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Huckleberry Finn


First published in 1884.

Known as one of the Great American Novels, this novel is written in vernacular English, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry "Huck" Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It contains colorful descriptions of people and places along the Mississippi River. Set in Southern antebellum society that had ceased to exist about twenty years before the work was published, this story is an often scathing satire on entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.

After the success of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876, Mark Twain began a book about Tom's more down-to-earth friend, Huckleberry Finn. Twain seems to have had no difficulty capturing Huck's spirit and voice as Huck told his story, but at some point, Twain began to struggle with the narrative. He set the book aside, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remained unfinished for several years. He wrote and published a number of stories and the narrative account Life on the Mississippi before finishing Huck's story. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade) was published in 1884 in England and 1885 in the U.S. The story takes place in the Mississippi Valley "forty to fifty years ago," or about the time of Twain's own boyhood in Hannibal, Missouri, a town much like Huck’s hometown, St. Petersburg, Missouri. Unlike his imaginative friend Tom Sawyer, who reads chivalric adventure stories and loves to play games of make believe, Huck is a realist. He tolerates the efforts of his caretakers, the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, to “sivilize” him, but his preference would be to live barefoot in rags, smoking his pipe and fishing in the river. The appearance of Huck’s “Pap,” an abusive drunk, serves as an inciting incident, prompting Huck to fake his own death and escape down the river. However, the two main plot lines of the story revolve around Huck’s friendship with a runaway slave named Jim, and his adventures with two con men who attach themselves to Huck and Jim. Huck struggles with his conscience over whether he should turn Jim in or help him escape like “a low down Ablitionist.” Likewise, the greedy exploits of the con men disgust Huck, making him feel “ashamed of the human race.” Twain’s choice to let Huck tell his own story adds to the realism of the narrative, while allowing Twain to satirize certain social customs. For example, Huck is quick to point out the hypocrisy of Widow Douglas’ admonition that he should not smoke tobacco while she herself uses snuff (a ground form of tobacco). Twain also highlights ironies Huck overlooks. For example, Huck ridicules the Christian faith of Miss Watson and Widow Douglas, which he regards as pointless. Yet the first chapter reveals that Huck is a slave to superstition when he inadvertently kills a spider, which he believes to bring bad luck, then performs a number of rituals in an effort to stave off the impending calamity he is convinced will befall him. Twain’s humor is largely expressed through irony and sarcasm. By portraying people with realism and shunning sentimentality, Twain makes a strong statement about human foibles and societal hypocrisy.--Submitted by Sybil

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Recent Forum Posts on Huckleberry Finn

Odd things in Huck Finn

There were one or two things in the book that struck me as odd: Jim sometimes calls Huck 'honey'. As a boy, I would not have appreciated anyone calling me 'honey', and especially not a grown man, not even my father. In the last part of the book, Tom Sawyer arrives and takes over. I thought it was a bit weird them engaging in all the elaborate escape preparations based on adventure books. Jim is quite a patient fellow, but I was surprised he put up with it. I am surprised Huck went along with it, because he seemed a bit more mature than Tom. I was surprised by Jim's long-suffering nature. He did complain about being tied up on the raft, but apart from that he had to spend long periods of time on his own waiting by the raft, while Huck and the others got up to things in the towns and villages. Then he had to spend several weeks held captive, mainly by himself on Aunt Sally's farm. He must have been bored witless. How old is Huck in the book? I imagine him being about fourteen, but on book-covers he usually looks younger.

Naughty words in Huck Finn

It is odd in a book that contains so many instances of the word 'nigger' that its author had to censor his writing to avoid blasphemy. I must be slow on the uptake because although I was slightly puzzled to see these substitute phrases, I did not catch on that was what they were. I thought they were just unfamiliar phrases from 19th century America. My land = My lord. Dad fetch it = God damn it. Blame = Damn.

Is Huckleberry Finn a children's book?

Do you consider Huckleberry Finn to be a children's book? The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is, but I am not sure about Huckleberry Finn. I read Tom Sawyer as a boy and enjoyed it. I started reading Huckleberry Finn, but it was quite long. iirc I enjoyed it at first, then started to get bored with it, and then put it down. Maybe if it had stopped at the end of chapter 16, which I think may have been Twain's original plan, it could have been a children's book. In the chapter I read today, all those confused lines from Shakespeare's plays, and the mixing up for comedic effect of Henry VIII, 1001 Nights and The Domesday book would have gone right over my head.

Why didn't Jim escape to Illinois?

