Books that Matter: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Guest Post by Haley Whitehall)

Books that Matter

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce the first ever guest post at She Thinks Too Much! Today’s post is written by Haley Whitehall. Haley writes a great blog about the writing process, creativity, historical fiction and language. You can read it here.

Without further adieu, here is Haley’s post!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was the first book I’ve read by the riverboat pilot turned writer.  I remember reading this book for the first time in the 5th grade. I read it quickly because I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. My real love of the Civil War era began in the 5th grade. Many things (and books) contributed to this and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of them.

Twain’s classic tale, often referred to as the Great American Novel, captivated me. The story of Huck, a teenaged misfit, who floats on a raft down the Mississippi River with an escaping slave, Jim, supercharged my imagination. Twain’s colorful characters and regional expressions kept me thinking even past the last page. Made me think what I could write about the time period.

When I read it the version had the N-word. I am going to weigh in a little on the controversy over releasing a cleaned up version of the book that changes the N-word to slave. First of all, not all of these people were slaves. Second, Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884 when the term was widely accepted. It is a primary source and changing it diminishes the literary value of the novel.

The N-word served as a conversation starter about the racism that existed during that time period. I wanted to learn more. I lived at the library for the next three years devouring every Civil war and Antebellum book I could find. Now I am a historical fiction writer and I owe that in part to Mark Twain.

Most of all, I learned from his writing style. Huckleberry Finn not only inspired interest in the nineteenth century U.S, but it also inspired my writing voice. I learned to write slave dialect by reading Mark Twain’s books. I learned how to weave in historical detail and the mindset of the time into my characters and setting.

They say that in order to be a better writer you need to read, read, read. For me that started with Huckleberry Finn. Come to think of it, it is about time I reread it again!

Haley Whitehall