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Huck Finn

Discuss Twain’s attitude toward religion in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn using specific examples from the book.

Discuss the development of Jim’s character during the course of the novel. How do the reader’s perceptions of him change as Huck’s perceptions change?

Ernest Hemingway said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn.” Explain what Hemingway meant by this statement including a discussion of the novel, its characters, settings, conflicts, etc. as a turning point in American literature. What sets it apart from earlier authors and their works?

Three types of irony found in literature are verbal, situational and dramatic. Discuss examples of irony found throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. What is Twain’s purpose in using irony in the story?

Discuss the role the following ideas play in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: 1) the Mississippi River as a symbol and plot device and (2) superstition as an element of foreshadowing.


  1. Courtney

    1. Twain viewed religion as something made up and unbelievable. He doesn’t think there’s any advantage in going to heaven. He would say nasty things and think nothing of it. Twain uses the quote, “She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world; she was going to live as so as to go to the good place,” on page 3 to describe the widow’s point of view on religion, then turns around and explains his point of view by saying, “Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” This quote tremendously shows that he doesn’t believe a word the widow says about heaven. He says he doesn’t care to go there, that he see’s no advantage in going to heaven. Twain also uses the quote, “I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together,” which shows that Huck already admits that he’s going to “the bad place” and he wants his friend to be with him.

    • Rigoberto Suarez Bueno

      I️ agree with this because he doesn’t care about what he does. In fact he does bad stuff just so that he doesn’t go to the good place because then he would be with Miss Watson and he said he sees no advantage in that.

    • brooke clifton

      Mark Twain saw religion as being not capable of serious thought and he saw most people that had a certain religion as hypocritical. a quote in the book that stood out to me was “Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it.” chapter 3 page 1 I think Twain saw this as a joke and didn’t take it seriously because to him religion didn’t matter. I agree with Courtney when she said that Twain saw no advantage in going to heaven.

  2. Cannon

    Twain critizies the hipocrisy of conventional religion by comparing it to bucks true relgion. It seems like relgion doesn’t mean anything to Twain as of right now in the book looking at some of the things he says like “then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it”

    • Courtney

      I agree with you! After she says that, he also states, “She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn’t so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks.” This shows that he clearly doesn’t understand what Miss. Watson is trying to say. You don’t pray for things such as hooks to go fishing. This also shows that he doesn’t believe in praying, because nothing comes of it. Good point, though!

    • Rigoberto Suarez Bueno

      I️ agree with you that religion has doesn’t really have a meaning to him because even though Miss Watson reads to him and makes him pray he doesn’t care much about it.

    • Jenna Kling

      I agree that Twain criticizes the hypocrisy of religion. On page two of the book Huck points out that the widow rambles on about Moses, which doesn’t do anyone any good and then he questions why she faults him for doing something that actually does have some good in it (Smoking). “Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she’s wouldn’t. She said it was a mean practice and wasn’t clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it”.

  3. Jenna Kling

    Mark Twain does not understand why a person would subscribe to any religion. In the book Huck Finn is not religious, he cannot fathom why someone would be so concerned with dead people that they had no connection to. In chapter one Huck says, “After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him, because I don’t take no stock in dead people.” On that same page he also says, “Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see”.

    • Courtney

      True, he does claim that he doesn’t take stock in the dead. This shows that he truly doesn’t care about the Bible, being that Moses is all in the Bible. All of the people in the Bible are dead. If he doesn’t care about dead people, he essentially doesn’t care about the Bible. Good quote to back up your reasoning! 🙂

    • Rigoberto Suarez Bueno

      He really doesn’t care about The Bible at all because he doesn’t take stock in anyone dead. I️ feel like he doesn’t really understand what the Bible is for. To him it’s just a book that Miss Watson reads all the time.

  4. Rigoberto Suarez Bueno

    Twain’s attitude towards religion in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is that he doesn’t really understand or care about what it is. He also thinks that religion is stupid because he says that it controls you. He doesn’t really understand that you can go to heaven or hell and he doesn’t mind going to hell. When they are talking about going to heaven or hell Miss Watson says she “was going to live so as to go to the good place” in page 3. And then he says “Well, I️ couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I️ made up my mind I️ wouldn’t try for it.” also in page 3.

    • Courtney

      I said this as well. He definitely doesn’t care about going to hell. But then it makes you think: if he admits he’s going to hell, does that mean he believes in heaven and hell? It kinda goes both ways. He believes it’s real, but doesn’t care. This would make him seem agnostic. Not sure how he stands currently. Maybe he’ll switch over near the end of the book when we read further!

  5. Courtney Lawhorn

    2. Huck uses the quote, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger.” This shows us how he didn’t see himself as one to be friends with an African American, but he warmed up to him as the story went on. This makes the readers perception change, because we now see how Jim is an acceptional character. He is a sweet negroe, and he tries to help Huck throughout the story. His personality also changes. Huck says, “it warn’t no use wasting words–you can’t learn a nigger to argue. So I quit,” and this shows how in the beginning, Jim was hard to get along with and hard to teach. Near the end of the story, you see him trying to learn and not being as argumentative.

    • Jenna Kling

      I agree with everything you said. I think the first time we see Huck become close with Jim is when they met up on the island. Huck had mentioned feeling lonely being by himself so I’m sure he appreciated having Jim’s company. With just them two on the island trying to survive and not be captured, it brought them closer. On page 49 in paragraph 2 Huck says, “Jim this is nice, I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.”

  6. Courtney

    3. Hemingway states, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn”, meaning that he believes Huck Finn is the greatest novel he has written. He believes that many of the life lessons in this story are relevant to real life, making this story more naturalism. He states this to show the reader how much time he’s spent on this novel and how much thought he put into it. He uses Huck as the character for growth. He uses him to show how Hemingway has grown through life and met people he didn’t like that he grew fond of and learned to like. Jim and Huck’s relationship through the story shows this American literature because they are good one minute and then on bad terms the next. I think Hemingway really tried to explain his own life experiences throughout Huckleberry Finn, making it a more modern American literature than people may believe. He also puts in the story how Huck had an abusive father, Pap. “He abused me a little for being so slow; but I told him I fell in the river, and that was what made me so long,” shows this abusivness. It makes the reader feel pitty for Huck, which symbolizes Hemingway.

    • Jenna Kling

      I’m not sure if you misread the question but I just wanted to point out that Hemingway did not right Huck Finn. He was a different author that was popular during the 1900’s. He was very fond of Twain’s work and he was complementing Huck Finn as being progressive and a beginning of modern American literature.

  7. Courtney

    4. There are multiple examples of irony throughout this book. One example of situational irony would be the quote, “First you know you’ll get religion, too. I never see such a son.” He also says, “and looky here—you drop that school, you hear?” This shows that Pap is angry at Huck for going to school. One example of dramatic irony would be how Huck thinks he’s helping Jim escape, but Jim helps Huck more than Huck helps Jim. As the reader, we know that Jim is helping Huck more, but the character believes he is the one helping out. One example of verbal irony would be when Jim comments on the irony of being a slave: “I’s rich now, come to look at it. I owns myself, en I’s wuth eight hund’d dollars.” I believe that Twain writes with irony because it shows the real life situations and problems he’s faced in life. It gives the reader a better grasp of what’s going on in the story when irony is being used.

  8. Cannon

    2- In the beginning of the boom Jim is simple and trusting but this begins to change as the novel continues. Jim is always choosing the right things. He always picks the right path for him and Huck to follow. Jim starts to get smarter and readers start to see that. Just like when him and Huck were on Jackson’s island and Jim observes the birds and senses it’s gonna Rain and all of a sudden a big storm peaks out. This just goes to show the intelligence of Jim and how he has grown throughout the book.

    • Courtney

      Jim was definitely useful for Huck. He was his guidance and his left hand man. Jim predicted to weather and was accurate about it. He is an intelligent negroe, which shows how underestimated African Americans are.

  9. Courtney

    5. There are many roles that superstition and the Mississippi River play in the book. For the Mississippi River, it symbolizes freedom. Huck and Jim are alone on the raft and they don’t have to speak to anyone when they are floating on the river. This is there freedom, there chance to get away from the world. For Huck, he’s now able to free himself from his abusive father. The role of superstition, however, is that it brings the reader a feeling of fear for the characters when bad things come there way. For example, when Huck killed a spider, him and Jim began to have bad luck, as well as with the hair-ball used to tell fortunes, and the rattle-snake skin Huck touches that brings Huck and Jim good and bad luck.

    • Brooke Clifton

      “it brings the reader a feeling of fear for the characters when bad things come there way.” I agree with what you said when you see bad luck coming upon them the readers start to ponder what other bad things will come their way and it does make us fearful of what’s going to happen next.

  10. Jenna Kling

    2. In the beginning of the book, Twain portrays Jim as a caricature with limited individuality. All we know about him is that his Miss. Watson’s slave and he is very superstitious. When Jim leaves society, he finally gains his individuality. As Huck grows closer to Jim he begins to have conflicting feelings about slavery. Jim starts off as a stereotypical slave but throughout the novel his true character is revealed to the reader along with Huck. We learn more about his life, family, and beliefs.

  11. Jenna Kling

    3. Hemingway was stating that “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was a stark contrast from all other novels in that time period. It set the stage for all modern American literature. Critics of the time criticized the use of Twain’s dialect, the bad grammer, and the use of rough and inelegant expressions. However, in the explanatory in the book Twain explains that the dialects written were like that on purpose in order to portray the characters accurately. In this novel Twain strays away from the romantic style and instead focuses on naturalism. Through naturalism he uses “basic” views of life and and humanity, stripping away the layers of romanticism to present a “natural” or “real” outlook of the world. The story consists of a young boy who had an abusive father, he wasn’t religious, and he had terrible grammar. It also has a superstitious runaway slave the befriends a white boy and is trying to save his family. These types of characters and storylines may have been a been off putting to the more proper and elegant structure of romantic literature. This focus on real and natural character struggle started modern American literature.

  12. Jenna Kling

    3. Irony is used throughout Huck Finn. An example of situational irony in the novel is when Huck’s father is complaining about a free black man. He says, “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.” Huck’s father describes a man of superior intellect to himself, yet scolds the government for letting him vote. An example of verbal irony is when Jim says, “I’s rich now, come to look at it. I owns myself, en I’s wuth eight hund’d dollars.” This shows the irony of being a slave. Slaves are treated like they are worthless and their treated terrible yet white masters would spend large amounts of money to buy them. An example of dramatic irony is when Huck is talking with Buck, he says, “I bet you can’t spell my name, I says. ‘I bet you what you dare I can’, says he. ‘All right, ‘ says I, ‘go ahead.’ ‘G-e-o-r-g-e J-a-x-o-n there now, ‘ he says. ‘Well’, I says, ‘you done it, but I didn’t think you could. It ain’t no slouch of a name to spell right off without studying. I set down, private, because somebody might want me to spell it next, and so I wanted to be handy with it and rattle it off like I was used to it.” This is ironic because Huck is worried about memorizing the spelling of his fake name even though the reader knows that he’s trying to memorize the wrong spelling. Twain uses irony because it’s a subtle way to criticize society in a humorous fashion.

    • Brooke clifton

      I completely agree with what you are saying especially the fact that “Twain uses irony because it’s a subtle way to criticize society in a humorous fashion.” I think that Twain used humor to get his point across

  13. Jenna Kling

    5. The Mississippi River is the ultimate symbol of freedom for Huck and Jim. Alone on their raft they didn’t have to answer to anyone. The river carries Jim toward the free states and it carries Huck away from his abusive father and “sivilizing” guardians. Even though the river is often a refuge from trouble, it also gets the characters in bad situations. Bad situations like the river flooding because of the storm, the fog that caused them to miss their route to freedom, and the confrontation with the duke and dauphin. In this novel superstition and foreshadowing are connected. Throughout the story, Jim expresses various superstitions that Huck initially dismisses, but eventually comes to respect because they all come true. When Huck discovers a snakeskin and picks it up, Jim warns that this is bad luck. Then, in chapter 10 Huck jokingly puts a dead rattlesnake near where Jim was sleeping and another snake bites Jim, causing his leg to swell for days. Huck feels bad for not believing Jim and says, “I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever take ahold of a snake skin again.” This is one of the first instances of Huck’s opinion of Jim changing. Another example is when Jim tells huck that when a man has hairy arms and a hairy chest, it means he will become rich. Huck asks Jim if his arms and chest were hairy, to which he responded yes. At the end of the novel, Tom gives Jim forty dollars to compensate him for his troubles. Jim then declares that the omen of his body hair has come to fruition and he says, “signs is signs, mine I tell you.”

  14. brooke clifton

    2. Jim who is a slave changed throughout the novel by helping Huck and showing him a different side to life. At first, Jim appears to not be knowledgeable but later on in the book he shows his understanding of the world and expresses his intelligence. I agree with what Jenna is saying for number 2 you can definitely see how people view Jim as an ordinary slave and then you can see the strong bond between Huck and Jim and how Huck finally comes to the realization that Jim is a good human being and when Huck starts to see that we start to. We do learn about the lives of the characters and began to form a personal connection figuring out why they are the way they are.

  15. Brooke clifton

    3. Hemingway said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huck Finn.” I think that Hemmingway meant that the book Huck Finn was the start of books that actually matter I agree with what Jenna said: ” It set the stage for all modern American literature.” It was a book that talked about slavery and real-life problems. Huck Finn is based around naturalism. Huck represents natural life through his freedom of spirit, uncivilized ways, and desire to escape from civilization. The setting is before the civil war in the south. Huck was raised without any rules or discipline. A slave meets Huck and they become friends then you see the story of their lives. Talking about Hucks live and him being abused adds dimension to the book. Huck Finn isn’t a dull book and shows real-life situations that’s why I think that it was the start of modern American literature and it sets it apart from other books.

  16. Brooke clifton

    4. Throughout Huck Finn there are many examples of irony. An example of verbal irony is when Jim says
    “I’s rich now, come to look at it. I owns myself, en I’s wuth eight hund’d dollars.” This shows situational irony since Jim is black and a slave he is not given a lot and all he wants is 800 dollars which is a lot back then but he will never get that due to who he is since he is lives in a society that looks down upon his race. An exmaple of situational/dramatic irony is that Huck always comments how doing right makes him feel bad, this is because what he’s been taught as right is morally wrong. Another example of dramatic irony is Huck freeing a slave due to the fact that he grew up believing that slaves shouldn’t be free and then he frees one. Twains purpose of using irony in the story is so he’s able to get across a controversial point without being offensive.

  17. Brooke clifton

    Like everyone else said the Mississippi River does represent freedom for both Jim and Huck. It shows Jim as a free man and Huck getting away from the chaos and his father. Superstition plays a huge role in the novel for example In Chapter one Huck sees a spider crawling up his shoulder so he became nervous and flicked it off it then went into the flame of the candle. Huck didn’t want anyone to tell him that it was a bad sign and would give him bad luck. They didn’t want bad luck to come upon them on this adventure down the river. Weather is used as foreshadowing Jim and Huck missing down the Ohio river.

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