I have started reading Huckleberry Finn. I remember starting to read it when I was a boy, having enjoyed Tom Sawyer, but I gave up after a while, because it started to get long and boring. I am enjoying it more now. Anyway, one of the chapter notes says that Mark Twain was aware that Jim might have escaped to freedom by crossing the river from Missouri to Illinois, but for good reasons decided not to write that plot. I have not got very far into the book, so I don't know how far down the Mississippi they drifted. It makes sense that Jim would not want to cross the bank directly to the Illinois side if he wanted to avoid tracker dogs, but how far down the river did he need to go to shake them off?

Use of a Child Protagonist

Hello everyone, I just finished reading Huckleberry Finn, and in a few weeks, we are required to write a paper about it. It's a literary analysis, and my teacher assigned me the following question: In Huckleberry Finn, the protagonist (Huck Finn) is a child. Why did Mark Twain decide to use a child as opposed to an adult protagonist? Any ideas? -Desmond Tacoma, WA

15 major events in huck finn

hey sorry to ask this but can you please tell me 15 major events spread out across the book and what chapters theyre in? I know its a lot of work but I desperately need this. Again sorry for all the work.

"huck finn" edited...despicable! I can't remember the last time I was so infuriated at the re-working of a classic...THAT IS HEINOUS! A classic that made its mark by displaying the social and moral fabric of American society like no other book--it's arguably THE "Great American Novel," and certainly ranks up there for that honor--with the highs AND lows of America, the good ideas at work AND the ugliness and hypocrisy within...the claim of "All men are created equal" and the enslavement and demeaning treatment of an entire race and the removal and in some cases extinction of another... A book that ATTACKS racism and bigotry... And they take out the "N-word" and "Injun" to make it more pallateable? Well, while we're at it, why not change around some of the work from the 1920s and 1930s? I'm a Jew but, hey, I just can't handle it and any future kids someday just would be better off not having to face the "K-word," right? And we can just rewrite those books that have Anti-Semetic characters to soften the blow--no problem! After all, why have Shylock suffer all the slings and arrows and terrible treatment and slanders in The Merchant of Venice when we can just PC it up and make it perfectly clear those nice, virtuous Venetians were perfect Christians in that day and age and didn't subjugate Shylock or the Jews at all! We don't need THAT! Who needs cold, cruel details and an actual reason for one of the first complex Jewish characters in literature to do what he does when we can just nice it up and clear the Venetians' names and make Shylock a flat character and be SURE no one EVER need see he had ANY reason to act badly. Shakespeare...he was less evolved, less civilized, right? Same with Twain! After all, THEY know better than Twain what Twain meant to get across--why should Jim and his people have to face such terrible language and provide them with reasons for what they do and how we should feel about them and their white masters when "slave" works just fine! After all, "slave" gets it AL across, right? No need to throw in a word that was far more derogatory and insulting and humiliating for them, no need to make us feel uncomfortable that we treated them not only as slaves, but less than human, and called them as such! And hey--while we took over the "Native American" lands, we were at least SURE we didn't "insult them" by calling them "injun" while sending them on a Trail of Tears and destroying their society and way of life, rioght? NO REASON we should have to face the problems of race today, because in American society today race relations are 100% perfect and utpoian and everyone loves everyone in a perfect. totally-PC America where nothing bad ever happened and no bad things EVER happen! Mr. Twain...on behalf of my generation and all of us who actually still read and still are able to think before we act, all of us who aren't afraid to look into the past to see the darker side of our pasts and even ourselves, I apologize. Your words haven't fallen on deaf ears--its just that "sivilized world" that has it all wrong.

mark Twain and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

I am writing an essay on mark Twain and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and I need to write on how Mark Twains life experiences influenced certain parts of the book. I need a quote from each of the sections to prove this. Any help would be great. I already used all the quotes from the book I'm allowed now I need to use articles, etc. Here is the sections. I need quotes that prove that something in twains life influenced him to write about a certain thing in the book and quotes that provide evidence that my statement is the truth. Characters Pap Huck Jim Themes bonds of friendship truth (lieing can end up bad) danger of alcohalism Race Relations similar origins (Huck and Jim) positive outlook on everything/enjoy each other (Huck and Jim) black society needs help from whites Thanks, ty

Shakespeare quotes in Adventures of Huckleberry Finnn

What Shakespeare quotes are in Huckleberry Finn?

What does the "texas" mean in Ch11

Hello all, I chapter 11 Huck is trying to convince Jim to land on the shipwrecked steam boat they are happening to drift upon at night in the middle of a storm. To convince Jim to land on it he referes to a "Texas" and a "Pilot-House". I thought perhaps the "texas" was referring to the name of the vessel, but that doesn't make much sense in the context of the wording. What is the "Texas" referring too? regards, Rick

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