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W A Y N E R . K I M E Fairmont State College Huck Among the Indians: Mark Twain and Richard Irving Dodge's The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants While Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was going through the press during the summer of 1884, M ark Twain decided to write a sequel. His eight years of intermittent work on the novel had endeared the character of Huck Finn to him, and to further showcase his vagabond hero he planned to portray the fulfillment of Tom Sawyer’s wish, expressed in the final chapter, that he, Huck, and Jim should “go for howling adventures amongst the Indians, over in the territory, for a couple of weeks or two.”1 Twain busied himself on and off with his new project for several weeks, but after completing nine chapters for a total of approximately 22,000 words he abandoned it, turning his mind to others among his multifarious undertakings. In later years he wrote further of both Huck and Tom, but so far as is known he never resumed work on this particular fragment. The surviving text, entitled “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians” and edited by W alter Blair,2reveals that he was developing in his novel a contrast between romantic misconceptions of Indian character, all derived from books, and the less flattering profile enforced by experience of Indians at first hand. The contrast between romance and reality was of course a staple of Tw ain’s comic repertoire, one he had often employed with happy results. Here, appropriately enough, Tom Sawyer serves as spokesman for the exalted ideas about Indians that the narrative reveals to be absurd. Why, then, did Mark Twain set aside this work, which seemed to offer so promising an opportunity to debunk false beliefs? The answer lies in his own beliefs about Indian character and in the specific Indian behavior he was dealing with. W hat he considered to be the reality about Indians was in its fullness far from comic. In fact, it was so troubling that it led him to set aside his new book as impracticable along the lines he had laid out in the initial chapters. 322 Western American Literature Twain had written about the Red M an on several occasions before he began “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians.” He initiated his long campaign against James Fenimore Cooper’s unrealistic portrayal of the Mingos and the Delawares as early as 1867, when he affirmed in an article for the San Francisco Alta California that the “Cooper Indians . . . died with their creator.” In Roughing It (1872) he ironically represented himself as a naive “disciple of Cooper and a worshiper of the Red M an,” recording his impressions of the Goshoot Indians of Utah, “the other ‘Noble Red M en’ that we (do not) read about.” Shaken by the contrast to his expectations embodied by the wretched Goshoots, the young Twain is led “to examining authorities” in order to learn whether he has been view­ ing the Indian “through the mellow moonshine of romance.” He reports his findings: The revelations that came were disenchanting. It is curious to see how quickly the paint and tinsel fell away from him and left him treacherous, filthy and repulsive—and how quickly the evidences accumulated that wherever one finds an Indian tribe he has only found Goshoots more or less modified by circumstances and sur­ roundings—but Goshoots, after all. Twain’s self-portrayal in Roughing It and elsewhere suggests that any senti­ mental believer in the nobility of Indian character will come to his senses once he consults the “authorities” or observes Indians close up.3 In “The Noble Red M an,” published in The Galaxy for September 1870, he carries his indictment of Indians a long step further. Here his tone is not pleasant irony but outrage. Having summarized the conventional literary myth, he draws upon De Benneville Randolph Keim’s With Sheridan’s Troopers on the Borders (1870) to eite examples of Indian treachery, cruelty, and brutality toward frontier settlers and their families. Among the offenses he names are torture, rape, scalping, and the savages’ “favorite...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 321-333
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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