Choose one or more of these culminating activities to wrap up the unit.
- Some people feel that race relations in America today are still influenced by the legacy of slavery. What is that legacy? How does it relate to reading Huck Finn? Throughout the unit, have students individually or in small groups collect newspaper and magazine articles, music lyrics, poems, excerpts from books, artwork, and so forth, that they believe in some way expresses how America is still affected by slavery today. At the end of the unit students can either do a short oral or multimedia presentation on their findings, or they can create a "book" in which these findings are collected and annotated.
- Is or isn't Huck Finn racist? Does reading Huck Finn help or harm race relations? Have students stage a mock trial with the book or Mark Twain as the defendant. (You may want to visit this site which contains a detailed lesson plan on staging a trial, developed by teacher Diane Walker.) Have students present the evidence they have been gathering. Students could also explore this question in a talk show format featuring Huck, Jim, Twain, and anyone else -- real or imagined, living or dead -- they believe might add to the conversation. Before doing this activity, it may be helpful to have students first revisit the class definition of racism.
- Writer David Bradley notes that many have criticized the ending of Huck Finn but "none of them has been able to suggest -- much less write -- a better ending. . . . They failed for the same reason that Twain wrote the ending as he did: America has never been able to write a better ending. America has never been able to write any ending at all." What do you think he means? Ask students to imagine they were Mark Twain's editor and to write Twain a letter explaining why and how he should change the ending. (To extend this activity, have students actually rewrite the ending, and compare their versions to the original.)
- Gerry Brenner, in his essay More Than a Reader's Response: A Letter to 'De Ole True Huck' (in A Case Study in Critical Controversy: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited by Gerald Graff and James Phelan, Boston: Bedford Books, 1995) pretends Jim has read Huck Finn and written a response in which he sets the record straight. Ask students to do the same, or pretend to be Jim writing a short review of the book. How would Jim's version differ from Huck's? Have students compare and contrast their ideas with Brenner's article.
- Have students write a scene or a "treatment" for a new movie or novel, set in contemporary times, in which Huck and Jim meet and become friends. Who would they be today? What would their issues be? Where would their journey take place?
- Ask students to write Huck's diary entry if he were to visit their high school in the present day. What would he think of what he sees?
- Have students review the case of Kathy Monteiro and her complaint to the Tempe, Arizona, school board, as shown in the Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn film. Do they agree or disagree with her? Let groups or individual students prepare a presentation to a Board of Education in which they argue either for or against teaching the novel in the school curriculum. Remind students to anticipate the objections that might come from different members of the community, including parents, teachers, religious leaders, students, and administrators.
Next: Essay: Teaching Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
See also: Controversy at Cherry Hill