The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary

Who does­n’t know him, the rebel­lious teenag­er with the big straw hat? But The Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is much more than a harm­less chil­dren’s book that intro­duces boys to the world of adven­ture. Mark Twain’s sec­ond book about the young Huck­le­ber­ry Finn (after Tom Sawyer), who is reject­ed by a hyp­o­crit­i­cal soci­ety, is not only adven­tur­ous but some­times very crit­i­cal of civ­i­liza­tion and down­right dark. It is about slav­ery, the val­ue of a human being, lies and deceit, moral behav­iour and true friend­ship. It is not only the South­ern romance that Mark Twain ironizes, but also his por­traits of the peo­ple of Illi­nois and Arkansas, drawn with a sharp pen, that make the nov­el an authen­tic slice of a rather dark era in the Unit­ed States. With a light touch, Twain dis­man­tles the self-evi­dent through the naive­ly obser­vant per­spec­tive of the youth­ful hero so that the world takes on a mag­i­cal qual­i­ty. At the end of the jour­ney down the Mis­sis­sip­pi, the most Amer­i­can of Amer­i­can words are writ­ten with a big excla­ma­tion mark: Freedom!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Summary
The Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn Summary

Take Aways

  • The Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is Mark Twain’s mag­num opus. It is the sequel to Tom Sawyer’s Adventures.
  • Both nov­els were huge com­mer­cial suc­cess­es, but only Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is con­sid­ered one of the “crown jew­els” of Amer­i­can literature.
  • Ado­les­cent Huck (Leber­ry) Finn, the neglect­ed son of a hobo, is adopt­ed and “civ­i­lized” by the wid­ow Douglas.
  • But the free­dom-lov­ing boy feels threat­ened by social con­straints and escapes to adven­ture with his friend Tom Sawyer sev­er­al times.
  • Sud­den­ly, Huck­’s miss­ing father appears and demands that his son return the trea­sure he and Tom found some time ago.
  • Since the old Finn can’t get his hands on the mon­ey, he kid­naps his son and hides him in a lum­ber­jack­’s cab­in on the Mis­sis­sip­pi River.
  • Huck breaks out of the cab­in, fakes his mur­der, and drifts down the riv­er to a small island.
  • There, he meets and befriends Jim, an escaped enslaved per­son. Togeth­er, they trav­el down the Mis­sis­sip­pi on a raft.
  • After a col­li­sion with a pad­dle­wheel­er, the two are sep­a­rat­ed but are reunit­ed after sev­er­al adventures.
  • Two crooks use the two fugi­tives for their rob­beries. Final­ly, they sell the want­ed Jim to a fam­i­ly in Arkansas.
  • Huck suc­ceeds in free­ing Jim with the help of Tom Sawyer. Ulti­mate­ly, Jim is freed, and Huck flees soci­ety again to the West.
  • The book has influ­enced many mod­ern writ­ers such as Ernest Hem­ing­way and J.D. Salinger. But it was also often banned by cen­sors — because the word “nig­ger” appears so usu­al­ly, it was mis­in­ter­pret­ed as racist.

Summary: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

What Happened Before

The Adven­tures of Tom Sawyer ends with Huck­le­ber­ry Finn and Tom Sawyer find­ing a large sum of mon­ey hid­den by a band of rob­bers. They each get $6,000 — a con­sid­er­able sum for the boys — which Judge Thatch­er invests for them in the bank. The Wid­ow Dou­glas and her high­ly con­ser­v­a­tive and reli­gious sis­ter, Miss Wat­son, adopt Huck­le­ber­ry, but he resists their attempts to “civ­i­lize” him and runs away. Tom per­suades him to return. He does, but Huck is not happy.

Life at the Widow’s House

While Huck­le­ber­ry likes some of the lux­u­ries of his new life, he miss­es the free­dom to do and wear what he wants. His new clothes make him feel “con­strict­ed,” he strug­gles with the strict sched­ule at Wid­ow Dou­glas’ house and does­n’t see the point of say­ing his prayers or read­ing the Bible. One night, when Huck­le­ber­ry is feel­ing down, Tom appears in the yard, and togeth­er, they steal away. Tom plans to start a gang of rob­bers with Huck and oth­er boys. Tom makes each boy swear an oath of alle­giance, which he has cob­bled togeth­er from sev­er­al pirate and rob­ber sto­ries he has read. They all sign the oath with their blood and decide that their “line of busi­ness” will be rob­bery and murder.

