Published in 1885, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains an American classic taught in thousands of classrooms across the country. While the book seems like a novel of adventure, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is at heart a satire in which Twain examines “civilization” and freedom in the pre-Civil War South. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first banned a month after its publication as “not suitable for trash” and it remains number fourteen on the most banned list. Twain’s prolific use of the n-word is especially controversial. However, Jim—Huck’s companion and a runaway slave—is arguably the hero in the novel because of his leadership and sacrifice, despite the fact that Twain narrates his story through Huck’s voice. From the perspective of Huck, a poor, uneducated orphan, Twain’s commentary on race relations, the Southern justice system, class division, and senseless violence has resonated for over 130 years. This primary source set includes portraits, illustrations, documents, and photographs that provide context for historical and thematic elements in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Additional resources for research
- The Mark Twain House & Museum.
- Culture Shock: Huck Finn in Context Teaching Guide, PBS.
- “Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: Controversy at the Heart of a Classic,” Teaching with the Library of Congress blog.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain in his Times digital archive, University of Virginia Department of English.