Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Um...who's Tom Sawyer again?

A runaway slave, a homeless kid, and a heavy dose of racist language. Here's a book that had all the makings of the most tone-deaf Lifetime movie of all time.

Instead, we ended up with one of the funniest, most enduring, Mark Twainiest novels—one that makes many other Great American Novels look sorta square by comparison. Like, could The Scarlet Letter have any less chill?

But just because Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (or, since we're on a nickname basis, Huck Finn) is one of America's faves, doesn't mean it hasn't seen its share of controversy. You can't expect today's reader to stumble upon a racial slur every other paragraph and not think "dude, no." The question of whether Huck Finn is a product, critique, or example of the racism of the late 19th century isn't one that'll disappear any time soon. Especially not when race and the politics of language are still such big concerns today.

And that's what makes Huck Finn such a knockout book to study. In the midst of all the slapstick, the farce, and the boyhood shenanigans that make a grown Shmoop blush, there's opportunity for some serious literary analysis. In this course, we'll

  • explore how it could be possible for rigid morality and flagrant racism to coexist within the same society. Hypocritical, much?
  • examine the literary value of humor, including everything from satire to slapstick to the less-discussed Shmoopstick.
  • delve into such themes as friendship and loyalty, organized ethics (read: rules) versus private morality (read: not being a jerk), and man in the natural world.

Care to ride the Mississippi with us, Shmoopers? Boat's a-waitin'.

Unit Breakdown

  1. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Huckleberry Finn

    Whether you love it, hate it, or just have serious reservations about it, everyone wants to talk about Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. In this course about everyone's favorite tricky teenager (yeah, we said it, Tom Sawyer), we'll be studying the issues of racism, morality, and ethics as they pertain both to the world in and around the book. Luckily, those issues have been long since resolved since Twain and Finn's time…right? (Cricket noise.)

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