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THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKELBERRY FINN

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book by Mark Twain, first published in England in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Considered as one of the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry "Huck" Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective).

The book is noted for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. Satirizing a Southern antebellum society that had ceased to exist about twenty years before the work was published, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.

The work has been popular with readers since its publication and is taken as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It has also been the continued object of study by serious literary critics. It was criticized upon release because of its coarse language and became even more controversial in the 20th century because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes and because of its frequent use of the racial slur "nigger", despite that the main protagonist, and the tenor of the book, is anti-racist.

The novel is widely known as one of the first true "American Novels". Twain initially conceived of the work as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that would follow Huck Finn through adulthood. Beginning with a few pages he had removed from the earlier novel, Twain began work on a manuscript he originally titled Huckleberry Finn's Autobiography. Twain worked on the manuscript off and on for the next several years, ultimately abandoning his original plan of following Huck's development into adulthood. He appeared to have lost interest in the manuscript while it was in progress, and set it aside for several years. After making a trip down the Mississippi, Twain returned to his work on the novel. Upon completion, the novel's title closely paralleled its predecessor's: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade).

Unlike The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not have the definite article "the" as a part of its proper title. Essayist and critic Spencer Neve states that this absence represents the "never fulfilled anticipations" of Huck's adventures—while Tom's adventures were completed (at least at the time) by the end of his novel, Huck's narrative ends with his stated intention to head West.

Mark Twain composed the story in pen on notepaper between 1876 and 1883. Paul Needham, who supervised the authentication of the manuscript for Sotheby's books and manuscripts department in New York in 1991, stated, "What you see is [Clemens'] attempt to move away from pure literary writing to dialect writing". For example, Twain revised the opening line of Huck Finn three times. He initially wrote, "You will not know about me", which he changed to, "You do not know about me", before settling on the final version, "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; but that ain't no matter". The revisions also show how Twain reworked his material to strengthen the characters of Huck and Jim, as well as his sensitivity to the then-current debate over literacy and voting.

A later version was the first typewritten manuscript delivered to a printer.

Huck Finn was eventually published on December 10, 1884, in Canada and England, and on February 18, 1885, in the United States. The illustration on page 283 became a point of issue after an engraver, whose identity was never discovered, made a last-minute addition to the printing plate of Kemble’s picture of old Silas Phelps. In the mischievous tradition of graffiti he drew in a male sex organ. The sabotage was discovered while the book was at press and the offending plate was replaced, the corrected plate being slightly altered in the area of Silas Phelps’ trousers fly.Thirty thousand copies of the book had been printed before the obscenity was discovered. A new plate was made to correct the illustration and repair the existing copies; versions with the so-called "curved fly" are valuable collectors items.

In 1885, the Buffalo Public Library's curator, James Fraser Gluck, approached Twain to donate the manuscript to the Library. Twain sent half of the pages, believing the other half to have been lost by the printer. In 1991, the missing half turned up in a steamer trunk owned by descendants of Gluck. The Library successfully proved possession and, in 1994, opened the Mark Twain Room in its Central Library to showcase the treasure.

Major themes

Twain wrote a novel that embodies the search for freedom. He wrote during the post-Civil War period when there was an intense white reaction against blacks.Twain took aim squarely against racial prejudice, rising segregation, lynchings, and the generally accepted belief that blacks were sub-human. He "made it clear that Jim was good, deeply loving, human, and anxious for freedom". However, others have criticized the novel as racist, citing the use of the word "nigger" and Jim's Sambo-like character.

Throughout the story, Huck is in moral conflict with the received values of the society in which he lives, and while he is unable to consciously refute those values even in his thoughts, he makes a moral choice based on his own valuation of Jim's friendship and human worth, a decision in direct opposition to the things he has been taught. Mark Twain in his lecture notes proposes that "a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience", and goes on to describe the novel as "...a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat".

To highlight the hypocrisy required to condone slavery within an ostensibly moral system, Twain has Huck's father enslave him, isolate him, and beat him. When Huck escapes - which anyone would agree was the right thing to do - he then immediately encounters Jim "illegally" doing the same thing.

