Mark Twain (real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens) is a world-renowned American author. On November 30, 1835, he was born in the Missouri village of Florida (“Mark Twain – Mini Biography”). This author was known for writing in a variety of genres, such as adventure novels, complex metaphysical memoirs, or fantasy. Nonetheless, at the height of his career, he was regarded as almost the most excellent American, and his contemporaries dubbed him the “first true writer of the United States.” Mark Twain spent a significant amount of his time in Hannibal, and residents represented his works in some manner. In July 1861, he had moved away from the war to the west, where people have been mining silver at that time. The author did not find himself in the career of a prospector, so he had taken up journalism again. He had settled himself in a newspaper in Virginia and has started writing and took the pseudonym Mark Twain.
His success has come to him in the late 1860s, when, after traveling to Europe, he published the book The Innocents Abroad. In 1870, the author has got married and moved to Hartford. During that period Twain stated lecturing and writing satire, criticizing American society. In 1876, the novel about the adventures of a boy named Tom Sawyer was published. The sequel to this novel was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written in 1884. The most famous historical novel by Mark Twain was The Prince and the Pauper, published in 1881. In addition to literature, Mark Twain was very fond of science. He was friendly with Nikola Tesla and visited his laboratory very often. In the last years of his life, the writer has been depressing a lot: his literary successes have faded, his financial situation was worsened and three of four children died. Being depressed, he has been still trying to joke. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, from angina pectoris.
The main work of Mark Twain was the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He had the broadest aspect of the impact of the working mind: his democratism and humanity, his universality, as well as a language new in literature, simple and as close as possible to colloquial speech. It all has become the properties of the American literature of the 20th century. The novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn adjoins The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: there are the same characters and the same time of action. However, this thing revealed a more mature position of the author, covered all aspects of human experience much better and had a deeper generalizing meaning. Mark Twain was an ardent opponent of slavery and racism, which he was not afraid to declare from the pages of his book. Some of the main characters were spoken by the author himself, who despised the oppression of man by man and racial discrimination. Twain never really took the view that contemporaries considered his ideas of equality to be a complete madness. In 1885, a year after the first publication of the book, the management of the Massachusetts Public Library decided to remove from its fund the “provocative” book of Twain.
The central character of the novel is Huckleberry Finn. The author made the narrator not Tom, but Huck. The protagonist of the novel was a tramp, a true child of the people that had a colorful and expressive language. The work fully revealed the history and character of Huck, whereas in the first part about Tom Sawyer Huck was painted lightly. Huck was a man of nature and a child of the streets, but he looked at the world independently. Helping Jim, Huck, first of all, he satisfied his first need to be always free. At first Huck regarded Negro slavery as something self-evident, natural, however, in the end he understood the price of loyalty, courage, devotion and began appreciating friendship with the Negro. It is paradoxical, since at the end of the 19th century it was necessary to be a very brave person to have such a friendship in America.
According to the plot, the novel began with the return of Finn back to the good widow Douglas that called the boy a “poor lost lamb”. For all the time spent at Miss Douglas, he went to school, where he learned the multiplication table, learned to read and write. Nonetheless, the most intolerable thing was the presence of the widow’s sister Miss Watson, who always taught and poked the boy in everything. One day Huck dropped the salt shaker, and his old aunt did not allow him throwing a pinch of salt over his shoulder in time. Then the hero discovered a trace in the snow that the Indian allegedly left behind. He immediately took the money he found in the cave and ran to give it to Becky Thatcher that took it for preservation, formalizing it as an acquisition. The same evening, his father came to Huck, who heard about his son’s wealth and demanded to give him everything. Then the judge decided to let the father and son live in a forest hut, away from people. Soon the boy decided to escape, staged his death and robbery of the hut. He sailed to Jackson Island, where he met Jim – Negro of Miss Watson, who was also on the run.
From that moment on, the adventures of Huck and his new comrade Jim began. They gathered on a raft to sail to Cairo, and from there along the Ohio River, to Free States where there was no slavery. On the way, they managed to escape from the bandits, swim Cairo, and their raft with a bang fire passed fire, then Huck lost to Jim. Reaching the shore, the hero fell into the Grangerfords family: the rich, beautiful and chivalrous southerners that had fought with their neighbors Shepherdsons for a long time. Huck found a raft with Jim, who escaped on that fateful night. All Negros began bringing him food and clothes. Everything was fine, as long as the modest Sofia Grangerford did not run away with her enemy Garni Shepherdson. Then the knights rushed into the pursuit and fell into an ambush, where all of them were killed. Huck and Jim decided to run away from those eerie places on their raft.
