Stillness on the Water – Emotional Insight from Mark Twain

Vik RubenfeldNovel0 Comments

From Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn“:

 I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going to unhitch and start when I heard a sound away over the water. I listened. Pretty soon I made it out. It was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from oars working in rowlocks when it’s a still night. I peeped out through the willow branches, and there it was — a skiff, away across the water. I couldn’t tell how many was in it. It kept a-coming, and when it was abreast of me I see there warn’t but one man in it. Think’s I, maybe it’s pap, though I warn’t expecting him. He dropped below me with the current, and by and by he came a-swinging up shore in the easy water, and he went by so close I could a reached out the gun and touched him. Well, it was pap, sure enough — and sober, too, by the way he laid his oars.

I didn’t lose no time. The next minute I was a-spinning down stream soft but quick in the shade of the bank. I made two mile and a half, and then struck out a quarter of a mile or more towards the middle of the river, because pretty soon I would be passing the ferry landing, and people might see me and hail me. I got out amongst the driftwood, and then laid down in the bottom of the canoe and let her float. I laid there, and had a good rest and a smoke out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back in the moonshine; I never knowed it before. And how far a body can hear on the water such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing. I heard what they said, too — every word of it.

Do you feel that? The stillness, the mystery that Huck is experiencing as he makes his escape? If you feel it, then you are witnessing emotional insight. That’s what a work of art provides.

You yourself may very possibly have felt something before, like what Huck is feeling in this passage. And if you did, you probably wished there was some way to describe it, to communicate it, to somebody else – to even one other person.

Well, there is. These emotions and their meaning can be communicated. They can be communicated when you are doing your real art form. In Twain’s case, that was the form of the novel.

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