Controversy

Much modern scholarship of Huckleberry Finn has focused on its treatment of race. Many Twain scholars have argued that the book, by humanizing Jim and exposing the fallacies of the racist assumptions of slavery, is an attack on racism. Others have argued that the book falls short on this score, especially in its depiction of Jim. According to Professor Stephen Railton of the University of Virginia, Twain was unable to fully rise above the stereotypes of black people that white readers of his era expected and enjoyed, and therefore resorted to minstrel show-style comedy to provide humor at Jim's expense, and ended up confirming rather than challenging late-19th century racist stereotypes.

In one instance, the controversy caused a drastically altered interpretation of the text: In 1955, CBS tried to avoid controversial material in a televised version of the book, by deleting all mention of slavery and having a white actor play Jim.

Because of this controversy over whether Huckleberry Finn is racist or anti-racist, and because the word "nigger" is frequently used in the novel, many have questioned the appropriateness of teaching the book in the U.S. public school system – this questioning of the word "nigger” is illustrated by a school administrator of Virginia in 1982 calling the novel the "most grotesque example of racism I’ve ever seen in my life". According to the American Library Association, Huckleberry Finn was the fifth most-frequently-challenged book in the United States during the 1990s.

There have been several more recent cases involving protests for the banning of the novel. In 2003 high school student Calista Phair and her grandmother, Beatrice Clark, in Renton, Washington, proposed banning the book from classroom learning in the Renton School District, though not from any public libraries, because of the word "nigger". Clark filed a request with the school district in response to the required reading of the book, asking for the novel to be removed from the English curriculum. The two curriculum committees that considered her request eventually decided to keep the novel on the 11th grade curriculum, though they suspended it until a panel had time to review the novel and set a specific teaching procedure for the novel and its controversial topics.

In 2007 Ibrahim Mohamed, a North Richland Hills, Texas, student, requested the word "nigger” be changed to "the N-word”. According to him, the teacher responded by asking him, "Does it offend you? It hurts, doesn’t it?” The exercise that was being done was to put the word into proper context for students, though officials apologized for the teacher’s blunt actions and tone. Despite the apology, Mohamed’s mother wanted the book banned. A group called "The Coalition to Stop the N-Word” requested the school board send a written apology to the family, give sensitivity training to all the teachers, and ban the book based on the feelings of the Mohamed family. In response, the school board said it would try to find better ways in which to present the novel and its controversial content to students.

In 2009 a Washington state high school teacher called for the removal of the novel from a school curriculum. The teacher, John Foley, called for replacing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a more modern novel. In an opinion column that Foley wrote in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, he states that all "novels that use the ‘N-word’ repeatedly need to go". He states that teaching the novel is not only unnecessary, but difficult due to the offensive language within the novel with many students becoming uncomfortable at "just hear[ing] the N-word". He views this change as "common sense”, with Obama’s election into office as a sign that Americans "are ready for a change”, and that by removing these books from the reading lists, they would be following this change.

A 2011 edition of the book, published by NewSouth Books, replaced the word "nigger" with "slave" (although being incorrectly addressed to a freed man) and did not use the term "Injun". The initiative to update the book was led by Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who said the change was made to better express Twain's ideas in the 21st century. Gribben said he hoped the edition would be more friendly for use in classrooms, rather than have the work banned outright from classroom reading lists due to its language. intended to counter the "pre-emptive censorship” that Dr. Gribben observes has caused these important works of literature to fall off curriculum lists nationwide.

According to publisher Suzanne La Rosa "At NewSouth, we saw the value in an edition that would help the works find new readers. If the publication sparks good debate about how language impacts learning or about the nature of censorship or the way in which racial slurs exercise their baneful influence, then our mission in publishing this new edition of Twain’s works will be more emphatically fulfilled." Another scholar, Thomas Wortham, criticized the changes, saying the new edition "doesn't challenge children to ask, 'Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?'"

Responses to this include the publishing of The Hipster Huckleberry Finn which is an edition with the word "nigger" replaced with the word "hipster". The book's description includes this statement "Thanks to editor Richard Grayson, the adventures of Huckleberry Finn are now neither offensive nor uncool."

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