I watched a thingy on PBS last night about Mark Twain. (second part to air tonight). He's been one of my favorite authors for a long time. What a wit. I'm quite sure though I wouldn't have liked the man much in real life. It's one thing when you're reading sarcasm, and quite another to deal with it in your face.
In particular they of course talked about his best work Huckleberry Finn. I personally can't stand that book anymore, maybe because I've read it far too often. Maybe (and I think this really is the case) I'm to impatient to sit through the dialects, and I don't appreciate what a gem it really is. What I do appreciate though is the quality of this book.
It brings up some very difficult subjects, which is the reason why it's been banned so many times from so many reading lists. Ultimately, it is a chronicle of the changing views of americans about the issue of slavery. Here is a young character, schooled in bigotry. Who through his experiences with Jim the slave comes to realize by bits and pieces what an awful thing this is to do to another person. And there's the real issue some people had with this book. Jim is a person. Not a stereotype, not an exaggeration. A man who is running towards freedom, all the while weeping over his fate, and mourning the loss of his family. How is it possible to see THE MAN Jim and still dehumanize the race he comes from?
The moment Huck makes the decision to leave his own beliefs about slavery behind is wonderfully simple. He has been feeling the pangs of a stricken conscience for some time. Believing he should return the slave to his rightful property, he writes a letter informing Jims owner of his whereabouts. But then he pauses. He reflects on it, struggles with his belief that he is actually doing what is "right" in the sight of God. If he lets this slave go, he will be disobeying society and religion (as he knows it). And he decides simply, quietly and clearly "All right then, I'll go to hell, and I tore the letter up." What courage!
How do you pack so much weight into that simple little sentence? That my dear friends, is why I could never be an author. And why I respect them so much. True creativity.
In contrast I watched an episode of Actors Studio this weekend. Jodie Foster was the guest, and as usual they asked the questions they always do at the end of the episode.. one of which being "If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you enter?" Her answer "Your way was the way."
I found that incredibly presumptuous, egotistical. I'm sorry but, you require God to vindicate you and will be happy only when He admits that you were right? Isn't that a little backwards? Shouldn't we be a little more concerened with doing it God's way to begin with?
Why do I find that display to be egocentric, and not Huck Finns? He was also in a sense defying what he thought Gods direction was.
I think its because he in fact was not defying God. He was, albeit crudely, like the Boereans, examining his belief system and refusing to accept something he knew was wrong simply because the authorities had told him it was right. Ok that was confusing, but I think you know what I mean.
Anyway, I saw the parallel and feel the need to think on it.