A Body in the River

One day, some locals fish a body out of the riv­er past the town. Although it’s bad­ly bloat­ed, they think it might be Huck­’s father, a vio­lent alco­holic who nev­er both­ered with his son except to beat him vicious­ly. Huck is relieved to hear the news, though he’s not entire­ly con­vinced that the body is indeed his father’s. Mean­while, the gang con­tin­ues to meet, but they nev­er move beyond “pre­tend” rob­beries fueled by Tom’s imag­i­na­tion. Soon, the gang breaks up.

“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no busi­ness doing wrong when he ain’t igno­rant and knows bet­ter.” (Huck Finn)

Win­ter comes, and Huck attends school rea­son­ably reg­u­lar­ly, learn­ing to spell, write, and do arith­metic. One morn­ing, he sees foot­prints in the snow out­side the Wid­ow Dou­glas’s house. When he looks clos­er, he real­izes they are his father’s foot­prints. Huck runs straight to Judge Thatch­er and asks him to take all his sav­ings. He fears that his father has only returned for the mon­ey but does not tell Judge Thatch­er his sus­pi­cions. The Judge, guess­ing the rea­son, makes a deal with Huck to pay him $1 for his prop­er­ty. Huck signs the papers and returns home. When he gets to his room that evening, his father awaits him.

The Kidnapping

Huck­’s father wants Huck­’s mon­ey, but Judge Thatch­er refus­es to give it to him. The Judge and the Wid­ow Dou­glas try to get cus­tody of Huck, but a new judge in town, who knows noth­ing about Huck­’s father, decides it would­n’t be good to sep­a­rate father and son. The new Judge takes Huck­’s father in and tries to reform him, but he is soon defeat­ed. Huck­’s father starts a law­suit to get Huck­’s mon­ey. He also tries to keep the boy from going to school. When the wid­ow tells him to stay away, he waits for Huck and kid­naps him. He takes him across the riv­er to Illi­nois to an old wood­en cab­in. They live on what they can fish and hunt, and Huck enjoys the free­dom of not hav­ing to wash, dress appro­pri­ate­ly, eat off a plate, and so on. Soon, how­ev­er, his father begins to beat him again. He also locks Huck in the cab­in when­ev­er he goes away, some­times for sev­er­al days.

The Escape

Huck can’t take it any­more and hatch­es a plan to escape. He finds a rusty saw and begins to cut a hole in the cab­in wall while his father is away. When the man returns, he’s in a foul mood because the law­suit over Huck­’s mon­ey is drag­ging on. Also, the Judge and the wid­ow have made anoth­er attempt to become Huck­’s guardians. The idea of return­ing to “civ­i­liza­tion” does­n’t appeal to Huck, and he plans to run away that night after his father drinks him­self into obliv­ion. How­ev­er, Huck falls asleep with the gun in his lap and wakes up late the fol­low­ing day. To explain why he has the weapon, he tells his father that he heard some­one walk­ing around the cab­in. His father sends him to fish, and Huck finds a canoe float­ing down the riv­er. He pulls it to shore and hides it. In the after­noon, his father goes back to town, and Huck sets to work. He takes all the food and tools from the cab­in and loads them into the canoe, then shoots a wild pig and splat­ters its blood around the cab­in, stag­ing his mur­der. He leaves an axe with blood and some of his hair and sets off in the canoe for Jack­son Island.

On Jackson Island

Huck enjoys the soli­tude and free­dom of the island, but three days after arriv­ing, he comes across a still-smok­ing camp­fire. Fright­ened, he packs up all his belong­ings and sleeps in the canoe. In the morn­ing, he final­ly gath­ers enough courage to find out who is on the island with him. To his sur­prise and relief, it’s Jim, Miss Wat­son’s slave. Jim tells him that Miss Wat­son has decid­ed to sell him to a slave trad­er, so he has run away. Huck promis­es not to tell on him. The two set up camp in a cave, where they wait out a storm that lasts over a week and floods parts of the island. When the storm pass­es, they go explor­ing in Huck­’s canoe. They come across a two-sto­ry wood­en house float­ing by and climb inside. They find the body of a man shot in the back. Jim looks at his face but tells Huck to stay away because it’s “too grue­some”. Jim cov­ers the body with some old rags. They take what they can from the boat and return to the island.

