I think before I can attempt to answer the question of why we should read Huck Finn/what's the purpose of close reading a text I should share what initiated my passion for reading literature.
Ever since I was a child I've always had a huge imagination. My head was always in the clouds and I'd happily fantasize of day dreams over and over in my head. Though thoughts can be scattered as soon as they float in my ever racing mind and each re-visit to a fantasy would ultimately never be the same. I loved reading because I wanted to experience more than the reality I was simply growing in (as overdone cliche and stupid that sounds) because I was bored with it or knew my limitations. Every time I'd pick up a book (one that would interest me that is) I'd dive into the pages of the story and picture it all clearly in my head. I always cherished the ability to live vicariously through the lives of others, whether they be fictional or not.
In others, reading was not only a source to pass the time, it was a place I could go, an experience I could... well... experience without actually experiencing. (And here I praise the duality of body and mind. WOO!)
Going off that, sorta, the first time I opened Huck Finn weeks ago it was so difficult for me to make sense of the world depicted by this wildchild who could barely write a paragraph without me doing a double-take of his poor grammar.Of course, I say poor grammar coming from a literate (at least I hope I am) 21st century 'Merican who's had the privileged of what we deem to be "proper" education of the use of the english language. It took me a good getting used to the voice of Huckleberry because it was a voice from a character I was not familiar with and used words in different ways I was used to. I think what really allows Huck to embody is own character is the language he uses. I've always admired and respected writers who write in the dialect of their characters. As soon as I got comfortable and could hear the voice of Huck clearly in my head the world depicted in Twain's novel became all the moire real and authentic for me because of it's presentation through his unique voice and towards the end of the novel I was entrapped in it that I didn't take into account the larger picture that everyone else gets out of Twain's work.
There are multiple layers to reading and how we interpret Huck Finn. On one hand, we can concentrate on his character and his personal account on his adventures. On other we can look at all the issues that are embedded in the text whether they have been put there intentionally or not. It really is crazy when you think about the humor in this story and how it paradoxes the harsh severity of people.
It makes me uncomfortable when we discuss the writer's intention because it's something that we will never know (unless as Jarrett suggested, they write it all out) and also because as I writer myself, I believe that the process of writing/creating takes such a powerful form itself that it becomes a being of its own. Given that, things that are deep or interpersonal or whatever about the writer are revealed on the page without their intentions.
(I am having major difficulty expressing myself now so I'm really sorry if none of this makes sense to anyway)