This year I am teaching Juniors. As part of their first assignments, I am writing parallel work. This will only serve them in the slenderest of ways. I hope it serves me a great deal. I also hope it serves a reader or two.
We begin with a loosely organized journal in which I must pick five sentences from the first nine chapters of Huck Finn that I admire. For each of the sentences I choose I must provide a rationale for why I admire it. I will begin with the bibliography of my copy of the book.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Penguin, 1985.
The first sentence I chose from Huck Finn is in chapter one. “Then she told me about the bad place and I said I wished I was there”(10). I find this sentence amusing, and that I always admire. Since I have already read the book (several times), I also appreciate how it comes back much later and in a much more serious way.
My second choice appears early in the pages of chapter two. “If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain’t [sic] sleepy—if you are anywhere where it won’t [sic] do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards of a thousand places” (13). Once again, I appreciate the humor of this statement. Further, I appreciate Huck’s insight about how we respond to restriction. If we are supposed to (or must) stay still, we are bound to want to itch or sneeze or yawn or laugh or something else that is forbidden.
The next sentence comes from chapter two as well. “I was most ready to cry; but all at once I thought of a way, and so I offered them Miss Watson—they could kill her”(16). Humor carries the day. This sentence is funny, but it also shows that Huck has come to care for Miss Watson as if she were family. He only has Pap, and so the gang is thinking of not including him because they will not have anyone to kill if he turns on the gang, but then he realizes that Miss Watson is someone he would be willing to protect, and she is steady and trustworthy and easy to find if the gang needs to kill her.
Another great sentence comes at the end of chapter five. “He said he reckoned a body could reform the ole man with a shot-gun, maybe, but he didn’t know either way”(32). This shows that the well-meaning new judge finally gives up on reforming Pap. That does not surprise the reader after getting a chance to see how Pap treats Huck.
The last for this week has to be from chapter six. “(Pap) said they was crawling up his legs; and then he would give a jump and scream, and say one had bit him on the cheek—but I couldn’t see no [sic] snakes”(38). In this scene Twain creates a recognizable attack of the delirium tremens, the most severe symptom of alcoholism, the type of attack that can eventually lead to the death of the addict. I chose this sentence because I do NOT like snakes. They frighten me terribly, so being bitten on the cheek would be torture. On the other hand, many of the sentences in the scene are as effective as this one, and some inspire even more terror. It is remarkable writing, and a testimony about how dangerous it is for a child to be in the care of an irretrievable alcoholic.