Flight South

Huck is curi­ous: he wants to dis­cov­er what peo­ple are say­ing about him and his “death,” so he dress­es up as a girl and enters town. From a woman who recent­ly moved to town, he learns that peo­ple first sus­pect­ed his father of his mur­der, but now they believe it was Jim since he dis­ap­peared at the same time. There is a $300 reward for Jim’s cap­ture. The woman tells Huck that her hus­band has decid­ed to search Jack­son Island the next day because he saw smoke on the island. Huck rush­es back to the island, and he and Jim pack their belong­ings on a raft they found and set out. As they float down the Mis­sis­sip­pi, they come across a strand­ed steam­boat. They climb aboard and encounter three crim­i­nals, two of whom have ganged up on the third and are about to shoot him. As Jim and Huck try to escape before the three men notice them, they find that their raft has bro­ken loose and drift­ed away. They steal the crim­i­nals’ boat and soon catch up to their raft.

A Narrow Escape

Jim and Huck­’s goal is to get to Cairo, where the Mis­sis­sip­pi and Ohio rivers meet. They plan to sell their raft and take a steam­boat up the Ohio Riv­er to the states where slav­ery has been abol­ished. One night, they get caught in a thick fog and become sep­a­rat­ed. As they drift down the riv­er, Jim talks about what he will do as a free man: work, save some mon­ey, and buy his wife and chil­dren. Huck begins to feel guilty about help­ing a slave escape. He decides he has to tell some­one, so he takes the canoe and pad­dles off under the pre­tence of find­ing out if they have reached Cairo. As he leaves, Jim shouts after him that Huck is the best friend he has ever had. Huck is con­fused; he now feels as if he is betray­ing Jim. He only gets far from the raft after two men in a boat stop him. They are look­ing for five run­away slaves and begin ques­tion­ing Huck. He pre­vents them from search­ing the raft by telling them that his father is there and that he has small­pox. Afraid of catch­ing the con­ta­gious dis­ease, the men give Huck mon­ey and advice on how to get to the near­est land­ing place; the men then move on. Jim, who has over­heard the con­ver­sa­tion, feels his trust in Huck is jus­ti­fied: his friend has lied to and saved him.

A Deadly Feud

Jim and Huck real­ize they have drift­ed past Cairo because of the fog. They can’t get back upriv­er because they’ve lost their canoe. To make mat­ters worse, a steam­boat rams their raft and splits it in two. Huck makes it to shore, but there is no sign of Jim. A local fam­i­ly, the Granger­fords, takes in Huck. From their son Buck, Huck learns that the fam­i­ly has had a long-stand­ing feud with anoth­er local fam­i­ly, the Shep­herd­sons, which has result­ed in sev­er­al deaths on both sides. No one knows what start­ed the feud, but the fight­ing between the fam­i­lies con­tin­ues. One day, after Huck and the fam­i­ly return from church, Miss Sophie, one of the Granger­ford daugh­ters, asks Huck if he would return to the church to get her Bible. He does so but sus­pects some­thing is wrong. When he picks up the Bible, he finds a note that says “Half-Past Two”. He tries to under­stand what this could mean but gives the book and note to Miss Sophie with­out say­ing anything.

“Human beings can be awful cru­el to one anoth­er.” (Huck Finn)

The enslaved per­son “assigned” to Huck comes to him with a strange request: He asks if he can show Huck a place where there are water moc­casins (poi­so­nous snakes). Huck sens­es some­thing is up and fol­lows the enslaved per­son. He finds Jim asleep in the mid­dle of a swamp, well hid­den by bush­es and a tree. Huck wakes him, and Jim tells him what hap­pened after the steam­boat rammed them. He tried to fol­low Huck but was too slow to catch up. Afraid that some­one would catch him and force him back into slav­ery, Jim decid­ed to hide. He met some oth­er enslaved peo­ple who lived near­by and decid­ed to send a mes­sage to Huck. The fol­low­ing day, Miss Sophie is gone. She has eloped and mar­ried Har­ney Shep­herd­son. The Granger­fords swear revenge and go after the Shep­herd­sons. Buck is killed in the ensu­ing shootout. Huck and Jim escape.

