Huck & Jim's Serendipitous Salvation
Of all the endings possible for 'Huckleberry Finn,' only one would have made any sense. My own, uneducated guess is that Mark Twain didn't want (or didn't have the courage) to go that way, so he tacked on a resolution clapped together from maudlin slop and preposterous coincidence. When I put my mean eye on 'Huck Finn,' I can literally see where the fix was thrown in. It couldn't be clearer had the author drawn a line across the bottom of chapter 31.
Thus what might have been one of the world's great tragedies became what is yet one of the world's great pieces of kiddie lit. The world declares it so and so it will remain, which is some consolation because the book remains a tragedy of a sort.
The world needs kiddie lit, whether adults enjoy it or not. That's why 'Huckleberry Finn' will outlast ten thousand writers like me. It will survive all attempts to pry it out of its place in the canon and future generations will have to suffer that awful resolution just as I did. Most people don't notice anything wrong with it, anyway.
The upshot is that 'Huck Finn' is immortal: it is a thing like warfare or venereal disease. And if (unlike most Americans) you've read all of Mark Twain, you know the old geezer would have chortled at and cherished that thought.
When I was a lad of nine years, I'd have rated "Huckleberry Finn" at six stars, my logic then being that five were not enough. Today, 61 years old, getting on toward the end of a hard life, I give it three stars for the three fourths of the book that are truly superb. The rest of it is goo.