Print Version #1: Great Illustrated Classics (2008)
Despite being 240 pages, this edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is abridged. The large print and the full-page illustrations make it seem a more child-friendly version of the text. While it is important for children and teenagers to be able to access classic literature, much of the gravity of this text is lost in this edition. For instance, the images of Huck and Jim’s smiling faces on the front cover instantly set a cheerful and comedic tone for this text, not alluding in any way to the novel’s struggle with issues of slavery and a gray morality. Furthermore, the old textbook-like illustrations coupled with the brief descriptions (ex. “Lessons make Huck tired”) somewhat oversimplify the novel.
Digital Version #1: CC Prose and Librivox (2011)
On the other hand, CC Prose and Librivox’s audiobook version on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFZYP1fDtpo) enhances the text. It includes synchronized text and an interactive transcript that allows the reader to skip around to different parts of the book. The Librivox audio read by Mark F. Smith is also quite pleasant to hear. Aesthetically, this version is simple: it is laid out like a scroll with a faint image in the background; the text is large and easy to follow as the speaker reads. Like the Great Illustrated Classics edition, this version is also probably marketed toward young students, but unlike the 2008 novel, it is not abridged or depicted in any certain way.
Print Version #2: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. (1981)
The Annotated Huckleberry Finn is reproduced from the first edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was issued by Chatto & Windus from London in 1884. The Introduction, Notes, and Bibliography were written and compiled by Michael Patrick Hearn. The introduction provides extensive history on the writing of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It explains how the work came to be written as an autobiography of Huck, how Kemble became the illustrator, and the reactions the book received – to name a few examples. Throughout the book, there are many illustrations and photos included. These photos can range from Kemble’s drawings for the original text to an image of a location about which Twain writes. These photos can also accompany an annotation. The annotations would be helpful for younger readers as they explain the scenes of the book in a deeper context. They often clarify slang that a character uses or make sense of references that would be unfamiliar to a modern reader. The book even provides an index for words and phrases frequently mentioned. This version is incredibly helpful to readers who want to understand The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a deeper context.
Digital Version #2: Gutenberg (2004)
On gutenberg.org, readers have multiple options in choosing how to view the text of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Project Gutenberg is a producer of free eBooks and accepts donations in order to add more books to grow their collection. The reader can chose to receive the text of Huckleberry Finn in HTML form, or chose to download it to Dropbox, Google Drive, Kindle, or OneDrive. Texts with and without pictures are also offered. Readers who do not want a hard copy of the text will find the various formats that Gutenberg offers to be very valuable. The lack of annotations in this edition, however, may not make it as child-friendly as the Clarkson & Potter edition, perhaps leading it to not be used as much in grade school English classes that wish to tackle the classic.
Print Version #3: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. (1985)
The title page of this version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn includes a short passage from the part of the story during which Tom Sawyer creates a gang with the other boys. Next, a few pages are devoted to a summary of Mark Twain’s life and career, written by Keith Nelson. Before the notice and explanatory (included in the UVa eText), there is one more addition to this print version: a preface.
This eight-page passage includes themes, analysis of Huck and Jim, and a view on the significance of the book’s placement in Mark Twain’s career. Both this and an afterward, also focused on character development, are by Keith Nelson.
Perhaps because of the date of printing and perhaps because of the book having been used before, the pages have a dry, soft feel and are of a slightly faded hue, unlike the white, crisp papers of modern books. This could aid readers in getting in touch with the time-period of the book.
Digital Version #3: UVa Library (1993-1995)
The UVa Library’s eText of Huckleberry Finn is derived from the 1912 Harper & Brothers edition of the book. The text is available in a single webpage layout, or a chapter-by-chapter format, as accessed by the Table of Contents link. Unlike in the Tom Doherty Associates version, each chapter has several words or phrases hyperlinked; upon clicking the links, readers can view pictures, needing only to press the “Back” button to return to the text. So, in this format, viewing pictures is entirely optional, thus suiting both children and a more mature audience. The Notice and Explanatory from the original text are also included, but the UVa Library’s version lacks an explanation of cultural relevance, which is found in the preface of the Tom Doherty Associates edition.
Particularly interesting are the chapters’ headers. UVa’s eText does not include the chapter titles that are present in print editions; chapters are denoted with a “Chapter” followed by a roman numeral. However, the decorations of some of these headers lend insight into the respective chapters’ contents. For example, Chapter VI (called “Pap Struggles with the Death Angel” in the print edition), has what looks like blood dripping down from each character. This seems pertinent, as Huck is beaten by his father in the chapter. Other headers have elements of nature, appropriate when considering Huck and Jim’s outdoors adventure.
Print Version #4: Prospectus (1st Edition – 1884)
This prospectus, donated by C.W. Barrett to UVa’s Special Collections advertises the First Edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Unlike other print and digital forms of the text, this version is very fragile, needing to always be kept in a plastic sleeve. This edition includes a humorous advertisement: “See the book. It speaks for itself.” This perhaps shines light on the fact that the first Huckleberry Finn novels were sold by subscription.
Digital Version #4: Disney (1993)
This adoption of The Adventures of Huck Finn is the most recent of movie adaptations. Huck Finn, played by a young Elijah Wood, dominates the film as he does in the novel. However, Tom Sawyer is not represented in the film, an interesting decision by director Stephen Sommers. The novel itself is derived from Tom Sawyer (1876), and thus the modernity of the movie suggests a severance between them. Smaller details in the movie have been altered from all versions of the text. For example, instead of befriending Buck Grangerford, as is written in the text, Huck befriends a “Billy” Grangerford, to relate more to the prevalence of 20th century viewers. As seen in different novel editions, the n-word is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not used in the movie. This adaptation purposefully omitted offensive language to remain true to an era of racial sensitivity, signaling a “corrected” Huckleberry Finn. The choice also seems apt when considering Disney’s youthful audience.
Print Version #5: Charles L. Webster (1891)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade) contains newspaper clippings and postcards related to Mark Twain and the novel. From the pictures below, it can be seen that the owner of this book was a true follower of the novel and its author. The illustrations were replicas of the first edition. It is extremely obvious that Herbert Reibach, the man who donated this book to the University, loved this book and intended for it to be studied as a historical document.
Unlike more recent versions (print or digital), this one had to be examined on a bookstand and could not be taken out of the library. The UVa Special Collections, like other institutions, does sometimes digitize books; however, these often come at a price, for a lot of books are destroyed during scanning when their binding has to be removed.
Digital Version #5: American Playhouse (1985)
This adaptation, perhaps one of the darkest versions of Huckleberry Finn, includes a lynching scene only alluded to in Twain’s narrative. The film seems to focus on capturing the dark and dangerous antebellum atmosphere. Having made an agreement with the National Endowment for the Humanities to maintain fidelity with Twain’s text, American Playhouse decided to retain racist epithets. The director, Peter Hunt, attempted to go beyond the confines of the pages in order to unveil the truth of the times, declaring that fidelity and authenticity are synonymous, and that the gauges we use to determine authenticity extend beyond the text itself.
Being a movie, this version of Huckleberry Finn has a much a greater ease of access than the Charles L. Webster edition.