Both Smiley and Morrison’s essays provide a different interpretation of Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Jane Smiley critiques the novel, disagreeing with Twain’s choices as a writer to incorporate the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons and introducing the Duke and the Dauphin into the story, “It is the feud that the novel begins to fail, because from here on the episodes are mere distractions from the true subject of the work: Huck’s affection for and responsibility to Jim.”(356) Smiley believes this story was written as a man’s novel, “about real moral dilemmas and growth”(356) Jane Smiley states that her biggest problem with the novel is the ending, but argues a poor ending is only caused by earlier problems, the lack of Jim’s desire for freedom being taken seriously. Smiley goes on to argue that Twain had a real opportunity to make this a novel about racism, however the novel fails to do so and sends a very different message. Smiley is a firm believer of the phrase “actions speak louder than words”, she states that the lesson this novel is portraying is “all you have to do to be a hero is acknowledge your poor sidekick is human; you don’t actually have to act in the interests of his humanity.”(362) Although I can understand and respect Smiley’s position, I do feel Huck’s affection towards Jim spoke volumes, especially in a time period that did not approve of their relationship.
Morrison began her essay, “fear and alarm are what I remember about my first encounter with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”(385) Morrison found the language and context of the novel disturbing. However, with further reading, Morrison began to understand Twain’s characters and the conflicts they were forced to face in the novel and realizes after close examination that there is much more to the novel than just inappropriate language and tricks. Morrison realizes that the deeper message lies within what Twain does not say, “Unarticulated eddies that encourage diving into the novel’s undertow- the real place where writer captures reader.”(388) Morrison ends the essay with pointing out the clarity she has no received about what initially shocked and disturbed her so much about Twain’s novel.
Kolvenbach and King’s essays both allow us a different way to look at these issues and apply them in a more modern way. King relates more closely to Smiley in focusing heavily on the racist aspects. King argues against the injustices and argues, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Everyone is connected; therefore the only way to deal and better these injustices is together. The same way Morrison is able to see the good aspects and affection of Huck and Jim’s relationship and the message they send, Kolvenbach is able to see the good in using education and the Jesuit ideals to teach about injustices and learn from them to better ourselves as a whole.