From a teacher's perspective, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be a challenging text for numerous reasons: for example, its widespread use of the "N-word," the disparaging term for African Americans commonly used in Huck Finn's society. In addition, some take issue with the novel's portrayal of Jim, the intelligent but uneducated runaway slave. Mark Twain's use of vernacular can be difficult as well – especially for ELL or other students reading below their grade level – and Twain’s complex language may be difficult for students at many levels, even without the challenge of the vernacular. Due to its controversial language and Twain's satirical approach to serious topics like religion and racism, Huck Finn has been banned time and again since its publication in 1885.
While the difficulties of teaching Huck Finn are real, they are overcome year after year by thousands of teachers who believe that its merits far outweigh its problems. Huck Finn has been hailed as the quintessential American novel. Twain's clever yet poignant humor, conveyed through the unaffected voice of 13-year-old Huck, packs a one-two punch: first it makes you laugh, then it makes you cry. Ernest Hemingway put it this way: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn.' … [I]t's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."