Although probably no other work of American literature has been the source of so much controversy, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is regarded by many as the greatest literary achievement America has yet produced. Inspired by many of the author's own experiences as a river-boat pilot, the book tells of two runaways—a white boy and a black man—and their journey down the mighty Mississippi River. When the book first appeared, it scandalized reviewers and parents who thought it would corrupt young children with its depiction of a hero who lies, steals, and uses coarse language. In the last half of the twentieth century, the condemnation of the book has continued on the grounds that its portrayal of Jim and use of the word "nigger" is racist. The novel continues to appear on lists of books banned in schools across the country.
Nevertheless, from the beginning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was also recognized as a book that would revolutionize American literature. The strong point of view, skillful depiction of dialects, and confrontation of issues of race and prejudice have inspired critics to dub it "the great American novel." Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway claimed in The Green Hills of Africa (1935), for example, that "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn. . . . There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
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