HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Ernest Hemingway wrote that "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. …All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1885, and in that year the public library in Concord, Massachusetts, became the first institution to ban the novel. Twain's use of the word "nigger" later led some schools and libraries to ban the book. Huckleberry Finn was first attacked during Twain's day because of what some described as its indecency; later, it would be attacked as racist. But by the end of the twentieth century, its status as one of the greatest of American novels was almost universally recognized.
Huck Finn, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, is around thirteen or fourteen years of age. He is being raised by Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas, both of whom blindly accept the hypocritical religious and moral nature of their society and try to help Huck understand its codes and customs. They represent an artificial life that Huck wishes to escape. Huck's attempt to help Jim, a runaway slave, reunite with his family makes it difficult for him to understand what is right and wrong. The book follows Huck's and Jim's adventures rafting down the Mississippi River, where Huck gradually rejects the values of the dominant society, especially its views on slavery.
Blair, Walter. Mark Twain and Huck Finn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960.
Smith, Henry Nash. Mark Twain: The Development of a Writer. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1962.