Arac argues that Huck Finn is recurrently championed among critics because it has become a cultural idol. With this iconic reputation the novel is given an immense amount of literary power that allows its divisive content to still be debated almost 130 years after its publication. These debates are able to continue because there has been, as Arac writes, “A long tradition of using Huckleberry Finn as the basis for statements proclaiming what is truly American” (437). Consequently, those who reason that Huck Finn is not a suitable representation of American values are often deemed as un-American. This idolatry of Huck Finn is unique from other classic American novels because it has sanctioned the widespread use...
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...s the author’s, and in reading the sublime we are “uplifted,” “as if we had ourselves produced” what we hear or read” (454). I agree with Arac that this sublime feeling is partly responsible for Huck Finn’s idolatry. Most readers can relate to and respect Huck’s decision because they want Jim to become free and they want to believe that Huck is taking a conscience stand against a segregationist nation. However the reader fails to remember that, in the end, Huck’s revolt does not result in Jim’s freedom and that Jim has been free all along. It may seem then that the critics who staunchly defend the text are, in a sense, defending their own morality. This feeling of sublimity, coupled with an immense pride for America, is forever connected with the novel and this has inspired critics to defend it at all costs, like a devout worshipper does for their idol.
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- Arac, Jonathan. “Forty Years of Controversy, 1957-1996.” Huckleberry Finn as Idol and Target: The Functions of Criticism in Our Time, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1997, pp. 63–89. Arac focuses on the perception of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by critics during the onset of the Civil Rights Movement to the end of the twentieth century. The use of the N-word, instead of the term Negro, in the novel, caused controversy in the New York school system among African-Americans in the 1950s.... [tags: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain]
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