Let's Discuss "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn", by Mark Twain

This month we'll read the two most well-known novels of Mark Twain, that showcase his two most famous characters: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  These books take us back to a different era in American history, that surprisingly still sheds light on our 21st century society.

Both books are very readable, and they go hand-in-hand.  Huckleberry Finn is widely regarded as the more profound of the two, but they're worth reading together as one flows seamlessly into the other.

Other writers have been glowing in their praise about Twain's work, especially Huckleberry Finn.  Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

The famous journalist and book reviewer H.L. Mencken had this to say about "Huckleberry Finn": "I believe that 'Huckleberry Finn' is one of the great masterpieces of the world, that it is the full equal of 'Don Quixote' and 'Robinson Crusoe,' that it is vastly better than Gil Blas, 'Tristram Shandy,' 'Nicholas Nickleby' or 'Tom Jones.' I believe that it will be read by human beings of all ages, not as a solemn duty but for the honest love of it, and over and over again, long after every book written in AMerican between the years 1800 and 1860, with perhaps three exceptions, has disappeared entirely save as a classroom fossil. I believe that Mark Twain had a clearer vision of life, that he came nearer to its elementals and was less deceived by its false appearances, than any other American who has ever presumed to manufacture generalizations, not excepting Emerson. I believe that, admitting all his defects, he wrote better English, in the sense of cleaner, straighter, vivider, saner English, than either Irving or Hawthorne. I believe that four of his books--'Huck,' 'Life on the Mississippi,' 'Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven,' and 'A Connecticut Yankee'--are alone worth more, as works of art and as criticisms of life, than the whole output of Cooper, Irving, Holmes, Mitchell, Stedman, Whittier and Bryant. I believe that he was the true father of our national literature, the first genuinely American artist of the royal blood."



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  • John W.

    Great discussion, everyone contributed with well-considered thoughts and questions. Tom and Huck are two of the most prominent characters in American literature. I wonder how many mothers of boys would want their own sons to emulate those rascals!

    1 · March 29, 2013

    • Angie

      I never realized how innately different boys and girls were until I had one of each. I think there is a little of Tom and Huck in every boy...at least in mine! He is kind of a wild man. :)

      March 29, 2013

    • John W.

      We can support gender equality for voting, employment, and education, and still recognize that there are gender differences that are biologically hard-wired. The opposite sexes can both understand and intrigue each other.

      March 29, 2013

  • Angie

    It was good to see you all again and to meet those I had not met before. And I just want to say again that I really appreciate the historical context some of you are able to bring into the discussion. I'm not able to make a lot of those connections myself when I'm reading, so it's really interesting. Definitely need to brush up on the history. :) Looking forward to seeing you all next month!

    1 · March 29, 2013

  • Kevin

    This was a great group. The discussion was engaging and made me consider things that I had not thought of while reading the books. I look foward to discussing the next book "Middlemarch", which has been on my reading list for much too long.

    1 · March 29, 2013

  • Suzy T.

    I really enjoyed the opportunity to get together with like-minded lovers of literature and discuss these books. Not eveyone would think that sitting around comparing thoughts on a book for an hour and half is fun, but it really is my idea of a good time! I'll be back!

    1 · March 29, 2013

  • Larry C.

    My regrets. I'll be out of town and unable to attend.

    February 20, 2013

  • Nancy D.

    Anyone who has extra time may enjoy FINN by Jon Clinch which is a "prequel" to Huckleberry Finn. Huck's father was a tormented human being and the novel is haunting, graphic, and compelling. My previous bookclub found it riveting.

    February 17, 2013

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