The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Book Review
Introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. Although perhaps overshadowed by Twain's other well-known masterpiece The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is well-worth reading as an American classic. It not only describes the adventures of a boy along the Mississippi River but also gives a social commentary on life in the early 19th century American antebellum South.
Biography of Mark Twain
The creator of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain, was born with the name Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835. According to Robert G. O'Meally, when Samuel was four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, which became the backdrop for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Following the death of his father, Samuel at the age of 12 quit school and supported his family by taking a number of jobs as a delivery boy, grocer's clerk, and also an assistant blacksmith. At the age of 13, Samuel became an apprentice printer and then worked for many newspapers, traveling all over the country. When Samuel wasn't engaged in journalism, he worked as a riverboat pilot, sailing up and down the Mississippi River.
In the 1860s after spending time in the western part of the United States, Samuel traveled to Europe and the Holy Land. In 1863, Samuel Clemens took the pen name, "Mark Twain." Finally, in 1867, Twain achieved his first fame with the publication of a collection of humorous writings, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches. After getting married and moving to Connecticut, Twain wrote his best-loved novels about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
Life of Mark Twain
Setting and Characters in the Book
The setting of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place during the 1830s and 1840s on and along the Mississippi River from Hannibal, Missouri, down to Arkansas.
Central characters throughout most of the book are Huckleberry Finn and Nigger Jim. Huckleberry Finn is a 12-13-year-old boy who has no mother and a father who is a useless unemployed drunk. Nigger Jim is the domestic black slave of Miss Watson.
Supporting characters in the novel include Huckleberry Finn's father, the Duke and the King, Aunt Sally, and Tom Sawyer, a friend about Huck's age.
At the beginning of the story, Huckleberry Finn is living with Miss Watson who has shown pity on the boy with no mother and an alcoholic as a father. After Huck's father discovered that the boy has found gold, the father takes his son away from Miss Watson and demands Huck's gold. Huckleberry, however, runs away down the river and then meets up with Nigger Jim on Jackson's Island. Nigger Jim, unknown to Huck, has recently escaped from Miss Watson's home.
The remainder of the book vividly describes Huck's and Jim's adventures down the river. After being caught up and escaping a family feud, Huck and Jim meet up with two vagrants who go by the names of the Duke and the King. After swindling townspeople of their money, the Duke and the King move on with Jim and Huck down the river, and then eventually sell Jim back into slavery against Huck's wishes.
The story reaches its climax after Tom Sawyer meets up with Huckleberry at Tom's Aunt Sally's home where Jim is locked up as a slave.
The major theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is heart versus conscience. Huck realizes that it is wrong to allow Nigger Jim to run away from his master; however, Huck's heart tells him that Jim is seeking freedom just like Huck.
Other themes in the book include life along the Mississippi River, life in the antebellum South, cheating people, and satires against lynching and the old world of Europe.
Evaluation of Book
I enjoyed reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and would recommend this book to all readers for the following reasons:
1. Interesting Plot
The plot is very interesting with non-stop exciting action. You will also be surprised at the ending of the book.
2. Description of Mississippi River Life
You will marvel at Twain's description of river life, and feel that you are actually on the Mississippi River.
3. Use of Dialect
I really enjoyed and appreciated Twain's use of the Southern United States dialect employed in the dialog among various characters in the novel.
4. Expression of Philosophy Through Satire
Mark Twain was a critic of lynching, family feuds, cheating, and many other social problems. He expresses his criticism through masterful satire.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has a few bad points which include too much discussion about Europe and overkill of the derogative word "nigger."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be read by everyone to gain an understanding of life along the Mississippi River at the beginning of the 19th century. For a better understanding and insight into The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I would suggest first reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
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© 2014 Paul Richard Kuehn