I read the The Adventures of Tom Sawyer two years ago and really enjoyed it. I listened to it on audiobook and loved the narrator’s accents, so I thought I’d carry on with the audio route for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is one of those cases where I feel like audio really shines.
This is another book of boyhood fantasies. Huckleberry Finn can’t stand life now that he isn’t poor, after acquiring some cash with Tom Sawyer at the end of the last book. Having to do school work and wear clean clothes and act civilized is driving him mad. He manages to escape for a life of adventure, but it happens in a rather unfortunate way.
On the way back from an outing with Tom and the gang, Huck’s alcoholic and long-lost dad reappears. He heard of Huck’s new fortune and wants in on it, but after some time in the town he isn’t any closer to claiming the money. He ends up kidnapping Huck and forcing him to live in a cabin in the woods. To get away, Huck fakes his own death and makes a run for it. He’s held up for some time on a nearby island where he meets Jim, a black slave he knows from town. Together they find themselves in a string of unlikely adventures – dressing up in disguise as a girl to learn news of town, stumbling across a spat between thieves, getting involved in a brutal blood feud between families, pulling off scams with a couple of con artists, and so on. Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, it’s a child’s daydream come to life.
Throughout the adventure, Huck struggles with whether he should turn Jim in or not. In his mind, the morally correct thing to do is return Jim back to his masters, since he is by law their property. After travelling with Jim for so long, however, he couldn’t help seeing him as a regular person, and if he should be free why shouldn’t Jim? There are parallels in their past now, with Huck being held against his will by his father, and it brings out the absurdity of having to make that choice. It seems very progressive for its time in many ways, by humanizing Jim and showing how ridiculous it is that he shouldn’t be free, but on the other hand Jim is still quite often portrayed in an incredibly stereotypical way.
I loved this. The language is a bit hard to take, particularly in audio I think, but it’s a blast of an adventure. I wish I had read these as a kid, with an adult to read along with and explain why certain words and attitudes are awful, obviously, but this would have sparked my imagination for years.
When I saw that Elijah Wood has done an Audible Signature Performance of this, I admit I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to listen to him for a whole book, but he was fantastic. His characters were distinct and he did a convincing job, to an admittedly unfamiliar ear, with the different accents.