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One thing I noticed in Huckleberry Finn is that Tom Sawyer is always trying to make things harder than they really need to be. For example, in the beginning of the book when they are making the robber’s gang, Tom insists that they ransom the ladies. No one knows what that is, but Tom insists that they have to because it’s in the books and all the heroes do it.

Another part is where Huck and Tom are trying to get Jim out and Huck comes up with a plan: get Jim out of the window and run away. He tells Tom and Tom scolds him because his plan would take only a day, but Tom bets he could come up with one that would take at least two years. Then he says that they need to steal two knives, one for a knife, and one for a saw, but when Huck says he found an actual saw, Tom give him a pitying look and says that they have to make the saw out of a knife because that’s what all the books say to do.

They also need to sneak the saw in to Jim so that he could cut off the leg of the bed he was chained to and eat the sawdust (even though they just had to lift up the bed), and they needed to dig him out with spoons, even though they have shovels. Then Tom climbs the lightning rod and almost kills himself in the process and Huck just goes in the door (which wasn’t locked).

They also have to dig a moat so Jim can send messages (even though he doesn’t write). Sometimes – okay, a lot – I think Tom is crazy. It seems like he is out to get Huck, and himself, through his plans.

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In Huckleberry Finn I thought it was interesting how people were so open to strangers. Like how the Widow took Huckleberry Finn in just because she felt sorry for him. If that had happened in this era, most likely people would have just let him be, or put him into foster care. Another time people were open to strangers was when Huckleberry was disguised as a girl and he walked into a random house. That would not have worked now in this time usually you would call ahead or something like that. There were other parts that I thought were interesting but I thought that this was one of the most interesting.

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Overall I thought that Huckleberry Finn was ok, but not the best book I’ve ever read. At times I found myself skimming over particularly slow and hard to follow spots. Also, the fact the author purposely used poor grammar made it increasingly harder to read. But, it was not without its laughs. I admired Tom for being so loyal to his books, but I also thought they made his plans very slow and harder to execute than the plan Huck came up with. Finally, I think that I may not understand the book very well right now, but I’m sure when I’m a adult and read the book again like I promised Ms. Poulson I’ll enjoy it a lot more.

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The thing that really stuck out to me in Huckleberry Finn was that Mark Twain, the author, really put a voice in his characters. Jim, the African American, had the best voice in my opinion. He made his voice perfect. Also, everybody with a southern accent actually sounded southern. Their voices were really perfect.

 

I also liked how exaggerated Tom Sawyer’s, Huck’s best friend, plans were. The one about attacking the picnic was funny. The one about stealing Jim back was even better. I mean seriously, digging a hole with a spoon, and sawing a bed leg off! Tom Sawyer always said that’s what happened in the books. He was really exaggerated.

 

I really liked the Adventures of Huckleberry Fin. The only problem was that it was a hard read ( for me ), and it took me FOREVER to finish what was assigned. I’m looking forward to other books.

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2014 Literature Circle 7th grade

My email is rebecca_poulson@hotmail.com, phone 747-3448

Here is this handout as a pdf.

Tentative schedule: This week (October 10th) get the book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and read chapters 1-16, research something about the background of the book, sticky-note a passage that sticks out to you.

Next week we’ll share the background research and discuss the part of the book we’ve read. The assignment will be to write a paragraph, from the discussion or your own thoughts, and read the middle third of the book.

Week 3 Share our paragraphs, discuss what we read, and assignment will be the same as before, a paragraph and read the rest of the book.

Week 4 Talk about the whole book, and the task will be to write a one-page essay on a topic of your choice, but I’ll suggest taking a particular incident and telling how you believe it fits into the book.

Week 5 We’ll share these, and the task will be to edit and post, and start next book.

We’ll play it by ear, not to overload anybody but make it interesting.

The other books (this can also change):

Boy by Roald Dahl
Call of the Wild (also a Battle book)
Haa Shuka (classic Tlingit oral literature)
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Jane Eyre
Great Expectations
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
great short stories, American and English
Frankenstein
Hamlet
Kidnapped

Kidnapped, Hamlet, and Frankenstein we don’t have copies of, but I’m looking at your being able to buy through the bookstore (they are pretty cheap).

So jumping right into 1840s small town Missouri, in the opening chapter of Huckleberry Finn, probably won’t make a lot of sense. There are a lot of books where you just have to move on, keep reading. Especially if this is one of the first books you’ve read from the 1800s, you’ll have to read a few before you get a sense of not only the language but the customs and objects we don’t have any more.

There are some great Modern novels, like Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, which opens from the point of a view of a severely mentally challenged man (who’s also going back and forth in his memory), or James Joyce’s Ulysses, or Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, which don’t make a lot of sense when you first read them – and that’s part of what the book is, opening up space for our participation.

The main thing with literature is that there is no One Right Answer or response. These are all great books because there is so much to encounter, so many levels and ways they can resonate with your life and thoughts. They all have flaws and you don’t have to like them. And, they will be different when you read them as an adult, probably better.

So don’t worry. Jump on in and enjoy.

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 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Part 3

Here is this post as a pdf.

Here are some interesting articles about the Civil War: the numbers

and, someone said that African-Americans actually fought for the Confederacy: Article here.

This week, read the rest of the book, and decide what you’ll write a one-page essay on, you can write the essay if you want.

Next Friday we’ll spend most of our time writing (or revising) that, and sharing.