Two Hustlers

Jim and Huck con­tin­ue their jour­ney down the riv­er. They pick up two men on the run. The old­er man claims to be the Duke of Bridge­wa­ter and asks to be addressed as “Your Grace”, “My Lord” or “Your Lord­ship”. Not to be out­done, the younger man says that he is a descen­dant of Louis XVI and, there­fore, should be called “Your Majesty”. Huck quick­ly real­izes that the two are noth­ing more than fraud­sters and hus­tlers who trav­el around try­ing to trick peo­ple. How­ev­er, as free white men, they are in a bet­ter posi­tion than Jim and Huck, so Huck pre­tends to go along with their game. He tells them that Jim is his slave and that they are on their way to his uncle, who lives in the South. Soon, the Duke and the King take con­trol of the raft. They keep stop­ping along the way, com­ing up with new and out­ra­geous schemes to cheat peo­ple out of their mon­ey. For exam­ple, in Parkville, the King attends a church meet­ing and pre­tends to be a reformed pirate who wants to spread the gospel to oth­er pirates. He receives $80 in dona­tions to help him on his mis­sion. The two put on a ridicu­lous the­atri­cal show at their next stop and walk away with sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars in their pockets.

A Great Coup

A few days lat­er, Huck and the King meet a young man who tells them of recent events in the near­by vil­lage: Peter Wilks has just died, leav­ing behind three orphaned nieces, a small for­tune, and prop­er­ty. The man had suf­fered a long ill­ness and had hoped that his two remain­ing broth­ers, William and Har­vey, would come over from Eng­land before he died. The King and the Duke see their chance to get the inher­i­tance. They go to the vil­lage with Huck, pre­tend­ing to be Wilk’s broth­ers. They are wel­comed with open arms, and soon, the mon­ey is in their pos­ses­sion. Huck feels sor­ry for the three girls and decides to steal and give the mon­ey back to them. How­ev­er, his well-inten­tioned plan goes awry. After steal­ing the mon­ey from the room of the Duke and the King, he is almost caught and forced to hide it in the cof­fin of the deceased, which is nailed shut and buried the next day. Huck con­vinces the Duke and the King that the enslaved peo­ple they sold the day before stole the mon­ey. When Huck finds Mary Jane, the old­est of the girls, cry­ing in her room, he tells her every­thing. She agrees to stay with a friend for a day to allow Huck and Jim to escape before she expos­es the two impos­tors. But short­ly after she leaves the fol­low­ing day, Wilk’s real broth­ers show up. To prove that the King and Duke are lying, Har­vey Wilks asks the King if he knows what his broth­er has tat­tooed on his chest. The King quick­ly makes some­thing up, his word against Har­vey Wilks’. The vil­lagers dig up Peter’s body to find out who is right. When they open the cof­fin, they find the mon­ey. In the ensu­ing con­fu­sion, Huck man­ages to escape. He runs to the raft, where he and Jim set off, cel­e­brat­ing that they final­ly got rid of the King and Duke. But then they see a boat fol­low­ing them, car­ry­ing the two impos­tors. They resigned, and Jim and Huck took them back on board.

An Elaborate Plan

The four con­tin­ue their jour­ney south. They stop at sev­er­al vil­lages, but all the King’s and the Duke’s plans fail. They start mak­ing new plans after los­ing all their mon­ey and not mak­ing any. The King enters the vil­lage when they come to their next stop at Pikeville. He asks the Duke and Huck to fol­low him if he returns in the after­noon. When he does­n’t return, they fol­low him and final­ly find him drunk in a tav­ern. The Duke and the King fight, and Huck sees his chance to escape from both. He returns to the raft, only to find that Jim is gone. The King has sold him to a local fam­i­ly, the Phelps. Huck goes look­ing for Jim. The Duke tells Huck where Jim is after Huck promis­es not to cross them in their lat­est plan.

