The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at a Glance

Readers meet Huckleberry Finn after he's been taken in by Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, who intend to teach him religion and proper manners. Huck soon sets off on an adventure to help the widow's slave, Jim, escape up the Mississippi to the free states. By allowing Huck to tell his own story, Mark Twain addresses America's painful contradiction of racism and segregation in a "free" and "equal" society.

Written by: Mark Twain

Type of Work: novel

Genres: bildungsroman (coming of age novel)

First Published: 1885

Setting: Primarily along the banks of the Mississippi River

Main Characters: Huckleberry Finn; Jim; Duke; King; Pap Finn; Widow Douglas; Miss Watson; Tom Sawyer

Major Thematic Topics: racism; freedom versus civilization; slavery; realism versus idealism; societal pressure; expectations

Motifs: realism; self-doubt

Major Symbols: the Mississippi River; rafts; guilt

Movie Versions: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960); The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993); Tom and Huck (1995)

The three most important aspects of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of the first novels to be written entirely in dialect. Huck is an uneducated boy from a particular region of the country, and the language and sentence structure in which he tells his story reflect that. Because of its plainspoken voice, the book is considered by many to be the most influential work of fiction in American literature.

  • Huckleberry Finn's world is a brutal one. From his own father's shack to the house of the apparently genteel Grangerfords to the Phelps farm where Jim is enslaved and Tom is shot, Huck is immersed in deadly violence. The only place he finds tranquility is on the river with Jim.
  • Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a sequel to his best-selling children's book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. However, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn's language and its themes make it too difficult for children to comprehend. Twain intended it for adults.

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