Understanding Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

Since the time of its publication in 1884, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has generated heated controversy. One of the most frequently banned books in the history of literature, it raises issues of race relations, censorship, civil disobedience, and adolescent group psychology as relevant today as they were in the 1880s. This collection of historical documents, collateral readings, and commentary will promote interdisciplinary study of the novel and enrich the student's understanding of the issues raised. It captures the stormy character of the slave-holding frontier on the eve of war and highlights the legacy of those conflicts in contemporary society. This is an ideal companion for teacher use and student research in interdisciplinary, English, and American history courses.

Excerpt

The Concord (Mass.) Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain's latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The librarian and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people. (Boston Transcript, March 17, 1885)

The Concord Public Library was not the only group to condemn Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This novel about the adventures of a fourteen-year-old boy has generated controversy in every year since it was published in 1884. "What!" the newcomer to the novel might exclaim--"this popular boy's book about a happy and wholesome young life in rural America?" Yet, ironically, it is true. Even by the standards of the late twentieth century, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most radical and darkly bitter books in the American canon. What does it present as good and worthy? For one thing, it represents the breaking of a federal law as moral. It recommends disobedience and defi-

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