Huck Finn Rides Again: Reverberations of Mark Twain's 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' in The Twentieth-century Novels of Cormac McCarthy
Type of DegreeDissertation
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This dissertation examines the intertextual significance of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the works of a major contemporary American writer: Cormac McCarthy. As many scholars have noted, Twain’s novel helped define the direction of modern American literature and created what Leland S. Person calls The Huck Finn Tradition. In an attempt to clarify Twain’s legacy, this study utilizes, among other methods, Harold Bloom’s theory of tessera, the practice of completion, from The Anxiety of Influence. Bloom believes American writers see their fathers as not having dared enough and attempt, often through the language of the taboo, to revise or complete their predecessors. This study looks in detail at six of McCarthy’s novels: Suttree (1979), The Orchard Keeper (1965), Blood Meridian (1985), All the Pretty Horses (1992), The Crossing (1994), and Cities of the Plain (1998). In these works, McCarthy transforms what he has absorbed from Twain and ventures beyond what his forefather dared. He particularly escalates Twain's presentation of violence in society and the human threat to the natural environment. Faulkner’s The Reivers is considered as a link in the literary chain between Twain and McCarthy. These echoes in McCarthy are vehicles for enriching our understanding of both McCarthy's and Twain's works: particularly our understanding of character, setting, time period, and reoccurring motifs. Twain's reverberations in McCarthy are persistent and pervasive. However, although they have been noted by many scholars, usually they have not been pursued much beyond brief mention.