After reading Arac, one thing is absolutely evident: Arac does not agree that Huck Finn should be put on a pedestal. Looking specifically at the first chapter, Arac relies heavily upon sarcasm (which we talked about in class) a little too much in order to get his point across. Ironically he seems to condemn those people who religiously defend Huck Finn with seemingly personal, degrading comments. For instance, Arac seems to mock Trilling’s teaching experience by claiming that Trilling has experience teaching a “great books” (which Arac puts in condescending quotes) course AKA the Columbia College Humanities course (19). Arac further claims that Trilling equates Twain’s passages on the river to the choral odes of Greek tragedy and Twain’s ending had the aptness of a Turkish masque found in Moliere (he does this without ever actually quoting directly from Trilling). Arac sums up this point by saying: “So Trilling asserted” (19). But isn’t that what Arac is doing? I could say, “so Arac asserted.” Unless I look up all of these articles that Arac references and read them myself, I have no idea what Trilling actually said. Arac is too busy putting everything into his own highly sarcastic voice, making it really hard to read through a critical lens. Why doesn’t Arac quote directly from Trilling instead of merely mocking him? Arac condemns the idolaters of Huck Finn for resorting to ridiculous claims about how wonderful the book is, but in my opinion, he hasn’t done much but sneeringly ridicule those who support the book (at least in chapter one). To be fair, he does make some interesting claims, including the fact that critics continue to call Jim by a name that was never in the book to begin with. However, I would have liked Arac to take some of the points with which he disagrees and answer specifically each one with his own critical analysis/evidence.
On reading this chapter again just now, I also found that his overuse of empty rhetorical questions (which we also talked about in class) is not strengthening his argument but merely crippling it. There are many instances where Arac poses a rhetorical question and leaves it hanging without delving into its implications or answering it himself. This first chapter almost reads like academic venting rather than literary criticism.