I’ve just read Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book of 1884 which is set somewhere along the Mississippi River in the mid 1830s and tells the story of escape and freedom of Huckleberry, a white teenager and Jim a black grown-up runaway slave.I have thoroughly enjoyed reading that book. It took me a while to get used to the English old-fashioned vocabulary and grammar, as well as the language used by the slave Jim.
It was a surprise when I reached the end. Having read the five adventures, I would have gladly read some more.
Here are a few quotes and excerpts from the book that I found striking, amusing, or interesting.
About superstition, after Huck inadvertently killed a spider:
I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed my breast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep the witches away. But I hadn’t no confidence. You do that when you’ve lost a horseshoe that you’ve found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn’t ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep off bad luck when you’d killed a spider.
About itching, as Huck had to remain immobile:
If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain’t sleepy–if you are anywheres where it won’t do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places.
About Stockholm Syndrome, discussion among Tom Sawyer’s self-proclaimed gang, who plot to carry out adventurous crimes:
Kill the women? No — nobody ever saw anything in the books like that. You fetch them to the cave, and you’re always as polite as pie to them; and by and by they fall in love with you, and never want to go home any more.
Huck tells the truth about Mathematics, the truth, only the truth:
I had been to school most all the time and could spell and read just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don’t reckon I could ever get any further than that if I was to live forever. I don’t take no stock in mathematics, anyway.
Long but exquisite passage. Conversation between Huck and Jim about the language of the French:
“Why, Huck, doan’ de French people talk de same way we does?”
“No, Jim; you couldn’t understand a word they said–not a single word.”
“Well, now I be ding-busted! How do dat come?”
“I don’t know; but it’s so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S’pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy–what would you think?”
“I wouldn’t think nuff’n; I’d take en bust him over de head–dat is, if he weren’t white. I wouldn’t ‘low no nigger to call me dat.”
“Shucks, it ain’t calling you anything. It’s only saying, do you know how to talk French?”
“Well, den why couldn’t he say it?”
“Why, he is a-saying it. That’s a Frenchman’s way of saying it.”
“Well, it’s a blame ridiculous way, en I doan’ want to hear no mo’ ’bout it. Dey ain’ no sense in it.”
“Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?”
“No, a cat don’t.”
“Well, does a cow?”
“No, a cow don’t, nuther.”
“Does a cat talk like a cow, or a cow talk like a cat?”
“No, dye don’t.”
“It’s natural and right for ’em to talk different from each other, ain’t it?”
“And ain’t it natural and right for a cat and a cow to talk different from us?”
“Why, mos’ sholy it is.”
“Well, then, why ain’t it natural and for a Frenchman to talk different from us? You answer me that.”
“Is a cat a man, Huck?”
“Well, den, dye ain’t no sense in a cat talkin’ like a man. Is a cow a man?–er is a cow a cat?”
“No, she ain’t got no business to talk either one er the yuther of ’em. Is a Frenchman a man?”
“Well, den! Dad blame it, why doan’ he talk like a man? You answer me dat!”
I see it warn’t no use wasting words–you can’t learn a nigger to argue. So I quit.
Considerations from Huck and Jim when they’re star gazing:
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. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn’t say nothing against it, because I’ve seen a frog lay most as many, so of course if could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they’d got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
When the King and the Duke rehearse properly the Balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet:
[…] after a while he said he done it pretty well; “only,” he says, “you mustn’t bellow out Romeo! that way, like a bull–you must say it soft and sick and languishy, so–R-o-o-meo! that is the idea; for Juliet’s a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you know, and she doesn’t bray like a jackass.”
About the ignominy of people thinking Black people were sub-humans. Huck explains to Aunt Sally what delayed his steamboat:
“It warn’t the grounding–that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blowed out a cylinder-head.”
“Good gracious! anybody hurt?”
“No’m. Killed a nigger.”
“Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. […]