The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Style, Form, and Literary Elements
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn book cover
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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The single most cohesive feature in the novel is Huck's engaging narration. Because the reader often knows more than Huck does, his naive narration lends irony to the work. As an artist, Twain was most conscious of language, providing not only for the richness of Huck's speech but for the variety of dialects represented.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn delivers its powerful message through Huck's narration. His rich language and humor remain fresh. Huck's journey down the river has become part of American mythology, and the issues of freedom and responsibility he confronts still concern American culture. Readable, entertaining, and significant, this novel deserves its status as a classic.

A sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place in the 1830s or 1840s. It begins in St. Petersburg, a fictional town much like Twain's hometown of Hannibal, but its main action occurs on the Mississippi River. After Huck meets Jim on Jackson's Island, the two travel down river on a raft that comes to symbolize their brotherhood and freedom. Hoping to drift to Cairo, Illinois, where Jim can escape to freedom, they are diverted by a fog and travel southward to Arkansas instead. The trip ties together a series of adventures which, as many commentators have remarked, contrast the peace and freedom of the raft with the violence, corruption, and constraint of the shore. Although it begins with the warning, "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 will be shot," The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains these three elements. Major themes — freedom and responsibility, truth and falsehood, death and rebirth, and identity — support the action and provide structure. But the novel's ending has drawn extensive criticism. Critics argue that Tom Sawyer's coincidental appearance and his elaborate plan to rescue Jim make the ending highly improbable. Arguably, Huck's cooperation with Tom negates the moral development he has experienced and reduces Jim to the figure of fun he was at the book's outset. Some defenders of Twain's ending suggest that it provides a circle, bringing the boy back to where he began, and others interpret the failure of Tom's plan as the destruction of the illusion of chivalry.

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although it begins with the warning, "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 will be shot," Huckleberry Finn contains these three elements. Major themes—freedom and responsibility, truth and falsehood, death and rebirth, and identity—support the action and provide structure. But the novel's ending has drawn extensive criticism. Critics argue that Tom Sawyer's coincidental appearance and his elaborate plan to rescue Jim make the ending highly improbable. Arguably, Huck's cooperation with Tom negates the moral development he has experienced and reduces Jim to the figure of fun he was at the books outset. Some defenders of Twain's ending suggest that it provides a circle, bringing the boy back to where he began, and others interpret the failure of Tom's plan as the destruction of the illusion of chivalry.

The book's loose structure may be classified as a picaresque narrative because its unity derives from following a central character through a series of episodes. Like Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605), Huckleberry Finn treats questions of illusion and reality by portraying Huck's contact with a number of levels of society. In addition, the novel's unity might be defined by Huck's education or initiation, his maturation through experience and insight.

The single most cohesive feature in the novel is Huck's engaging narration. Because the reader often knows more than Huck does, his naive narration lends irony to the work. As an artist, Twain was most conscious of language,...

(The entire section is 1,853 words.)