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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

By Mark Twain
Modern American (1885)

1. The Author and His Times

Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Clemens, was born in Florida, Missouri in
1835. When he was four, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, the setting for
many of his books. His father died when he was 12. After his father died, he went to
work as a printer’s apprentice and eventually as a printer in Missouri, St. Louis, and
New York often writing a few works himself for periodicals.
He worked as a printer and a reporter selling much of his work to newspapers. He
continually moved from town to town. In 1857, he decided to move to South America
to make a fortune there. He boarded a riverboat and headed for New Orleans where
he would arrange the rest of his trip. However, he never made it past New Orleans
and never into South America. He begged the riverboat to teach him how to pilot the
riverboat. The riverboat pilot agreed to teach him for $500.
Mark Twain went west during the civil war and established himself as a writer during
this time. He wrote humorous stories about his experiences which lead to a job as a
newspaper reporter in 1862. The following year he began signing his work “Mark
Twain,” a riverboat term meaning two fathoms deep.
Mark Twain went to Hawaii in 1866. This trip was the beginning of his career as a
travel correspondent. The next year he went to Europe and wrote a successful book
there titled, The Innocent Abroad. In 1876, he published The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer. This book was such a success that he decided immediately to write a sequel.
The sequel, which became much more complex than the original was published seven
years later in 1883 and titled, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After
Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote nearly a dozen more books but none were as
By 1939, Twain had lost all of his money investing in various schemes and
inventions, almost all of which were failures. After this, he went on a world lecture
tour and was able to pay his debts by 1896. While on the tour, one of his daughters
died. His wife later in 1904. In 1909 his daughter died leaving him unhappy.

2. Form, Structure, and Plot

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn consists of 43 chapters and is told in the first
person with Huck Finn telling the story. The book divides into three sections. The
first sections has Huck living his Miss Watson and her sister in civilization. During

Point of View Huckleberry Finn is written in the first person with Huck narrating. only to have Tom tell them that Jim was already free. Pap beats Huck and Huck decides that he must escape. since they are low on money. they decide to travel down the Mississippi river and up the Ohio river into the free states. the Duke and King sell Jim as a runaway slave to the Phelps. The narrator. Huck travels down the river with Jim. When the find that there are men on the island searching for Jim. Some of the adventures include the family feud between the Grangerford and Shephersons. It is difficult to label a single point as the climax. The third sections takes place at the farm and continues to the end of the book. An organizational object in the book is the river which serves as a timeline for the book. it does not divide itself to neatly into rising action. Huck decides to head off into new territory since he does not like the civilized society. The first section introduces Huck and his current life living with Miss Watson and Later with his father. Huck meets Jim at the island and starts down the river when they find out that Jim is being searched for. Although the book divides itself into three sections. Tom later comes and pretends he is Huck Finn. In the second section. the have many adventures. Huck Finn. Miss Watson’s runaway slave. On the river. is the protagonist and not . climax and conclusion since the book consists of several adventures with its own rising action. Huck did not like the civilized life and would rather live an easy going life. He lived with Widow Douglas and her sister. he meets Jim. Later they meet two con artists who call themselves the Duke and the King. Traveling down the river. Huck runs from civilization and Jim runs from slavery. However. This is the rising action. but they miss the turnoff into the Ohio River in the climax. Huck returns to civilization and lives with Tom in Uncle Silas’ farm. Huck fakes his death and flees to Jackson Island. This section ends when both Jim and Huck make it to Uncle Silas’ farm. and conclusion. Huck’s father finds out that Huck has some money and kidnaps him into a shack by the river. They have several adventures with the Duke and the King. they try to rescue Jim but fails. This section ends were Huck fakes his death and flees to Jackson Island. Miss Watson. The book clearly starts with the exposition where Huck introduced himself as a character from Tom Sawyer and the son of a town drunk.the second section. 3. At the conclusion of the book. Huck goes to the Phelps and pretends he is Sid Sawyer. In the last section. There. their nephew. climax. It is in the past tense as a recent perspective. they live an easy life as they travel during the night and hide during the day. On the island. However.

