Dunlap High School
Instructor: Chris Friedman
Huck Finn v. Player Piano-Style
Dialect is the regional variation of a language. Therefore, people from different places are most likely to have different dialects. This was also the case in the past, and Mark Twain uses this to add to the texture to his novel The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn. He also uses dialogues, or a conversation between two or more people, to add important information and description to his book. He, however, is not the only one to use dialogue, the author of Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut, also does the same. The style of the two novels are similar in the fact that both make use of dialogues, but they are also different since one uses dialect while the other does not.
Mark Twain makes a good use of different dialects to add diversity to his novel The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn whereas Kurt Vonnegut does not. In Mark Twain’s novel, the dialect used is determined by the character that is speaking. For example, the dialect is different when an African American slave speaks than when a white and wealthy man speaks. On top of that, the novel being written in first person with Huckleberry Finn as the narrator features a dialect for the narration itself. The following are some excerpts from the novel showing a few of many dialects applied in the book from various characters. [Huckleberry Finn, the narrator] “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” [Jim, a runaway slave] “I tuck out en shin down de hill, en ’spec to steal a skift ’long de sho’ som’ers ’bove da town.” [Boggs, a minor character] “Whar’d you come f’m, boy? You prepared to die?…Come out here, Sherbrun! Come out and meet the man you’ve swindled. You’re the houn’ I’m after, and I’m a-gwyne to have you too!” Dialects are not put to top priority in the novel Player Piano however. Conversations from most of the characters and the words of the narrator (not a character in the novel) are consistent with each other in their way of speaking. The most reasonable conclusion for this may be the fact that the plot of this book takes place in a future, science fiction world making it complicated to predict the future vernacular. Here are some brief examples. “What are you gong to do about Shepherd?” “You needn’t be scared. He wastes all his energy on games with himself. There goes you phone.” “Well! I should hope they wouldn’t print it! What on earth does he think he’s doing?” “Smile, Doctor Proteus—you’re somebody now, like your old man was. Who’s got a bottle?” The quotations above are from Anita, Doctor Paul Proteus, Doctor Halyard, and Lasher respectively. Though the quotes are from different characters, it can be noticed that the way the language is used in them is similar; the language is formal. Except for some rare exceptions, the dialect used in this novel is similar and consistent. Dialect therefore is not a big priority in Player Piano where in contrast, it is the otherwise in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
In both the novels Player Piano, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the author of the corresponding novel made much use of dialogues to drive the plot. Though in both books many descriptions of settings, characters, and plots are featured, conversations among and between the characters are not left out from their major role. One can take an event from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for example: the event of how Jim, a runaway slave, manages to escape to an island is described only through what Jim says during a conversation between him and Huckleberry once Jim is asked “How do you come to be here, Jim, and how’d you get here?” Another example from the novel can be given from the fact that a young man tells about the death of a man, about the three daughters the man has left orphan (“Poor things! to be left alone in the cold world so” as the young man explains), and also about properties the man has left in will. This information is crucial for a major part of the book. Conversations between characters are also used to describe settings and even other characters. The following quotation describes Boggs, a character, through dialogue: “a man says: | ‘He don’t mean nothing; he’s always a-carryin’ on like that when he’s drunk. He’s the best-natureest old fool in Arkanasw—never hurt nobody, drunk nor sober.’” Dialogues play an extremely important part to describe the conditions of the society in the novel Player Piano. One can consider the dialogue of a woman and Dr. Halyard as an example. “Anyway, [the woman speaks] my husband’s book was rejected by the council…Beautifully written…But it was twenty-seven pages longer than the maximum length…And…it had an antimachine theme.” This quote here is a portion of a long conversation of Dr. Halyard and the woman. It is described here that the society is quite strict about how books must be written, and that one could not speak up against machinery (it helps to know that the book takes place in the future where machines has much of the country’s controls). This is just one of many applications of dialogues to describe the conditions of the society. The conversation between Dr. Paul Proteus, the main character, and another character, Bud, can be used as another example.
‘Ah haven’t got a job any more,’ said Bud…Paul was amazed. ‘Really? What on earth for?…What about the gadget you invented for—’ | ‘Thet’s it,’ said Bud…‘Works. Does a fine job.’ He smiled sheepishly, ‘Does it a whole lot better than Ah did it.’ | ‘It runs the whole operation…And so you’re out of a job.’ | ‘Seventy-tow of us are out of jobs…’ said Bud…‘Ouah job classification has been eliminated. Poof.’
The dialogue explains that Bud’s job classification is now in the control of a gadget, which Bud himself invented, because it is more effective at doing this type of job than the humans are. Thus, this dialogue shows machines are taking over the human professions. These examples can allow one to conclude that in both of the novels, dialogues play an important part in driving the plot and in adding important descriptions to the novel.
The two novels have their own style, but they are similar in the fact that both of them make good use of dialogues. The dialogues give great information and add descriptions. Their styles are not completely similar in the fact that the novel Player Piano does not use a great amount of dialects, while the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does. Hence the two themes have their similarities and differences.