So they swam until they decided to stop eating and just rest. So before the dawn Hexpasse from the chase of two ragamuffins, who introduced themselves as the heir to the Duke of Bridgewater and the king of the French Crown. Nonetheless, Huck guessed that these people were just scammers, but did not tell Jim. Then all of them floated on, and a little later they landed in a town. Here the king, deceiving passers-by, collected 87 dollars, and the duke cleaned the printing press. Additionally, liars put up a show in which they practically did not show anything, but people paid money for it. Soon they all had to flee to another town, where they pretended to be brothers of the deceased tanner the left a rich inheritance. Then they sold Jim for 40 dollars, and Huck hurried to the rescue, where he accidentally met Tom. So, Sawyer got injured in the leg, Jim became free, and Huck was not threatened anymore. Then Huckleberry Finn intended to flee to the Indian Territory.
“here was a free nigger there from Ohio—a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain’t a man in that town that’s got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane—the awful- est old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p’fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain’t the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was ‘lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin”. (Ch. 6.p. 11)
Mark Twain was an opponent of racism and slavery and with the mouth of his heroes directly and unambiguously declares this from the pages of the novel (Kaye, 1). The author’s position aroused indignation of many of his contemporaries. Twain himself took it with irony. When in 1885 the public library in Massachusetts decided to withdraw from the Huckleberry Finn Adventure Foundation, Twain wrote to his publisher: “They excluded Huck from the library as rubbish suitable only for slums, because of this we will undoubtedly sell another 25,000 copies books”. However, at the end of the 20th century, some words common to the time of the book became considered racial insults.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was withdrawn from the program of some US schools for allegedly racist statements because of the expansion of the boundaries of political correctness (Wahab, 2). For the first time it happened in 1957 in the state of New York. In February 2011, the US published a new edition of the book, in which “offensive” words were replaced by politically correct words. In his novel, Mark Twain revealed the problems of slavery and racism in the United States and, of course, his book was criticized and banned. On the way to the release of this novel, there were many obstacles, since censorship always hides the truth from the population. Nevertheless, the author beautifully opened the topic, veiling it into an adventure novel.
The work of Twain appeared on the eve of one of the most tragic events in public life in the 1980s, the execution of five workers’ leaders in Chicago in 1887. Started in 1874, almost simultaneously with Tom Sawyer, a book of essays on life on the Mississippi was born under the sign of those same nostalgic moods. In the first part of it Twain resurrects memories of those days when an unknown young man Samuel Clemens drove ships along the great river. The time of pilotage he considered the happiest period of his life. Repeatedly he argued that pilotage is his favorite profession and he would willingly return to her if the family did not mind. Returning to this passed stage of his life path, Twain examines it through the haze of “elegies”. With a touch of slightly sad emotion, he describes his acquaintance with the Mississippi, with the wonderful people with whom he was pushed by fate in the process of training in pilotage.
Subsequently, when in 1882 the writer resumed his work on the book, he included in it an essay on the history of pilotage, the first working organization of the United States, which established its trade union association. The facts of Twain’s personal biography combined with chronicle data from the history of the trade union movement in the United States. As a result, a special fusion of soulful lyrics and sharp publicism arose, which determined not only the cognitive, but also the artistic value of Twain’s work. His book is far beyond the scope of his chronicle task. In lyrically penetrating form, here embodied the positive ideal of Twain, his “American dream” of a free, harmoniously integral civilization, the basis of which would be the liberated and joyful work of man. Telling the features of tangible, vital concreteness, Twain made a sharp distinction between it and real American reality at the same time, thus anticipating the entire direction of its further creative evolution. Despite the strength and fundamentality of the real, factual basis of the book, which represents the chronicle of the real events of the recent past of the United States, it was all permeated with the spirit of romance, that special purely Twain romanticism that was alien to every element of abstraction and conventionality and that was not afraid of prose.
According to the principles of its artistic construction, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn fully meets one of the program requirements of Twain’s aesthetics. This is a perfect example of a free, unrelated plot, the development of that takes place by itself, and most of all resembles the swift movement of the stream. The greatest correspondence to this ideal Twain found in the Don Quixote of Cervantes. Justification of such techniques can be found in Twain’s Autobiography. According to it, the story had to flow as a stream flows through the hills and curly groves, and when encountering a boulder or a rocky ledge overgrown with grass, the stream turns aside, the surface is indignant, but nothing will stop its flow, neither the threshold nor the stranded at the bottom of the riverbed It does not flow for one minute in one direction, but it flows, flows swiftly, sometimes describes a circle in a good three-quarters of a mile, then to return to the place, no more than a yard apart from where it lasted an hour ago, but it flows and is faithful in its whims to at least one law, the law of narration, which, as is known, does not know any laws.
As a “child of the Mississippi”, Huck Finn truly created its image and likeness. He was a truly natural person, and his attitude was naturally as much as possible in an unnatural society, in relation to which he takes a defensive position. Closely related to the heroes of Twain’s previous works, he was a qualitatively new version of his simpletons. Having survived many changes and reincarnations, Twain’s “simpleton” entered one of the most significant stages of its existence. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn he became a socially determined person. All the usual features of this character: common sense, naivety and innocence of feelings and thoughts combined with a fair amount of cunning and craftiness, its worldly wisdom and childish simplicity have acquired a clear social basis, becoming the properties of a person from the people.