He shows a lot of compassion in the story. especially in the episode where Jim tells Huck about his daughter. While living with Widow Douglas. and even with the duke and king.Tom is a friend of Huck. They are given feelings and emotions and have a measure of dimension. His appearance is typical of the southern boy. Also contrasting with Huck is that he lives in society and enjoys it.simply the observer. His purpose is to contrast to Huck’s reasonability and cause the attempt to rescue Jim at the end of the book. 5. Character Twain’s characters are fairly complex and believable for the time the book was written. shrewd. and one that is typical of a young boy that always want to play and pretend.. and crude. Tom warns the Phelps that a “desperate gang of cutthroats from over in the Ingean Territory” is going to steal Jim that night when it was actually he that was going to steal Jim..” Tom Sawyer . He is gullible. and he tells his feelings on the government through the experiences of Pap and his run-ins with the law. people will call me a low down abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum... For example. His purpose is to gauge the growth of Huck and to cause him to see slaves as people.” Jim . he appears differently.. Often. His clothes are tattered and his appearance is not very good since he is a runaway slave without many clothes. at times they seem to be less characters and more just a means to convey some of Twain’s ideas. he dressed nicely but lost this appearance after he went out on the river where he became less concerned with appearance and clothes. He is kind to Huck and acts as a father to him during the trip down the river. and compassionate. He has the personality of a constant adventurer.. Huck Finn . protective. Twain also shows an aversion to royalty with the adventures with the duke and the king. He is a little older than Huck. However. During the different parts of the story.children that belonged to a man . [Jim] would steal his children -.. Twain uses the book and Huck’s character to voice his own ideas about society. a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm. He does things for the sake of adventure and hardly thinks of practicality. This is apparent in his dealings with Jim. He exposes slavery and an evil and show blacks to have feelings just like others. he denounces organized religion in the opening chapters with the raid on the Sunday school picnic.Jim is a middle aged slave own by Widow Douglass who ran away near the beginning of the book. He is irresponsible. 4. playful. He is fatherly.Huck is a young boy in his adolescence. His function in the story is as the narrator. Setting .. “. the Wilks. and unselfish. “.

especially in speech and dialogue. After each adventure. The book is somewhat of an irony in itself because of this style. Huckleberry Finn takes place along a stretch of the Mississippi River. There is an emphasis on the river as a haven from society and a source for adventure. 2. he learns and does many things that would be contrary to the beliefs of society such as helping the slave escape. The writing style in this book is not flowery or poetic. Huck travels down the river and is provided tools such as the raft. Petersburg in the book) and various other well known cities down the river such as New Orleans. He also pays close attention to detail in dealings with the different areas down the river. This is an area that Mark Twain knew well. Another theme in the story is that society is wrong. 7. Louis. Style Twain’s style is simple and conveys his ideas in a boyish mood. He gives his complex observations on society through the eyes and through the speech of a young boy out for adventure. the mood of the story is somewhat cramped compared to the trip down the river. 3. It is seen as separate from the surrounding areas and separate from civilization. He also learns the idea that black people are people. Themes 1. As Huck travels down the river. Twain also uses a lot of irony. This makes the diction simple and easy to understand with humorous differences between this writing style and other more formal ones. despite the teachings of society. The settings of the house of the widow Douglass and the Phelp house serve to symbolize society and life in society. Twain’s also pays close attention to the diction of the speech of the various people from the various areas down the river. 6. The diction is very informal. and St. The river and the surrounding areas are revered and seen as a grand layout for some great adventures giving the mood of adventures to the story. Diction Twain tells the story through Huck Finn and his diction is typical of the southern speech of a young boy during that time and area. 8. too. There is a theme of growth and rebirth in Huck throughout the story. It includes his home town of Hannibal (known as St. Huck learns something new and become a new person. but simply the speech of a young boy. During these passages. and adventure from the river. . Much of the descriptions and imagery is humorous in this way.

there we crawled out through the hole. Imagery . and laid around the raft as she floated along. and telling fortunes. being more like speech than Huck’s narration. and a little of everything. While this differs from the rest of the book.” This phrase would not be used in formal writing. 10. Here. I begged. their speech fits with their character. Other characters. The dialogue in the book is similar. Twain gives a sense of childish fun and adventure. but still it is understandable. Huck lists off some of the professions that the duke and king did while on the journey. but Twain uses it here with good effect. such as missionarying. and mesmerizing. and dreadful blue and desperate. by the half a day at a time. it gets sometimes difficult to understand. an roared and cussed. Some of the professions are obviously wrongly put. speak fluently and correctly. So at last they got just about dead broke. but he laughed such a screechy laugh. This is easily believable as the speech of Huck.” This passage is again simple and easy to understand. However. thinking and thinking. and he see me and went for me. and told him I was only Huck. He chased me round and round the place with a clasp knife. so we had a right down good sociable time. with hands that looked like the’d been cawed.” This is a typical passage from out of Huck Finn. Huck uses the term. the characters ramble and string various phrases together. but always simple. “right down good sociable time. and doctoring. such as the Judge and Wilks brothers. Passage 2: “They tackled missionarying. and saying he would kill me. Occasionally.” Twain’s writing is clear and simple. Syntax Twain’s syntax is simple and informal often breaking laws of grammar to do so. and so home to bed. It is apparent that the writing style is simple and informal. it conveys a feeling of desperation. but they couldn’t seem to have no luck. There is nothing too difficult about the passage and it is easy to understand. and kept on chasing me up. anything a person would normally do while speaking. Passage 3: “Jim had plenty of corncob pipes and tobacco. calling me the Angel of death. In passage 2. and never saying nothing. Tom was in high spirits. 9. and then I couldn’t come for him no more.Passage 1: “By and by he rolled out and jumped up to his feet looking wild. At the same time. In passage 3. He said it was the best fun he ever had in his life. Huck’s narration is like normal speech so it is sometimes in fragments and incomplete sentences.

