The Adventures of Huckleberry
"All modern American literature comes
from one book by Mark Twain called
Racism & Slavery
• written after Emancipation Proclamation
abolished slavery, but time period of story
set during slavery
• during Reconstruction, a less
institutionalized form of slavery existed in
the South (Jim Crow laws)
• allegorical portrayal of conditions of
“Blacks” in U.S. after end of slavery
Hypocrisy of “Civilized” Society
• Society’s laws (Miss Watson and
Widow Douglas) vs. higher moral
values (Huck and Jim)
• Rules and precepts that reflect
• Civilized vs. Natural
• A “just” society that condones
• Unsteady justice is blinded by
cowardice, prejudice, and a lack
of common sense
• Seemingly good and characters
• Hypocrisy of “civilized” society
which values morality, but
• importance of individual thinking and ideas
• escaping an illogical and oppressive
• Mississippi River as a safe haven
• slavery vs. liberty
• outcasts labeled by citizens (mob
mentality) are arguably the only truly free
• Food plays a prominent role in the novel.
• In Huck's childhood, he often fights pigs
for food, and eats out of "a barrel of odds
• *Thus, providing Huck with food
becomes a symbol of people caring for
and protecting him.
– For example, in the first chapter, the Widow
Douglas feeds Huck, and later on Jim
becomes his symbolic caretaker, feeding and
watching over him on Jackson's Island.
Mockery of Religion
• A theme Twain focuses on quite
heavily on in this novel is the
mockery of religion.
• Throughout his life, Twain was
known for his attacks on organized
• Huck Finn's sarcastic character
perfectly situates him to deride
religion, representing Twain's
– In the first chapter, Huck indicates that
hell sounds far more fun than heaven.
• Superstition appears throughout the novel.
• Generally, both Huck and Jim are very rational
characters, yet when they encounter anything
slightly superstitious, irrationality takes over.
• The power superstition holds over the two
demonstrates that Huck and Jim are child-like
despite their apparent maturity.
• In addition, superstition foreshadows the plot at
several key junctions.
– For instance, when Huck spills salt, Pap
returns, and when Huck touches a snakeskin
with his bare hands, a rattlesnake bites Jim.
– A moral coming of age story.
• being open-minded is a quality that Huck
represents, as a child, which allows for his
development and maturation
• Huck’s relationship with Jim assists his
progression throughout the novel
• Huck’s experiences and apprehension
about society help lead to his maturity
• The Mississippi River
– a source of freedom; a safe haven
– confluence of all currents of
American life in the first half of
the nineteenth century
• The Land
– Real vs. Ideal (the river)
– tool for escape
– safe place
– separates the civilized from the
Terms to know:
• Emancipation • hypocrisy
Proclamation • satire
• Reconstruction • irony
• Jim Crow Laws • dialect
• allegory • parody
• mob mentality