Huckleberry Finn

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Huckleberry Finn
A Lesson in Language
Language
 When Huckleberry Finn was first published, it
was banned for its “rough, ignorant dialect,”
“systematic use of bad grammar and an
employment of ineloquent expressions,” and
“flippant” tone.
 Why would Twain, an educated, successful,
well-read author, choose this colloquial
language for his main character?
Language
 What can you tell about Huck Finn from his
language?
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How old is he?
Is he educated or not?
Smart or dumb?
Wise or naïve?
Moral or immoral?
A rebel or a conformist?
Is he a good or a bad judge of people?
How does he feel about nature?
Does he sound like an contemporary characters?
 Look for specific examples from the text to support
your opinions.
Language / Stereotypes
 What stereotypes does Mark Twain play
on to create the characters in his novel?
Language
 Open your books to Chapter 31.
Describe the features of Huck’s speech.
 Look for slang, poor grammar and
colorful phrases.
Language
 Poor grammar Double negative “We couldn’t seem to do nothing
right.”
 Misplaced pronoun “The duke he fretted and
sweated around.”
 Wrong pronoun case “So me and the duke…”
 Wrong verb tense “I was good and glad when
midday come.”
 S/V agreement “We judged they was studying up
some kind of worse devilry than ever.”
 Mispronunciations “Another time they tried to go at
yellocution.”
Language
 Descriptive language “I lit out and shook the
reef out of my hind legs and spun down the
river road like a deer.”
 Colloquialism “I might as well go the whole
hog.”
 Humorous observations “First they done a
lecture on temperance; but they didn’t make
enough for them both to get drunk on.”
 Unexpected eloquence “It was the first I ever
see it growing, and it made the woods look
solemn and dismal.”
Language
 What effect does this language have?
 Would Huck sound different if he spoke
“proper” English?
Language
 Rewrite the following sentence into
grammatically correct, contemporary English.
 “She run off in de night some time- nobody
don’t know jis’ when; run off to get married to
dat young Harney Sheperdson, you know –
leastways, so dey ‘spec.”
Language
 Your sentence might look something like
this:
 She ran off in the middle of the night, but
no one knows exactly when. She went to
marry young Harney Shepherdson. At
least, that’s what everyone is saying.
Language
 Change the following sentences to
“Huck” language.
 Four score and seven year ago, our
fathers brought forth on this continent, a
new nation, conceived in Liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men
are created equal.
Language
 Your sentence might look something like
this:
 I reckon ‘twas a long time ago, our paps
come over yonder and made themselves
a nation, ‘deed they has, so white men
could be free.
Your assignment:
 In telling the story, Huck proves himself a
talented actor who mimics others’ speech
patterns. Examine the speech of the
characters below, noting the differences
in this character’s speech and social
station and Huck’s own dialect and social
standing.
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Judith Loftus, Missouri housewife, pp. 65-67
Colonel Sherburn, Arkansas gentry, pp. 145-146
Jim, runaway slave, p. 154
Arkansas loafers, p. 139

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