Sunday, February 2, 2014


While close reading is crucial in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of any text, it is particularly essential in shaping one’s understanding of Huck Finn. The fact that oppositional interpretations of Huck Finn are still debated today reflects how the ambiguity of the text fuels the creation of a vast array of analyses. While we will never be able to pinpoint one “right” meaning , peeling back the layers of the story allows us to understand the text from an enlightened vantage point. Instead of simply being a story of a boy on a raft, the dialogue, internal reflections, descriptions, word choice, punctuation, structure and characterizations provide more depth, making it not simply the “adventures” of “Tom Sawyer’s companion,” but a profound piece of American literature. When engaging in a text through close reading, the intensified critical thinking allows the reader to see connections and symbolism that are not apparent on the surface. As we have seen in class, one of the most potent questions to explore when conducting a close reading of a passage is “why?” For instance, when we read the scene where Huck attempts to trick Jim following their separation in the fog, and Jim is hurt by his deception, we asked why the chapter did not end where it felt like a natural break could have been implemented. Why did Twain go on to write about Huck’s remorsefulness and regret? Why was the word “his” italicized when Huck said he could almost kiss Jim’s foot? While it was a small section of the story that might be overshadowed by scenes with intensified action, dissecting the minute details of it reveal a lot about the meaning of the text. To avoid an existential crisis I will not attempt to answer whether the meaning of a text depends on the authors intended meaning or shaped by what the reader personally takes from the text in the 300 word limit, but I will conclude by saying that while there might not ever be an ascertainable “right” meaning, that does not mean there are never any “wrong” interpretations of a texts meaning.

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