The last week in September is Banned Book week – how many of you were aware of that? Book-banning has been used over the years by groups and individuals ranging from Adolph Hitler to the Taliban as a means of attempting to control the lives of people by preventing them from engaging in a form of entertainment that is at once intensely personal and yet social – reading. Over the years, books such as Nabakov's Lolita, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and even Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, have been banned by one group or another. Banned books have been removed from the shelves of libraries, destroyed in bonfires, and prevented from being sold in stores. All because some group or individual felt that the words on the printed page would somehow corrupt readers or cause them to rise up in rebellion against the status quo those groups or individuals were attempting to maintain.
“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, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly – Tom's Aunt Polly, she is – and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.”
So begins Twain's tale of Huckleberry Finn – one of those aforementioned banned books. Now, of course, it's no longer on the black list, but, there was a time when owning a copy of this classic work of American literature could get a person in some amount of trouble. How peculiar.
“We dasn't stop again at any town for days and days; kept right along down the river. We was down south in the warm weather now, and a mighty long ways from home. We begun to come to trees with Spanish moss on them, hanging down from the limbs like long, gray beards. It was the first I ever see it growing, and it made the woods look solemn and dismal. So now the frauds reckoned they was out of danger, and they begun to work the villages again.
First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn't make enough for them both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started a dancing school; but they didn't know no more how to dance than a kangaroo does; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in and pranced them out of town. Another time they tried to go at yellocution; but they didn't yellocute long till the audience got up and give them a solid good cussing, and made them skip out. They tackled missionarying, and mesmerizing, and doctoring, and telling fortunes, and little of everything; but they couldn't seem to have no luck. So at last they got just about dead broke, and laid around the raft as she floated along, thinking and thinking, and never saying nothing, by the half a day at a time, and dreadful blue and desperate.”
Personally, I'd feel “dreadful blue and desperate” if banning of this wonderful story were still in force (your writer must confess that she has no idea why it was banned in the first place); Huckleberry Finn and his companions and their adventures shouldn't be missed by anyone! Be sure to read all about it, and, while you're at it, be sure to give thanks for the fact that Twain's work is freely available to the reading public – at least in some parts of this country.
Copyright © 2005, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.