Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain
called HUCKLEBERRY FINN." Published in 1885, the novel is set in 1835-1845 in the Mississippi River Valley.
Even though Twain wrote THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN after slavery had been abolished, the newly united country -- especially the South -- was still grappling with the aftermath of slavery and the challenges of Reconstruction. Twain exposes the hypocrisy of slavery: even "moral" people such as Miss Watson and Mrs. Phelps are corrupt because they see no disconnect between their religious values and their ownership of slaves. In a larger context, Twain's mythic tale of death, rebirth, freedom, and bondage uses slavery as the metaphor for all social bondage and institutionalized injustice and inhumanity.The novel is also a coming-of-age story, a bildungsroman: the adventures of the escaped slave Jim initiate Huck into the complexities of human nature and give him moral courage. Jim becomes a father figure for Huck; in deciding to save Jim, Huck grows morally beyond the bounds of his cowardly, cruel, and restrictive society.
Twain also attacked the romanticism of the South: the senseless feud epitomizes the South's mindless adherence to the myths of its past, its reliance on form over substance. Besides the novel's uproarious comedy, there is a tragic view of the Garden of Eden, one of the great visions of the unattainable world of the Noble Savage, the secular dream of salvation. The pure world of the raft is ultimately overwhelmed by progress, symbolized by the steamboat, but the mythic image of the river remains, as vast and changing as life itself. Previous