But occasionally applies it to steam boats. Symbolism A symbol that Twain uses throughout the book is that of the river. especially during descriptive passages.. we see the southern attitude toward slaves and blacks. there are some cases of figurative language. “shining like red-hot teeth. Widow Douglass and her sister Miss Watson symbolized society and civilization. “. 12. independence. and through him. Jim says. to Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. An example of verbal irony is .” Jim compares trash with the people who play tricks on their friends. Also. Once saying that it was. he said of the duke and king that they “slept like dead people. en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head or dey fren’s en makes ‘em ashamed. Ironic Devices Twain uses a lot of irony in this book to give it a little humor. The main image is that of the Mississippi River.” There are many allusions to other works in Huck Finn. Figurative Language In this book. Twain uses much imagery to create a certain mood in his story. Twain does not use much figurative language since he is limited by the use of Huck as the narrator. Also. typifying the type of life Huck wants to live. However. He is more than a character in the book but symbolizes all the slaves in the south. and sometimes mysterious. It is often tranquil and relaxing. 11. The river is described as wild and free flowing. Through him. Twain gives an example of a metaphor during one of Jim’s talks with Huck.” Twain rarely uses personification in this work. it would not make sense to use too much figurative language since that would be like expecting an uncivilized adolescent to use a lot of figurative language in his speech. Also during the plays of the duke and king. It symbolizes freedom. Tom Sawyer. Twain does use many similes throughout the book. 13. it serves as a sort of time line as the readers go along the story. He also alludes to Twain’s earlier work. Huck flees civilization to life on the river to live freely and have an adventure. Most of the ironic situations stem out of Huck’s youth and gullibility. we also see the humanity even in slaves. Early in the book. Because Huck is the narrator. They tried to civilize Huck but Huck would have nothing to do with them and ran from them just as he did from civilization. For example. he alludes.. Huck escapes from everything on the river. and life in the wild. he alludes to the story of Moses and the Bullrushers. Another symbol is Jim.

“Well. “But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers.” This shows how much Huck has grown . and reckoned I would belong to the widow if he wanted me.. There is also an example of dramatic irony when Huck tells of the drunk horseman at the circus. and he was so greatful. For example. a man that hadn’t ever done me no harm.” This quote shows that Huck is still troubled by helping Jim and that he still does not yet understand that Jim is just as human as those people who own his children.” It is obvious to the readers that a band of robbers are not generally considered respectable. and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. 15.. 14. during the raid on the Sunday school picnic. though I couldn’t make out how he was a-going to be any better off then than what he was before. This shows a stage in his growth in understanding about slavery and Jim.. he still does not show respect for his father.[Jim] would steal his children -. Twain also reveals his dislike of slavery. He also shows a slight disrespect to the government during the incidents were Pap gets arrested. “. I’m a nigger. The readers know that the drunk was a trained acrobat but Huck does not see that. he is often critical. “Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.” Huck says this about the duke and king and is discouraged by their rough manners and attitudes to make him ashamed of his own race. Tone Twain’s tone in the story gives a humorous and informal mood but in much of the observations he makes on society.children that belonged to a man... and the only one he’s got now. “..” Huck talks about Pap with some disgust and disregard.. he shows a distaste for organized religion.” Huck begins to realize the true nature of humans being the polite exterior of society. seeing I was so ignorant. Memorable quotes “I thought it all out. if ever I struck anything like it. It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.given when Tom tell Huck of his new gang. While Huck is not completely afraid of him in this quote as he later becomes. and at least I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard. and so kind of low-down and ornery. During the conversation with Jim and Huck. and said I was a best friend old Jim ever had in the world. Huck says.. This shows a belief of Twain and can even be considered and general truth in any society.

it is said to have contained much of Twain’s philosophy on society and culture. 16. because of the nature of the book.attached to Jim. While I did see much of Twain’s idea about society. it remains hard for me to see it as more than a children’s adventure story. Additional comments While Huck Finn was rather humorous and fun to read. Huck feels that Jim is more human than he thought at the beginning of the novel and begins to think that Jim’s life is worth saving. .