A seminal work of American Literature that still commands deep praise and still elicits controversy, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is essential to the understanding of the American soul. Considered the first great American novel, part of Finn's charm is the wisdom and sobering social criticism deftly lurking amongst the seemingly innocent observations of the uneducated Huck and the even-less-educated escaped slave, Jim. Not only is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a brilliant and funny story of an adolescent boy, it is the story of an adolescent nation: the United States circa 1885. It raises broad, moral questions whose answers still elude us today, as it addresses the question of slavery in terms that are deeply personal, moral, political, social and economic. Through Huck and the fugitive slave Jim, Twain looks at important issues of marginality, not just for people of color, but for people of all sorts who live outside of social norms, either by accident of race and class, by virtue of fate, or by a choice they have made. Some are outlaws and con men. Others are honest souls whose luck just ran out. Still others are merely independent-minded people who refuse to bend to stereotypes of race, class and gender. All share circumstances that put them outside of the societal norm and onto the road less traveled. The first great novel that was written in the vernacular, this novel has been criticized for its use of slang and pejoratives, especially for its liberal use of "the n word." It's important to remember that Twain was reflecting the language of the times and of the social class that Huck came from, as it is he who narrates the story.
About the Author
Mark Twain (1835 -1910) was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called "the Great American Novel," and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion's newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling. He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty. However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility. Born during a visit by Halley's Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age," and William Faulkner called Twain "the father of American literature."