's white.""(pg. 68)
This quote, as Chris discussed in his response shows Huck's ability to rise above the stereotypes of the time. In that moment Huck discovers that he has befriended a black slave, something unheard of in those times. Mark Twain uses the novel and quotes like this to show that even in times of segregation friendships can be attained in unexpected places. Even a journey involing a black man and white boy running away in a raft down a river together. The novel is not only great because of its readablility, or because of the enjoyable plot itself. This novel is great because of the underlying message that Mark Twain uses in hopes to improve segregated conditions during those times.

Rob Peach said...


I agree. Twain was way ahead of his time, addressing the question of racism and segregation through the lens of human friendship. The novel can definitely be read that way and rightfully so. There's little doubt in my mind that Twain purposely brought these two worlds together, uniting "goodness" as we see it in the heart of a little boy and a black slave. In the end, human dignity wins out.