The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

September 23, 2015

Content a little bit swirly

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – a Novel for All Times

School children who read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn love it as a grand tale of adventure of a 13-year old boy and his quest to be free of the restrictions of “polite” society. As with anything that Mark Twain wrote, however, there are layers of meaning in this tale, and older students who study it will need to dig deep into those layers to understand how Twain commented on human nature, the hypocrisy of society in general, and the basic immorality of racism and discrimination. In these respects, Mark Twain was clearly ahead of his time, as a progressive thinker.

While almost the entire story takes place on the Mississippi River (and that is for a symbolic reason), the adventures, encounters, and threats that Huck and Jim face all tell tales of large societal issues and concepts of morality. The inevitable Huckleberry Finn essay will need to address these larger issues that Twain felt so necessary to expose and discuss. Here are some potential essay topics for you to consider.

  1. Compare and contrast the situations of Huck and Jim. In what ways are they both trapped?
  2. How are Huck’s moral principle, even though at odds with society’s, actually superior to those of society in the author’s eyes?
  3. What is the symbolism of the river? How does is both portray freedom and captivity?
  4. What are some of the family dynamics portrayed in the novel? Why does Twain find it important to not have a typical nuclear family dynamic?
  5. What societal moralities does Twain deride in the work?
  6. Discuss the theme of the hypocrisy of slavery and racism.
  7. Discuss the theme of the hypocrisy of “civilized” society?
  8. Contrast academic and moral education? Which does Twain prefer? Why?

Writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay as a historical piece

One of the interesting elements in a study of this novel is that it was written quite a while after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Once Reconstruction was over, and the Southern states were free to pass laws that kept freed blacks in virtual slavery even though they were free, Twain felt a moral obligation to address the hypocrisy of a society that, by law, guaranteed equality to all of its citizens, but, in reality, allowed legal discrimination to exist. In this respect, Twain was clearly ahead of his time. In many respects, this novel is appropriate as a comment on current racism and discrimination as well, especially in light of the current issues of voter suppression, unequal justice and illegal discrimination.

The Huck Finn Essay as Comment on Societal Hypocrisy

Some things never change. And Twain’s comments on American society are as true today as they were in the 1880’s when the book was written. People who claim high moral standards and insist upon imposing those standards on everyone else in a very public way are often those who are the least moral or religious. Twain found particular issue with strong Christians who professed to follow the teachings of the Bible but then behaved in completely opposite ways once the Sunday morning event was over.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel for all time. It will continue to engage kids of all ages and will continue to be universal in its truths.