The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel written by American writer, Mark Twain. It was published first in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. “Mark Twain” however, was only the writer’s pen name. Along with “Josh” and “Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.” His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens and he was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri. This is significant because it is also where his story “Huckleberry Finn” takes place. Mark Twain had a very wild life. He traveled all over the world and met all sorts of people, becoming close friends with Nikola Tesla. Despite making a significant amount of money through his writing, he lost a large sum of it to investments that he made. In particular, he spent $300,000 which translates to about $9,000,000 now on the “Paige Typesetting Machine” which worked incredibly when it did, however it was very prone to breakdown. Regardless of all this, Twain is regarded as one of the greatest American writers because of his two works “Huck Finn” and “Tom Sawyer.” However, we will be focusing on “Huck Finn” for this essay. This story follows the life of Huck Finn. His first appearance is in another novel of Mark Twain’s titled “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” as a co-protagonist to the book’s main protagonist “Tom Sawyer.” This book continues after the story with Tom Sawyer, now focusing on Huck and his life. In this story, we will come to understand Mark Twain’s views on society and its flaws at the time.
Huck Finn is an African American boy around the age of thirteen at the time of the book, living (mainly) in Missouri. In this book, Mark Twain emulates his humor through his characters. One example of this is when Huck Finn is talking to Jim about kings, but Jim had only heard of King Solomon. “Yit dey say Sollermun de wises’ man dat ever live’. I doan’ take no stock in dat.’” The humor here is that Jim considers Solomon a fool for wanting to cut a child in half. There are countless instances of Twain’s humor being shown in the book, with the use of the dialect used at the time, there’s an odd quirkiness to the comedy of the novel. However, what I believe to be the focus of the book, is its realism. Amid his satire and humor, Twain adds a sense of realism into the mix with dire situations and real issues. There is the issue of deceit, the gullibility of society, hypocrisy, etc. strewn throughout the book and I believe it was Mark Twain’s goal to show this rather than to just write a meaningless, yet fun, book.
The book has several elements to it. It keeps the reader entertained using Mark Twain’s peculiar sense of humor. It satirizes the state of society at the time and its perceived flaws and issues. Then, it holds very real aspects in its story. Mark Twain shows aspects of society at the time that many readers would not have thought of otherwise. Although it may not be as prominent, the sheer realism displayed by Twain in this novel is what should be taken away after reading, while the humor and satire may still be enjoyed.
Mark Twain is one of the most well-known American authors and most prominently uses his sense of humor, satire, and realism in his writing. In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the most prominent of these is his sense of realism. He uses this to convey his views of the world through the way he depicts things in society such as education, religion, slavery, and government. For example, when the king and the duke collect money from the people at a camp meeting. The king makes up a story about being a pirate and losing his men at sea, to which the people take pity and gather money for him. This is a demonstration of Twain’s use of realism as it shows the gullibility of society and how easily we are fooled. Today, this is very important as it is easy to get carried away with the mob mentality and simply go along with what everyone else says. However, Twain’s writing shows that sometimes skepticism may be what we need in certain situations. Mark also creates a very real picture of life at the time by writing the entire book of Huckleberry Finn (and Tom Sawyer) in the American slang that was used at the time. From the particular way that Jim spoke, as a slave with little education, to the Missourian slang of others. Having grown up in the same area that his characters into, surely allowed him to create this sense of realism to the fullest. In the book, it seems that Huck is the lens through which the author wants the reader to see the world through. Huck is a free-spirited young boy who is relatively unaccustomed to the mentality of the old folk and society in general. By creating this kind of character, Twain is able to write the world surrounding him in a very honest sense. He is able to write the world as he truly sees it, because Huck, in a sense, is him. At least, he is as far as how he interprets the world.
Despite all of the previously mentioned statements, it is clearly stated at the beginning of the book that there is nothing to be taken away from the writing. It states, “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” This is placed at the beginning of the book very clearly to dissuade readers from seeking any greater meaning from the book than what is blatantly written. So is the book truly just meaningless fiction? The author wrote himself that seeking anything more is heavily discouraged. However, I believe that this is simply in order for the reader to enter the world of Huck Finn blindly. By ridding the reader of any pre-set standards, they can simply enjoy the book for what it is and ponder its deeper meaning over time. I believe that Mark Twain wanted the books to evoke thought, but not initially. It was likely written to be taken in layers. First, to enjoy the book for what it is at face value; a story of a young boy going through life in Missouri. Second, to realize that the issues and problems found in the story are not entirely different from those found in our own lives, but in fact, very similar. And lastly, to see the world the way that Mark Twain did and to form our own opinions and judgements from that.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an American Literature classic for all for all of the right reasons. It provides comedy to keep typically uninterested readers entertained. It provides satirical jabs on the world at the time for those who pick up on it. And it shows the reality of the way that things are in the world. Although it is a fictional story, it provides a very real setting and real society for the reader to become immersed in. By placing the story in the very place that he grew up, Mark Twain is able to finely sculpt his story into one of both adventurous joy, and an emulator of his own views in life.