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Main page » Non-Fiction » Science literature » Literature Studies » Dramatic Unity of Huckleberry Finn

Dramatic Unity of Huckleberry Finn


The hundreds of books and articles on Huckleberry Finn have failed to answer a basic question about the novel: Does the ending belong to the book? Answering “No” as many critics of the book have done puts students of American literature in an embarrassing position. Almost all such critics consider Huckleberry Finn not just an interesting novel, but a very great novel, one of the supreme American works of art. PMLA, the official publication of university English studies, has declared it a national treasure.1 But many able critics have agreed that the ending of the “great American novel”2 seriously violates its unity. (One critic would omit the beginning, too.)3 The ending of Huckleberry Finn being a quarter of the novel, we are left with a radically flawed treasure, as if Hamlet had a bungled fifth act. This situation does not seem to bother many critics, but I think it should. Works of the first order should stand up to the most searching examination. Either we should establish that Huckleberry Finn is unified, even if we dislike its mode of unity, or we should let the present towering reputation of the novel lapse, and call it a partial failure like Pierre—a significant partial failure, and a greater achievement than the successes of many minor artists, but a partial failure just the same. And no matter how one defines “partial,” a partial failure is not a success.[...]

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Tags: Huckleberry, novel, American, critics, supreme, Dramatic