On this date in 1884, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the United States. Since its publication, the language of Twain’s novel has sparked controversy, yet it remains a book unparalleled in its influence. Unlike other American novels of the time which were imitations of European literature, Huckleberry Finn was a truly American book, the first to be written in the American vernacular. Twain’s revolutionary move was to give the narration of his book to the uneducated, unwashed Huck, who speaks in dialect and introduces himself in the novel’s famous first sentence:
You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another . . . .
Ernest Hemingway praised Twain’s book, saying, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn’ . . . . All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
Twain began writing his masterpiece in 1876, but after writing 400 pages he set it aside unfinished. At one point Twain threatened to burn the unfinished manuscript, but luckily he took it out of his drawer and went back to work on it in 1882, finishing in August 1883.
Twain’s novel is so influential and so distinctive that some forget that it was a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). It is the rare sequel that achieves the level of its predecessor, let alone eclipses it.
In 1995, American novelist E.L. Doctorow highlighted the differences between the two books, pointing out that Twain’s motivation was to take on the issues of racism and slavery in his sequel — issues he had ignored in Tom Sawyer:
But Twain had to have understood, finally, that, in its celebratory comedy, his book [‘Tom Sawyer’] was too sentimental, too forgiving of the racist backwater that had nurtured him. He had ignored slavery as if it hadn’t existed. And after all was said and done his Tom Sawyer character was a centrist, a play rebel, who, like Twain, had been welcomed into the bosom of a ruling society he sallied against.
Today’s Challenge: It Takes II to Tango
What are some examples of great sequels, great books or movies, that continue the story of an original book or movie? Make your argument for the single sequel, book or movie, that you think is the best, and explain what makes the sequel so great. See the list of examples below. Don’t assume your reader has read the book or seen the movie. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton
The Odyssey by Homer
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
The Color of Money
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
The Bourne Supremacy
The Matrix Reloaded
Quotation of the Day: It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened- Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. -Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn