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Lesson 1: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—Chapters 1–20

Lesson 1: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—Chapters 1–20


Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1885, has long been recognized as a true American classic; many literary scholars have even called it “the greatest American novel.” Set along the Mississippi River before the American Civil War, Twain’s novel focuses on a young man’s quest for personal identity as he confronts pre-Civil War society, including its prejudice, racism, and slavery.

As you begin reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you’ll immediately notice that Twain employs an effective literary technique to bring his characters and the pre-Civil War era to life: the use of dialect. His characters often use language that, to our twenty-first-century ears and minds, seems racist and offensive. But by having his characters use this language, Twain is presenting a realistic portrayal of how many individuals spoke— and thought—during pre-Civil War times. At the same time, he’s illustrating the foolishness of these individuals’ beliefs. As you read Twain’s novel, consider how the use of dialect not only helps bring Twain’s characters to life but also helps expose the absurdity of racism.