“Jim said bees would­n’t sting idiots; but I did­n’t believe that, because I had tried them lots of times myself, and they would­n’t sting me.” (Huck Finn)

Huck goes to the Phelps’ house. To his sur­prise, Mrs. Phelps, or “Aunt Sal­ly,” wel­comes him with open arms. She believes him to be her nephew Tom Sawyer, whose arrival they have been expect­ing for days. Huck plays along. The next day, he goes to town to inter­cept Tom and tell him his plan to free Jim. Tom agrees to play along and help Huck. They intro­duce Tom to Aunt Sal­ly and her hus­band, Uncle Silas, as Tom’s broth­er Sid.

Tom insists that they need an elab­o­rate plan to free Jim. So, instead of just steal­ing the key and run­ning away, the res­cue plan becomes more and more com­pli­cat­ed. Inspired by all the adven­ture sto­ries he has read, Tom decides that they will have to use a knife to dig a tun­nel under the wall of the shed, make a rope lad­der out of sheets they steal from Aunt Sal­ly, and climb down a light­ning pole at night instead of tak­ing the stairs. He also thinks Jim’s life as a pris­on­er is too easy, so he insists on bring­ing rats, snakes, and spi­ders into the cab­in. He also asks Jim to write a diary in his blood on a shirt and to scratch “sad inscrip­tions” on the walls of the cab­in. It takes them three weeks to car­ry out Tom’s elab­o­rate and utter­ly ridicu­lous plan.

Hap­py Ending

Tom still needs to be hap­pi­er with their escape plan. To com­pli­cate things, he sends anony­mous notes to Aunt Sal­ly and Uncle Silas, warn­ing them that some­thing is up. He even goes so far as to tell them the night and time when they will free Jim. A group of men with guns show up to help Aunt Sal­ly and Uncle Silas. Jim, Huck and Tom must run for their lives as they try to escape. They make it to their raft, but Tom is shot in the leg. Huck returns to the vil­lage to get a doc­tor and then hides in a wood­pile to see what hap­pens. He falls asleep and wakes up late the fol­low­ing day. When he emerges from hid­ing, he runs straight into Uncle Silas. When asked where they had been, Huck tells Uncle Silas that he and Tom had decid­ed to go after Jim and that Tom had gone to the post office to see if there was any news.

Along with Uncle Silas and Aunt Sal­ly, Huck waits anx­ious­ly for Tom’s return. After two days, the doc­tor arrives with Tom on a mat­tress. He also has Jim with him, who is imme­di­ate­ly put in chains. The doc­tor puts in a good word for Jim, who came out of hid­ing when he saw the doc­tor need­ed help with Tom’s wound, effec­tive­ly giv­ing up his freedom.

“You can’t pray a lie; I found that out.” (Huck Finn)

Tom recov­ers quick­ly. When he learns that Jim has been put back in chains, he is out­raged and reveals what he has known for months: name­ly, that Miss Wat­son died two months ago and, in her will, stip­u­lat­ed that Jim be set free. Imme­di­ate­ly, Jim is released, fed, and made a fuss over. Tom’s Aunt Pol­ly appears and puts an end to the cha­rade that Tom and Huck have been play­ing on the Phelps. Huck learns from Jim that the dead man they found in the house by the riv­er was Huck­’s father. Before Aunt Sal­ly can try to adopt Huck and “civ­i­lize” him, Huck leaves for the West.

About the Text

Like the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, on whose waters most of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn’s adven­tures occur, the action flows rapid­ly in some areas and paus­es in oth­ers. The nov­el­’s begin­ning and end still have some­thing of the idyl­lic juve­nil­ia of the pre­vi­ous title about Tom Sawyer. The lat­ter’s appear­ance at the end allows the text to drift into the roman­tic-adven­tur­ous. Huck­’s escape from his home­town is dif­fer­ent: the encounter with Jim turns the book into a nov­el of devel­op­ment. This ten­den­cy changes into a picaresque nov­el, into pure com­e­dy when the two trick­sters come on board, and Mark Twain pokes fun at the stu­pid­i­ty of the towns­peo­ple on the Mis­sis­sip­pi. Per­haps the most cru­cial fea­ture of the nov­el is its nar­ra­tive per­spec­tive: Twain tells every­thing from Huck­le­ber­ry Finn’s point of view, allow­ing him to por­tray the full range of an ado­les­cent boy’s emo­tions and world­view: Naivety, curios­i­ty, rejec­tion, amaze­ment, irony, impar­tial­i­ty — all this is reflect­ed in the prose, which is pre­sent­ed in the bold South­ern dialect (in the Amer­i­can orig­i­nal). This makes for a grip­ping and true-to-life read.


  • Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is a con­tra­dic­to­ry char­ac­ter: he is an out­sider, a young vagabond who refus­es to grow up and rebels against social con­ven­tions. At the same time, he embod­ies moral­i­ty: Huck has a con­science and tries to be a good man amid a soci­ety of hyp­ocrites and crim­i­nals (there are no few­er than 20 mur­ders in the novel).
  • Nature and civ­i­liza­tion are sig­nif­i­cant con­trasts in Mark Twain’s sto­ry, per­haps in Rousseau’s case. The free­dom-lov­ing Huck Finn feels mis­treat­ed by civ­i­lized soci­ety, which forces him to live a dull life. He escapes into nature and the wilderness.
  • Huck­’s con­flict with soci­ety deep­ens when he meets Jim and is torn between soci­ety’s demands (to turn over the escaped enslaved per­son) and his moral think­ing (Jim is his friend, even though he is enslaved). Twain spices up this con­flict, which is dif­fi­cult for a South­ern hero of the time to resolve, with a bur­lesque and iron­ic por­tray­al of the stu­pid, nasty, or even mali­cious traits that “civ­i­lized soci­ety” has adopted.
  • Many of the peo­ple Huck­le­ber­ry Finn meets on his jour­ney down the Mis­sis­sip­pi are hyp­o­crit­i­cal and duplic­i­tous. In this way, soci­ety becomes the hero’s antag­o­nist in the nov­el. Social crit­i­cism is one of Mark Twain’s concerns.
  • The Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er deci­sive­ly deter­mines the form of the nar­ra­tive. Twain styl­izes the riv­er and its trib­u­taries, the small towns that line its banks, the rapids, and the islands in its mid­dle as a micro­cosm for Huck­le­ber­ry Finn.
  • Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is con­sid­ered one of the first gen­uine­ly Amer­i­can nov­els because it has noth­ing to do with Europe: The action takes place on and along the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, and the lan­guage is South­ern Amer­i­can slang.

Historical Background

Slavery in America

Slav­ery in Amer­i­ca can be traced back to the 17th cen­tu­ry. Around 1620, the first enslaved Africans were brought to Vir­ginia by Eng­lish pirates. It was not until the sec­ond half of the 17th cen­tu­ry that a real “slave boom” began, espe­cial­ly in what would become the south­ern states of the USA. The plan­ta­tion sys­tem of cot­ton, tobac­co, and sug­ar cane was estab­lished. Agri­cul­ture required many hands, and the slave trade and trans­porta­tion to the Eng­lish colonies pro­lif­er­at­ed. As the demand increased, so did the leg­is­la­tion — no won­der in the age of clas­si­cal “lib­er­al­ism”: enslaved peo­ple became the prop­er­ty of their own­ers, who could do with them as they pleased. Rape, muti­la­tion, brand­ing, and mur­der were com­mon and rarely punished.

As tech­nol­o­gy advanced, a clear North-South divide emerged in Amer­i­ca. While indus­try devel­oped in the North, the South remained depen­dent on the plan­ta­tion econ­o­my and, thus, on enslaved peo­ple. The North was opposed to slav­ery. The dis­pute between North and South also arose over the ques­tion of whether slav­ery should be allowed or banned in the new states of the Union. After Abra­ham Lin­coln, the first “pro-slav­ery” pres­i­dent of the new­ly formed Repub­li­can Par­ty, took pow­er, some South­ern states seced­ed from the Union between Decem­ber 1860 and May 1861, form­ing the “Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­i­ca”. The bloody Amer­i­can Civ­il War between the North and the South began with the siege of Fort Sumter in South Car­oli­na. With the sur­ren­der of the South­ern states in April 1865, slav­ery end­ed nation­wide, at least on paper. Dur­ing Recon­struc­tion, the process of rein­te­grat­ing the south­ern states into the Union became clear that the issue of race had not been resolved. This led to creep­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and the for­ma­tion of racist secret soci­eties such as the Ku Klux Klan.