The natural consciousness in this novel became people’s consciousness. The conflict between Huckleberry Finn and “democratic” America was a social conflict that acquired a clear and realistic plot expression in the novel. In relation to Huckleberry Finn to the world around, there was nothing artificial and far-fetched. It was motivated both socially and psychologically. He was not a foreigner who came from Persia, not a giant who got into the land of the Lilliputians, not a young philosopher who looks at reality through the prism of philosophical theories cut off from life. A person from the people, free from the many prejudices of the bourgeois world, he sees things differently than the decent people surrounding him, and in an ingenuous, naive form tells about his life impressions. Huck Finn occupied a special place in the history of America’s democratic consciousness.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the reader unfolds a very different picture of the life of the Old South. When Miss Watson, Jim’s mistress, decided to sell him, a living person, to be separated from his family, Jim ran away. The reactionary writer would try to prove that Jim was a “savage”, an “ungrateful creature”. Mark Twain proved the opposite. The centuries of oppression could not kill the Negro people alive: despite all ignorance and prejudice, Jim felt his right to live humanly. Superstitious and illiterate, Jim himself did not understand the meaning of his rebellion. For centuries, self-deprecation has been brought up in slaves, and Jim believed that a white man was better and smarter than a black-skinned one because he was white-skinned. However, there was a limit to patience, even for such a patient and trusting, kind and devoted person as Jim. It was not the abolitionist that incited Jim to flee. On the contrary, Jim himself decided to ask the abolitionist for help, when he began dreaming about how he would free his family. Thus the slave to freedom breaks irresistibly, if he has preserved human dignity. Jim was a real man: it was no accident that Huck, thinking about people, came to the conclusion that that black man, despised by all, was “inside white”, and so many whites around him were black in the soul.
Mark Twain was a defender of the old order in the South. Huck fell into the house to gentlemen that were above all the archaic antiquity and nobility of a kind. After all, the breed for a man is just as important as for a horse. Planters never stained themselves with any kind of labor; their noble classes were fights and exploits in the name of personal and family honor. Huck was faced with such exploits. At first, it was simply ridiculous to read how people were afraid to let him into the house, as three adult men in full arms made a little boy wet to the skin and shivering from the cold, slowly approach the porch under the guns aimed at him, and then, by the light of a candle on sex, search it. “Are these gentlemen valiant and brave?” – The first natural question arises. When Huck gets to know the owners of the house, when several armed horsemen perform a “feat” before his eyes, they finished the wounded boys drowning in the river. Then Huck became unbearably sick and evil, and he ran away from those gentleman savages on his raft, to Jim.
Twain ridiculed in those images that he hated his whole life with passionate hatred: a monarchy and class nobility. Huck thought that the two unscrupulous impostors were innocent lambs compared to real kings and dukes. It turned out that not only in some distant European monarchy, but also there in the Old South, aristocratic prejudices were so strong that, when decorated with titles, scammers could plunder with impunity. Settled on a raft, those tramps broke the whole way of life of Huck and Jim broke a life free from the power of things and money. As in The Gilded Age, as in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, only much sharper, in the book there was the theme of gold, the pursuit of wealth. The duke and the king thought only of how to rob somebody. Fantasy knew no boundaries between time and distance. The deceased French Dauphin, a great tragedian who lived in the eighteenth century, a pirate from the Indian Ocean, no matter how deceptive, he served them. On the “heap of yellow” they gaze licked, hungry eyes, and getting them, grabbing their hands, letting them pass through their fingers and dropping to the floor with a sound, enjoying one touch to the cold metal. Gold obscures the human grief for them: they were trying to rob the orphaned girls; for the money they were ready to sell Jim, since he was a man that owed his life. Disinterestedness and loyalty implied the friendship of Huck and Jim. The duke and the king also called themselves friends, but when relationships were built on money, there could be no talk even of simple trust; each of them knew by experience that he could cheat and sell a “friend”, if only in the air he smelled a profitable deal.
Summing up everything said above, it should be concluded that Mark Twain’s novel is his authorial impulse to tell about the sore point, as he was a clear opponent of both slavery and racism and tried to explain it in a correct form to his readers. Despite the fact that at the time of the release, the American community did not accept the author’s point of view, to date almost all Americans have respect for the author. Despite the specific language in the novel, any reader will be clear and this is easy and understandable for anyone. This book is recommended for reading to all, since the theme of racism and slavery is, unfortunately, relevant to this day.
Kaye, Frances W. Race and Reading: The Burden of Huckleberry Finn. Canadian Review of American Studies, v. 29 (1), 1999, pp 13-48.
“Mark Twain – Mini Biography”. Biography.com, https://www.biography.com/people/mark-twain-9512564. Accessed on 24, 2017.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A Glassdoor Classic, 1884. contentserver.adobe.com/store/books/HuckFinn.pdf. Accessed on 24 October, 2017.
Wahab, Abdurrahman A. The Controversy over Huckleberry Finn. Int. J. Ped. v. 1 (1), 2013, pp. 47-51.