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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Literary Analysis

“‘Ransomed? What’s that?’ ‘… it means that we keep them till they’re dead’” (10). This dialogue reflects Twain’s witty personality. Mark Twain, a great American novelist, exploits his humour, realism, and satire in his unique writing style in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain, born in 1835, wrote numerous books throughout his lifetime. Many of his books include humour; they also contain deep cynicism and satire on society. Mark Twain, the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, exemplifies his aspects of writing humour, realism, and satire throughout the characters and situations in his great American novel.

Mark Twain applies humour in the various episodes throughout the book to keep the reader laughing and make the story interesting. The first humorous episode occurs when Huck Finn astonishes Jim with stories of kings. Jim had only heard of King Solomon, whom he considers a fool for wanting to chop a baby in half and adds, “‘Yit dey say Sollermun de wises’ man dat ever live’. I don’t take no stock in data” (75). Next, the author introduces the Grangerfords as Huck goes ashore and unexpectedly encounters this family. Huck learns about a feud occurring between the two biggest families in town: the Grangerfords and the Shepherdson’s. When Huck asks Buck about the feud, Buck replies, “’… a feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man’s brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousin’s chip in – and by and by everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud’” (105). A duel breaks out one day between the families and Huck leaves town, heading for the river where he rejoins Jim, and they continue down the Mississippi. Another humorous episode appears n the novel on the Phelps plantation. Huck learns that the king has sold Jim to the Phelps family, relatives of Tom Sawyer.

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The Phelps family mistakes Huck for Tom Sawyer. When Tom meets with Aunt Sally, he “… [reaches] over and [kisses] Aunt Sally on the mouth” (219) This comes as a surprise to her and Tom explains that he “[thinks] [she] [likes] it” (219) Later, Huck runs into Tom on the way into town and the two make up another story about their identities. The two then devise a plan to rescue Jim. They use Jim as a prisoner and make him go through jail escaping clichés. While going through these rituals he replies “‘I never knew a’ fo’ ‘twas so much bother and trouble to be a prisoner’” (252). In the end, though, Tom reveals that Jim owns himself. Twain uses humour as a way to add realism to multiple situations.

Mark Twain employs several examples of realism in the way he wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain explores the gullibility of society when the duke and king go to the camp meeting and collect money from the poor, unsuspecting, church-going people. The king makes up a story about his profession as a pirate who lost his crew at sea, to which the people respond saying, “‘Take up a collection for him, take up a collection!’” (128). Twain uses deceit, lying, and hypocrisy throughout the novel, which appears in various chapters. Twain also reveals examples of realism through the dialect the characters use in the novel.

In his book, Twain utilizes the real dialect used at the time, which further demonstrates the realist qualities which he possesses. Throughout the book, Twain includes many different dialects including “the Missouri Negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary ‘Pike County’ dialect, and four modified varieties of the last” (2). Other examples of realism occur throughout the setting. The story takes place in St. Petersburg and on the Mississippi, near Twain’s place of birth. In particular, Mark Twain makes use of the episodes of realism as a way to satirize society.

Satire, another element in Twain’s writing, occurs many times throughout his novel as well. A convincing example of satire occurs in the first chapter when Huck says, “[b]y and by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was off to bed” (5). This pokes fun at the fact that Miss Watson tries to become a better Christian and a better person but still owns slaves and considers them property. Another satisfactory example of satire occurs when Pap becomes outraged at the thought of a black man having the opportunity to vote.

However, the black man actually has more education than Pap (27). Twain uses the Boggs-Sherburn event to include more satire. When Boggs enters the story he says he has come to murder Colonel Sherburn. Sherburn then proceeds to shoot Boggs and the townspeople plan to lynch him. Sherburn laughs in their faces and says to them, “‘you are – cowards’” (142).

Finally, the crowd breaks up and moves on (142). Huck reflects on this incident and says “… the pitiful thing out is a mob” (142). Another prime example of satire occurs when Huck goes to the Phelps plantation and sees the two frauds, the king and the duke, tarred and feathered. He points out that “[h]uman beings can be awful cruel to one another” (222). Mark Twain includes numerous examples of satire throughout the novel.

Through the use of humour, realism, and satire, Twain illustrates these aspects of his writing style. His style portrays the flaws in society and how pre-Civil War people treat each other. Mark Twain, one of the great American novelists of the nineteenth century, uses his books to teach others about life in the 1840s.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Literary Analysis. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved July 9, 2021, from