This week we will be featuring Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels, by Richard Locke. We begin with the opening paragraph to the book:
In 1876 Mark Twain stopped working on the manuscript of Huckleberry Finn and didn’t pick it up for three years. He’d written 446 pages and come to the middle of the eighteenth chapter. The fugitive orphan Huck and the runaway slave Jim have been violently separated once again after a steamboat has crushed the raft that is their home and their vehicle to freedom. Huck dives toward the bottom of the river below the thirty-foot steamboat wheel, but when he surfaces he can’t find Jim and finally scrambles ashore in the dark. He comes to a backwoods country mansion, a “big old fashioned double-sized log house” guarded by dogs and armed men in a state of high suspicion and alarm, and after a terrifying interrogation that establishes his status as a castaway and his ignorance of the local war, he is adopted by the “aristocratic clan” of the Grangerfords, who tell him “I could have a home there as long as I wanted it.” Huck has survived a rite of passage from river to shore. He has reentered civilization.