Mark Twain began work on the sequel to Huck­le­ber­ry Finn in 1876, imme­di­ate­ly after the mas­sive suc­cess of Tom Sawyer’s Adven­tures. Huck­le­ber­ry Finn also appears as a minor char­ac­ter in the first part. How­ev­er, the sequel devel­oped dif­fer­ent­ly than ini­tial­ly planned. First­ly, it took sev­en years to com­plete, and sec­ond­ly, the back­ground and atmos­phere of the sto­ry changed. In the end, all that remained of the light-heart­ed first nov­el were the main char­ac­ters and the set­ting. The dark­er tone of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn, influ­enced by the prob­lems of the slave trade, prob­a­bly led Mark Twain to aban­don the work for a long time. Under the impres­sion of the prob­lem­at­ic Recon­struc­tion era, the sub­ject of his nov­el seemed rel­e­vant again to Twain. The dark view of the world and soci­ety in The Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn, albeit iron­i­cal­ly bro­ken, also coin­cid­ed with Twain’s sit­u­a­tion: his wife was ill, his first son died as an infant, and his spec­u­la­tions led to finan­cial dis­as­ter. In this tense sit­u­a­tion, Twain turned his atten­tion back to his book. The man­u­script was com­plet­ed in 1883 and print­ed a year later.

History of Impact

Like the adven­tures of Tom Sawyer, Huck­le­ber­ry Finn was an imme­di­ate suc­cess. Unlike its harm­less pre­de­ces­sor, the book divid­ed crit­ics. Some praised it effu­sive­ly and saw it as a para­ble against racism, while oth­ers failed to see this and con­demned the work as “racist trash”. The book was even banned in some South­ern states. In Con­corde, Mass­a­chu­setts, the pub­lic library decid­ed in 1885 to remove the book from its col­lec­tion because it “belonged in a slum rather than among intel­li­gent and respectable peo­ple. Some read­ers today still take offence at the fre­quent use of the word “nig­ger,” over­look­ing the fact that the term was com­mon in the his­tor­i­cal con­text and that Twain intend­ed to con­vey his crit­i­cism pre­cise­ly through the real­is­tic descrip­tion of circumstances.

Among lit­er­ary experts, Mark Twain’s nov­el is con­sid­ered one of the key works in Amer­i­can lit­er­ary his­to­ry. Ernest Hem­ing­way even said: “All of mod­ern Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture comes from a book by Mark Twain called Huck­le­ber­ry Finn”. In addi­tion to the numer­ous YA nov­els and film adap­ta­tions, Huck Finn has been the inspi­ra­tion for many oth­er lit­er­ary con­tem­po­raries who try to under­stand grow­ing up through the eyes of a teenag­er, such as Hold­en Caulfield in J. D. Salinger’s The Catch­er in the Rye (1951). Huck­le­ber­ry Finn is also a pre­cur­sor to nov­els such as Jack Ker­ouac’s On the Road (1957).

About the Author

Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Lang­horne Clemens (1835–1910), is one of Amer­i­ca’s great­est humorists and nov­el­ists. With his mas­ter­ful sto­ry­telling and sharp wit, Twain became a beloved fig­ure in lit­er­a­ture, known for cap­tur­ing the essence of Amer­i­can life. His works, includ­ing “The Adven­tures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adven­tures of Huck­le­ber­ry Finn,” remain time­less clas­sics, offer­ing insight into the human con­di­tion and the com­plex­i­ties of society.


As an avid book lover, I've channeled my passion for literature into creating, where I craft and share concise summaries of my favorite reads. My mission is to distill the essence of each book, making the world's wisdom accessible to fellow enthusiasts and curious minds alike. Join me on this journey of discovery and insight, one summary at a time.

Rate author
( No ratings yet )
Book Summaries at