Introduction

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Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511

So you’re going to teach The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This American classic that has been a mainstay in English classes for generations. Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time you’ve taken students through the novel, these teaching tips will help ensure that the experience is rewarding for everyone, including you. Teaching Huckleberry Finn, especially from a new perspective, will give students insight into Twain as a satirist and social critic, as well as a novelist, and help them develop an understanding of romanticism and regionalism (local color writing) in 19th-century American fiction. Let’s look at things to keep in mind before you take your students into Twain’s depiction of life along the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s and examine how it impacts young Huck Finn, a runaway orphan, and a fugitive slave named Jim. This guide highlights the text’s most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching. 

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1884 (UK); 1885 (US) 
  • Recommended Grade Level: 9 and up
  • Approximate Word Count: 109, 600 
  • Author: Mark Twain 
  • Country of Origin: United States of America 
  • Genre: Bildungsroman, Picaresque 
  • Literary Period: 19th-century Romanticism; 19th-century Regionalism 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Society 
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: Mississippi River and surrounding towns, USA, 1840s 
  • Structure: Prose Novel, Circular 
  • Mood: Satirical, Humorous, Adventurous


Texts That Go Well With The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James is a modern example of local color writing, this time set in 1970s–90s Jamaica and New York. Admirers of carefully transcribed dialect and faithful representation of often overlooked settings discover political tension, criminal violence, and moral quandaries from the perspectives of a variety of narrators. This recommendation is presented with a content notice, since the graphic nature of the content is best suited for mature audiences. 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the preceding novel by Mark Twain, serves as a lighthearted introduction to St. Petersburg and its inhabitants. Though it focuses more on Tom Sawyer, Huck is still a prominent character. 

The Color Purple is a novel by Alice Walker set in 1930s Georgia, following several slave women as they attempt to transcend their lowly station. Throughout the novel, the main character Celie develops a moral code beyond what is societally accepted. Like Huckleberry Finn, this beloved novel generated controversy for its depictions of violence, sexual conduct, and profanity. 

Gulliver’s Travels is a novel by Jonathan Swift published in 1726 that has some of the same humor and satirical qualities employed in Huckleberry Finn. Using an episodic structure, Swift is able to critique a variety of his contemporaries. 

The Underground Railroad, published in 2016, is a novel by Colson Whitehead that focuses on slave Cora’s escape from a Southern plantation and how she is endlessly pursued by a slave catcher and other threats. Similarly to Huck and Jim, Cora’s travels take her to many US states and offer a nuanced portrait of America before the eruption of the Civil War.

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