I learned to read early and one of the authors I read was Mark Twain.
I read "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" first which is fitting since it was published first, in 1876. I liked the story and could relate to the kids although I lived more than a hundred years into their future.
Then I read "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Although as an adult I would learn that Huck Finn outsold Tom Sawyer during Twain's lifetime, I liked both equally.
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was first published in the United States on February 18, 1885 - 135 years ago. It had been published the previous year in Great Britain.
Ernest Hemingway has been often quoted as saying that all modern literature comes from a book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.
Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Clemons, wrote Huck's story in the vernacular. He wrote using many rural and Missouri idioms of the time and he wrote the way he thought a boy like Huck would talk.
Huck tells his own story and he's an insightful young boy. His observations on society are profound.
I've often wondered about his name - why Twain chose to name the character "Huckleberry". I've read that he liked the nickname "Huck" for the boy. Huckleberries are a small fruit, not as popular as blackberries or other berries. Some theories suggest that Twain used the name to demonstrate that Huck is a boy from a lower class home. I have my own thoughts that I'll share.
There's a phrase that was commonly used in the South in the time period - the story is set in the 1840's, the book was published in the 1880's - "I'm your huckleberry."
The phrase might be all but forgotten but Val Kilmer spoke it in his role as Doc Holliday in "Tombstone".
The basic meaning is something along the lines of "I'm your man", used to indicate the intention to be there for the person.
I believe Twain would have been familiar with this usage and that perhaps he chose the name so that the reader would know Huckleberry Finn was dependable. He certainly proves himself to be a good friend to Jim, the runaway slave who accompanies him down the Mississippi River.
Some newer editions of the book have changed Jim's name from the original, which I won't share because I don't want to upset any apple carts or start a heated discussion. It's my belief that the name should remain as written because to change it, changes the context of the story and what Twain set out to do. Twain wrote many other works after Huck but I'll leave you with Huck's own words at the end of the story: “there ain’t nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it, and ain’t a-going to no more."
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the editor of The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a published author and freelance writer as well as an avid reader.