Literary Mixtape: Huckleberry Finn


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Twain’s rambunctious hero, Huck Finn.

Huckleberry Finn is an iconic character in the American literary canon, representing the preservation of the innocent in the face of corruption and immorality. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck befriends Jim, a runaway slave, whose friendship further develops his sense of morality. But when we say moral, we don’t mean he was a good kid or anything. He was a foul-mouthed ragamuffin, albeit with a heart of gold. He and Jim take to the river, meeting up with vagabonds and getting in trouble and lazing about until they come home again. After all, as Huck says, “all kings is mostly rapscallions.” In his author’s notice, Twain warned, “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” We hope there’s no punishment for finding a mixtape in it. Here are the songs we think Huck would sneak, sail and adventure to.

“Watching the River Flow” – Bob Dylan

A fitting opener: Dylan’s folk song about growing listlessness and the need for change. “If I had wings and I could fly/ I know where I would go/ But right now I’ll just sit here so contentedly/ And watch the river flow.”

“Juicy” – Biggie Smalls

Not only do all 13-year-old boys love Biggie, but Huck would totally be into this track about exceeding the expectations of his society. P.S. All original words in this song, currently acceptable or not, will be left unmolested.

“Proud Mary” – Tina Turner

If there’s a better rafting song, we’d like to hear it. Seriously.

“Lean On Me” – Al Green

Because at its core, Huck’s story is that of a blossoming, if perhaps unlikely, friendship.

“You Are a Runner, and I Am My Father’s Son” – Wolf Parade

Ah, a song about both Huck and Jim. Huck’s father, Pap, is a greedy drunk who keeps Huck locked inside, so we can imagine the kid would have some daddy issues. And, you know, Jim’s a runner.

“Miles From Nowhere” – Cat Stevens

A lazy day song for life on the raft, as far or as close to civilization as they think they are.

“July, July!” – The Decemberists

Huck would be inspired by this ecstatic adventuring song. Heck, it makes us want to get out and beat the path to the road that meets the road that goes to our house immediately. Plus, we don’t know about you, but we always imagined this story happening in the dead heat of summer.

“A Change is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke

Maybe this song is cheating a little bit, because of its connection to the Civil Rights movement, but we don’t think so. After all, that just makes it all the more important for Huck and Jim, who are both on the run, hoping for a little change.

At first we were going to go with another protest song, “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” but “North Country” seems like

“Passing Afternoon” – Iron & Wine

“It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn’t ever feel like talking loud, and it warn’t often that we laughed — only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all — that night, nor the next, nor the next.” Sigh.

“I’m On A Boat” – The Lonely Island

Not really. But, actually, wait. Really. A mischievous young boy like Huck would probably think this song was hilarious. Especially when he was, you know. On a boat.