Mark Twain’s masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, describes a hero, an unconventional boy with a sense of human values, who is very often considered as one of the most memorable characters in American fiction. The story of a small boy and a runaway slave, who travel down the Mississippi River, enabled Twain to present a realistic portrait of life and relationships in the 19th century American south. The story itself takes place in America in the 1830’s or 1840’s. It begins in St. Petersburg, a fictional town, and continues on the Mississippi River, where the main actions of the story occur. As it is often suggested, this traveling in a boat symbolizes their brotherhood and freedom, which is in contrast with the violence and corruption of the American shores. The story of a small boy and a runaway black slave is not the only feature of the book, which makes it so popular among the readers all around the world even nowadays. One of other aspects of this novel is its composition and various narrative techniques that Mark Twain used to make it more interesting.
According to Grmela and Grmelova: “the composition of literary work is the arrangement of the individual elements in the over-all structure and can be divided into thematic and stylistic composition” (Grmela et al. 105). The novel consists of forty two chapters, not including one, called Chapter the last. The very first words that the reader of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn see are those included in a short notice saying: “PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.By order of the Author.” (Twain 5)At the time of publishing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain was known as a humorous author of very popular The adventures of Tom Sawyer. Therefore, it was not expected that Twain would write a novel, which would teach its readers some moral lessons. But the fact is that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a humorous story, which includes some serious issues that a reader can learn from. Sacvan Bercovitch says: “What's funny about Huckleberry Finn is that it's a humorous story. The story is humorous because it's told by the quintessential American Boy, Huck Finn, and according to the American humorist, Mark Twain, the humorous story is quintessentially American.” (Bercovitch 8) As it has been already said, the novel consists of several chapters.
The structure of the book, which deals mainly with Huck’s journey, allows him to meet various kinds of people. It seems to me that it was Twain’s purpose to write a book that would consists of a particular number of chapters. Thus he can devote each chapter to a different situation or a particular event and the novel will still have logical links on which he can build the rest of the story. This structure allows main protagonists, Huck and Jim, to meet different people from villages as well as from the society of small American cities built along the Mississippi River. But what is great about this structural division of the book is that based on these so called “stories within a story” he was able to depict the American society as a whole, with all its variety.From the point of view of the stylistic composition of the novel we can assume that Twain’s use of dialects in this novel, particularly the Missouri Negro dialect, South-Western dialect and Pike-County dialect, enables him to draw a real picture of the American society of that time. Furthermore, Twain connects these dialects to particular characters, which only supports his intentions of writing a humorous story.But on the other hand there are some opinions that see The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a totally different type of book. They appear to be trying to find something what is beyond the common understanding of this novel.
For example, Stacey Margolis examines Wieck’s book called Refiguring Huckleberry Finn on some hidden symbols and images referring to some untold truth. Margolis states: “Wieck describes the book as a collection of essays, and the chapters are brief and self-contained (the longest is twenty-five pages, the shortest a mere six pages). They cover a range of topics, from the influence of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass on the language of the novel to Twain's use of repeated numbers (two and forty), repeated images (death and rebirth), and homophones ("right" and "write"), and are united primarily by Wieck's own enthusiasm for Huckleberry Finn and Twain's "genius." There is, I think, a kind of nostalgic charm about the book, especially when Wieck makes claims for the novel's ability to speak in a "universally understood language" about American history (19)” (Margolis 60).Another fact about the novel that needs to be mentioned is the way how Twain narrates the story. The novel is interwoven with many repetitions and variations. Some argue that the way author uses these devices was mostly influenced by the way he wrote the book. The truth is that the novel includes several examples of back-stepping and retelling of the story.
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Narrative and Compositional Techniques in Mark Twain´s Novel The Adventures Huckleberry Finn
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