Some of the things in the book I and you have noted:

Civil War deaths as a percentage (about 2.5%) of the population of the U.S. at the time, would be about 7 million dead of today’s population – the Civil War (1861-1865) was a cataclysmic event that must have colored Mark Twain’s depiction of pre-War life. For one thing, could people have imagined that slavery would be outlawed?

Tom’s fantasies of life-and-death adventures relative to Huck’s real ones, how Tom’s dangerous

How Huck thinks he’s less intelligent than Tom

being free on the river – paradise

How easy it seems to live off the land and “borrowing”

How strangers take Huck in, not like now

Christianity vs. superstition

Huck’s knowledge, abilities and intelligence

How many times Huck’s life is in danger

How do you think it would feel to read this book if your ancestors had been enslaved?

How Huck is treated in the book compare to Jim’s treatment (as a character). Huck grows and changes – could Jim?

The world he’s creating – utopian and dystopian elements: easy to live, but also true evil, separating families, stealing, killing

Huck’s innocent morality, compared to the morals of others in the book

Are some parts just for humor, and not part of the overall thrust of the book? Emmeline Grangerford

– or maybe this is to show that wealthy “aristocratic” people can be foolish – her obsession with the morbid, her family’s feud

Death – tally up the people Huck sees die, and the deaths that occur he doesn’t witness

Lies – Huck’s, and the Duke’s and King’s

Foolishness

Evil, cowardice, and cruelty: the townspeople who let Colonel Sherburn get away with murder

Conscience/morality – how Huck is developing, or is he.

Goodness (being kind to others) vs. Goodness (according to convention)

The places, societies, worlds? of each adventure

Food!

Women

The last part really gets complicated for Huck, and for us. There are two systems of morality that he wrestles with: the being good that means supporting human bondage, and condemning Jim to a life of slavery, separated for the rest of his life from his family – Vs. Huck doing what he feels he has to do: treating Jim as well as he truly should. He makes his decision, then, runs into Tom Sawyer again.

The Phelps family, and the doctor, are as “good” as they can be, and yet Mrs. Phelps when she hears Huck’s story does not consider a slave’s life lost as a life lost, and even though they treat Jim kindly, they are going to send him back to slavery. The doctor recognizes he is good and loyal – and therefore worth a lot of money as a slave.

So it looks like the author is angry about slavery, BUT – the problem for us, is Mark Twain’s use of the n-word but more than that, his depiction of African-Americans as comical, foolish caricatures. Even Jim, whose portrayal had become almost dignified, regresses.

Another problem is Huck’s and Jim’s acceptance of Tom’s insane ideas, which are obviously dangerous. Is this a weakness for you? Previously, danger has come from “bad” people. This time the threat is Tom. Do you think Tom Sawyer is supposed to stand for a group of people or beliefs? Or just a way to create dramatic tension? Or, is it just Huck falling back to what he was at the start of the book.

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October 17 2014 Literature Circle 7th grade #2

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Click here for this material as a pdf file: 2 Huck handout 2

You can’t get around Mark Twain’s use of the N-word. Here is an interesting article about how one teacher approached the topic in her classroom.

Rebecca_poulson@hotmail.com 747-3448

This week, read chapters 17-30, and write a paragraph, based on the discussion or your own ideas. Mark parts (by noting page numbers in your notebook) that stand out.

Discussion: today we shared our research into:

Mark Twain’s biography and dates

Jim Crow laws

The Civil War (overview, dates)

history of banning of the book

log rafts and steamboats – economy of the Mississippi River in 1840

slavery in the American south before the Civil War

a map of the Mississippi River from around this time – it can be a print out or in a book or hand drawn – from Hannibal, Missouri to the Louisiana border

the picaresque novel – what it is, some examples

what kind of clothes did people wear in that place and time (Mississippi River around 1840)

public education in this place and time

Then we went briefly over the action so far, though I thought we had 20 minutes more than we really did.

Things in the book, some things we talked about:

What a bloody cataclysm the Civil War was, and the assassination of Lincoln, how the Civil War and the abolition of slavery might have affected Mark Twain’s view of antebellum (pre-Civil War) south of his youth

1840 a time of westward growth for the US

How some people were ok with slavery

Tom’s fantasies – Tom is considered “smart” and seems to be rich compared to others in the town, but seems kind of dangerous

Huck’s intelligence – he is a very skilled liar, and faking his own death is expertly done, but considers himself less intelligent than Tom Sawyer

being free on the river – how easy it must have been to “borrow” food, easy to live

The author does not seem to think much of Christians trying to reform others

Already twice Huck’s been nearly killed

Rank some of the characters on a scale of good to evil – is his father just a loser? or evil? the robbers? Miss Watson?

How the woman he tries to fool into thinking he’s a girl sees through it, but then makes up her own story for him

Already Huck’s played several mean tricks on Jim

Huck’s and Jim’s superstitions

The book is a picaresque novel, where the action is a series of adventures as the hero moves through space and time. One thing we might write about, after we finish reading the book, is how a particular adventure fits into the book.

For the middle third of the book, all of the above and:

Are some parts just for humor, to lighten it up, and not part of the overall thrust of the book?

Death – tally up the people Huck sees die, and the deaths that occur he doesn’t witness

Lies

Foolishness

Evil and cruelty

Conscience/morality – how Huck is developing, or is he.

Goodness

The places, societies, worlds? of each adventure

How does this section compare to the first

Women

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