Mark Twain: ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’
Mark Twain was an American writer who gained wealth and fame with a series of essays, stories and novels known for their cleverness and humor. He was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on Nov. 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. When he was four, his family moved to the port city of Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. His father died when he was 11, and at 13 he left school and went to work as a printer's apprentice. He later worked at his brother's newspaper, where he discovered his talent for writing. As a young man Clemens became a river pilot, and from this experience he later created his pen name "Mark Twain." The term "mark twain" in river talk means the depth is two fathoms, deep enough for a boat to travel safely.
Article continues after this newspaper image from the March 14, 1885, issue of the San Francisco Bulletin (California)
Mark Twain soon came to be known for his satirical wit and style, which earned him much praise from fans and critics alike. He wrote many works, but his most famous is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884. The story is about a young outcast boy who meets an escaped slave, and their search for freedom on a raft down the Mississippi River. There are many themes in the novel, such as the contrast of civilized versus "natural" life, with Huck strongly resisting all attempts to be civilized. The notion of honor is introduced by Huck's friend Tom Sawyer, who states his belief that there is honor among thieves. Mockery of organized religion is also there, with many believing that the opinions presented are reflections of Twain's personal views on religion. The novel also explores concepts of wealth and poverty. Huck is not overwhelmed when he finds $6,000, but to Jim, the escaped slave, that much money could buy freedom for himself and his entire family. The novel's main theme is Huck's friendship with Jim, and his growing awareness of the cruelties of slavery and racist attitudes.
When first published, the book was generally well received. However, some academic and civic authorities criticized Twain for not using “proper English” and for what they considered “low humor” and “lax morals.” They believed Huck was a poor role model for young boys. Recent criticisms have objected to the novel’s racial stereotypes and use of the word “nigger.” Defenders say Twain was satirizing slavery, racist attitudes and the failures of Reconstruction efforts in the South after the Civil War.
Huck Finn has been called one of the world's greatest novels. It has also been criticized, censored and banned from libraries and public schools. Indeed, no American novel has been examined, attacked and praised as much as Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.