Mark Twain and Huckleberr


In 1884, Mark Twain wrote one of the most controversial and
remembered novels in the world of literature, The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel
Langhorne Clemens. He was born in Florida, Missouri, Nov. 30,
1835. Twain was one of six children. This contributed to his
family being poor. Twain often had to find inexpensive forms of
entertainment. Twain made Huckleberry Finn represent him
fictionally in this book. Huck did the same typical boy things as
Twain. ^Now, we'll start this band of robbers and call it..." was
one of the things Huck said (Twain 9). When Twain was four years
old, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a small town on the
west bank of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River and the
towns along it were used as the setting in The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn. "We judged that three nights more would fetch
us to Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes
in^^ (Twain 106). Huck and Jim were trying to reach a town named
Cairo. It was located in a free state, Ohio. Cairo was just one
of the many towns Twain referred to in this novel. Twain even
used familiar dialects in his novel. He stated at the beginning
of the novel, "the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of
the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary Pike County
dialect... are used to wit..." (Twain 1). In this book, as they
traveled down the Mississippi River, the values of Huck and Jim
were contrasted against those of the people living in the southern
United States. Huck (the narrator and one of the main characters)
and Jim(another main character) were both trying to reach freedom.
Twain based this book on things that were happening during this time in
his life. Huck was introduced without a father in his life. Twain's
father had died when he was about Huck's age in the book. Twain
portrayed religion and the morals of the southern society with satire.
"The men took their guns [to church] ... and kept them between their
knees...^ (Twain 142) was just one example. In the time of Twain's
life that he wrote this novel, the Civil War had just ended. The war
had tested society's morals. The issue of slavery was important to
Twain which was the reason morals were portrayed in this way.
The freedom and peacefulness of the river soon gave way to the
deceit, greed and prejudice in the towns on the bank of the
river. Huck stated, ^ It was kind of solemn, drifting down the
big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars^^
(Twain 86) and ^We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and
nothing ever happened to us at all-that night, nor the next^^
(Twain 86). One day, Huck and Jim were separated while on shore.
Huck was told by another runaway slave, ^those old fools made a
trade and got forty dollars^^ (Twain 274). This quote showed the
greed and prejudice of Southerns. They actually sold slaves for
money. It was as if people were not regarded as humans unless
they were white. Many of the towns Twain described were based on
his hometown and nearby towns along the Mississippi shores. "I
rose up, and there was Jackson's Island..." (Twain 47) and "...why
mama, struck out for this town of Goshen..." (Twain 80)were a just
few quotes from the novel, which were based on real places.
Jackson^s Island was located just a few miles down the Mississippi
River from Twain^s childhood home, Hannibal. Goshen was also a
town located a few miles down the river from Twain^s home. These
two runaways, a beaten boy and a slave built a place to escape to
on their raft. Eventually though, the values of the people on
shore found their way into Huck's and Jim's thoughts. This became
a major theme in the novel. During the Civil War, many people
were divided on the issue of slavery. Even when they tried to
ignore the problem, it crept its way into their minds. While
traveling down the Mississippi River on the raft, Jim, the
"runaway nigger", was free (Twain 76). Although Twain used the
word "nigger" approximately two hundred and thirteen times in his
novel, the message he was sending was anything but racist. Twain
wrote, "Miss Watson's big nigger..." (Twain 6). He also wrote
"... hardly notice the other niggers... (Twain 8)" and "Niggers is
always talking about..." (Twain 8). Around the time this novel
was written, "nigger" was thought to be the appropriate word to
use when referring to an African American. Everyone in town
thought Huck had been murdered and thrown into the Mississippi
River. In reality though, he was alive on the raft. Huck and Jim
lived a life that was as Huck stated "'s lovely to live on a
raft" (Twain 72). Later, when the Duke and Dauphin joined them on
their raft, and they all became friends; Huck was relieved and
thought everyone should "...feel right and kind toward the
others..." (Twain 161) while they lived on the raft. As long as they
were on the raft,honesty was kept, but whenever they touched shore they
found deceit and greed in the rural Southern United States. While on
the raft, the men discussed how they had helped someone. They stated
^^[he] begged me to help^^ (Twain 156). When they reached shore, they
made plans to swindle people out of money. These plans included
^^runnin^ a little temperance revival ^ and takn^ as much as five or
six dollars a night^^ (Twain 156).
Twain contrasted life on the raft with the ideas of the people on
the Mississippi shores. Two feuding families, the Grangerfords
and the Shepherdsons, were used to show what lives of Southerners
and their religion were like. The families had been fighting for
thirty years, but no one knew the reason. When Huck asked if it
was caused by land, Buck Grangerford replied, "I reckon maybe - I
don't know" (Twain 140). Both of the families took guns to church
and discussed the sermon reported by Huck to be "^a pretty ornery
preaching-all about brotherly love, and suchlike tiresomeness^"
(Twain 142). Twain used satire to make the society on the
Mississippi River appear as a greedy place where values were
twisted and church was more of an entertainment than a religion.
Huck and Jim's perfect life on the raft was cut short when the two
frauds came aboard. The Duke and Dauphin continuously lied and
took advantage of the people on shore. These two caused many
unwanted encounters with the towns' people along the Mississippi
River. Huck, unlike Jim, quickly realized the men were "...just
low-down humbugs and frauds" (Twain 161). Huck was finally able
to slip away from the Duke and Dauphin and continue with Jim on
their journey. Huck said, "it's so good to be free again" (Twain
260). The freedom did not last long though. The Duke and Dauphin soon
returned. Huck "...Wilted right down to the planks... and [gave]
up..." (Twain 262). He told them that he did not like what they were
Mark Twain contrasted the values of the people on shores against
those of Huck and Jim in a way that Huck's and Jim's were
positively portrayed. The values of the rural Southern United
States were negatively portrayed with satire. Buck Grangerford
stated, "^they don^t know what the row was about in the first
place^^ (Twain 141). No one could even remember what had caused
the feud. This was just one example of the negatively portrayed
values. The Duke and Dauphin ended up selling Jim for money.
Huck became very angry when he discovered this. Huck eventually
met up with a good friend of his, Tom Sawyer. They were able to
create an elaborate plan to free Jim from the barn in which he was
being held. After being recaptured after escaping, Jim was
released because a Southern white man put in a good word for him.
The journey ended as the war did. Jim received the freedom he
deserved and had waited so long for. At the end of the novel,
Huck also found freedom. He decided to head out West in search of
more adventures. Jim decided he would try to buy his wife and
child out of slavery. He wanted to give them a chance to live a
life of freedom. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain
gave freedom to Huck and Jim and showed readers that all humans,
no matter what race, share the same feelings and should be treated

 Works Cited
Clemens, Samuel L. The Adventures of Hucklberry Finn. New York City: Harper 
 and Brothers, 1948. 

Railton, Stephen . Mark Twain in His Times. 23 Sep. 1998. 10 Feb. 1999 

Robinson, Robert. Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 28 Aug. 1998. 8 Feb. 1999 

Salwen, Peter . Mark Twain in Cyberspace. 26 Jul. 1996. 1 Jan. 1999 

Titta, Rachel. Mark Twain and the Onset of the Imperialist Period. 3 Jan. 1998. 12 
 Jan. 1999 .

Vitale, Joe. How Mark Twain Might Write Online. 7 Jul. 1997 . 12 Jan. 1999 


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