Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Huckleberry Finn and law/grace

One of my favorite books young adult books is Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. The other day I ran across a quote where Twain was discussing the life of his friend Tom Blackenship, the inspiration for Huck:

"In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blackenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, in-sufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as any boy ever had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person--boy or man--in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy's."

There is so much Grace in this one paragraph!

1. Huck is completely free and as such is ignorant and unwashed, a great scandal to others parents. But in truth, we are all unclean and ignorant in God's eyes; all of the hard work we do here to make ourselves appear otherwise tricks strangers, not God. We remain unwashed and ignorant on the inside; whitewashed tombs, dead inside but pretty to behold.

2. Huck was the happiest and most pure-hearted member of the community. Despite his near homelessness and status as community pariah, it was Huck--unburdened by the Law-filled parenting of the community--who is truly happy and at peace. And those who got to know him, like Twain, found him to be the kindest hearted person they knew. It seems that all of that Law for the other kids--Sunday School lessons and chores and nice clothes and days at the schoolhouse--actually stole their happiness and kindness rather than adding it to them.

3. The parents, scandalized at the popularity of Huck, instituted a new law: stay away from Huck Finn. As a result, his company was valued all the more--two or three times as much as before. The law, after all, condemns us for once we have heard of it, we find it nearly impossible to avoid.

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