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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain

Published: 1884

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is commonly accounted as one of the first Great American Novels. It is also one of the first major American novels ever written using Local Color Regionalism, or vernacular, told in the first person by the eponymous Huckleberry "Huck" Finn, best friend of Tom Sawyer and hero of three other Mark Twain books.

The book is noted for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River, and its sober and often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism. The drifting journey of Huckleberry Finn and runaway slave Jim, down the Mississippi River on their raft may be one of the most enduring images of escape and freedom in all of American literature.

The book has been popular with young readers since its publication, and taken as a sequel to the comparatively innocuous The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It has also been the continued object of study by serious literary critics. Although the Southern society it satirized was already a quarter-century in the past by the time of publication, the book immediately became controversial, and has remained so to this day.

Plot Summary

The story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the Mississippi River. Two young boys, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, have each come into a considerable sum of money as a result of their earlier adventures (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Huck has been placed under the guardianship of the Widow Douglas, who, together with her sister, Miss Watson, are attempting to "sivilize" him (sic). Huck appreciates their efforts, but finds civilized life confining. In the beginning of the story, Tom Sawyer appears briefly, helping Huck escape at night from the house, past Miss Watson's slave, Jim. They meet up with Tom Sawyer's self-proclaimed gang who plot to carry out adventurous crimes.

Huck's life is changed by the sudden appearance of his shiftless father, "Pap", an abusive parent and drunkard. Although Huck is successful in preventing his Pap from acquiring his fortune, Pap forcibly gains custody of Huck and the two move to the backwoods where Huck is kept locked inside his father's cabin. Equally dissatisfied with uncivilized life, Huck escapes from the cabin, elaborately fakes his own death, and sets off down the Mississippi River.
(From Wikipedia, description text under Creative Commons License)

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