Feb 23, 2010

Students join Huck Finn on his adventures

by Sandy Hodges

A muddy bank with cattails and grass protruding between scattered rocks lined the left side of the stage, while on the right of the stage floated a tent on a wooden raft. The above set, complete with a rusted lantern brought the Lloyd Auditorium alive Tuesday night.

The visual aids and banjo music bounced through speakers to set the mood for a lecture on Mark Twain’s literary classic, “The Adventures Huckleberry Finn.”

Zeta Tau, Liberty University’s Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an English Honor Society, planned the event. President of Zeta Tau Kellie Matthews introduced the evening’s speaker, Professor William K. Hammersmith of Liberty’s English Department.

Hammersmith began by presenting the timelessness of the novel. For 12 years “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” has been a focal point of Hammersmith’s lesson plans. “I can never remove Huckleberry Finn from my curriculum,” Hammersmith said.

The novel is an American tale in which Twain portrays the effects of slavery and the human condition.

Questions of civility, morality and slavery arose as Finn detailed life on the Mississippi River. Finn came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the human race, and his solution was that Americans needed to be civilized.

Finn stood against the grain of society and stood up for what he knew to be right. Much of this revelation came from befriending a black slave named Jim. Finn and his band of miscreants assisted Jim in escaping slavery.

“The moral theories that came out of Huck Finn are what make it, I think, the most impressionable novel of our time,” Hammersmith said.

Twain wrote “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” over a number of years. It began as an entertaining book for boys, but transformed into a piece that had a lasting impact on American culture.

“As much as Twain has entertained us, he has woken us up,” Hammersmith, who believes that Twain’s truths are still valid today, said.

Hammersmith also touched on the importance of imagination in children. Children back in Twain’s era used their imagination, but because modern children have entertainment on demand, they are much lazier.

“We need to see more imaginative mischief in kids today,” Hammersmith said.

After the lecture, the attendees gathered outside of the theater for light refreshments while chatting about the lecture and the upcoming theatre production, “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The play, which is based on Twain’s novel, inspired the lecture event.

The Theatre of Arts Department at Liberty University is currently showing “Big River,” their take on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Contact Sandy Hodges at

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