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This edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn includes a Preface, Biographical Note, and Afterword by Keith Neilson.
Breezy, outrageous, thrilling from first page to last, Huckleberry Finn is the most widely read and universally loved work in American fiction. It is also the most imitated. "All modern American literature," according to Ernest Hemingway, "comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."
About the Author
Mark Twain was a humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer. Twain is most noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has since been called the Great American Novel, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. During his lifetime, Twain became a friend to presidents, artists, leading industrialists and European royalty.
Date of Birth:November 30, 1835
Date of Death:April 21, 1910
Place of Birth:Florida, Missouri
Place of Death:Redding, Connecticut
Read an Excerpt
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Discover Moses and the Bulrushers
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt PottyTom's Aunt Polly, she isand Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.
Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apieceall gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year roundmore than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.
The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thingcommenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there wann't really anything the matter with themthat is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.
After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't take no stock in dead people.
Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.
Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then the widow made her ease up. I couldn't stood it much longer. Then for an hour it was deadly dull, and I was fidgety. Miss Watson would say, "Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry"; and "Don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberryset up straight"; and pretty soon she would say, "Don't gap and stretch like that, Huckleberrywhy don't you try to behave?" Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn't mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't particular. She said it was wicked to saywhat I said; said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn't do no good.
Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn't think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.
Miss Watson she kept pecking at me, and it got tiresome and lonesome. By and by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was off to bed. I went up to my room with a piece of candle, and put it on the table. Then I set down in a chair by the window and tried to think of something cheerful, but it warn't no use. I felt so lonesome I most wished I was dead. The stars were shining, and the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful; and I heard an owl, away off, who-whooing about somebody that was dead, and a whippowill and a dog crying about somebody that was going to die; and the wind was trying to whisper something to me, and I couldn't make out what it was, and so it made the cold shivers run over me. Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving. I got so downhearted and scared I did wish I had some company. Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn't need anybody to tell me that that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks three times and crossed mybreast every time; and then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to keep witches away. But I hadn't no confidence. You do that when you've lost a horseshoe that you've found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn't ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep off bad luck when you'd killed a spider.
I set down again, a-shaking all over, and got out my pipe for a smoke; for the house was all as still as death now, and so the widow wouldn't know. Well, after a long time I heard the clock away off in the town go boomboomboomtwelve licks; and all still againstiller than ever. Pretty soon I heard a twig snap down in the dark amongst the treessomething was a-stirring. I set still and listened. Directly I could just barely hear a "me-yow! me-yow!" down there. That was good! Says I, "me-yow! me-yow!" as soft as I could, and then I put out the light and scrambled out of the window on to the shed. Then I slipped down to the ground and crawled in among the trees, and, sure enough, there was Tom Sawyer waiting for me.
All new material in this edition is copyright © 1989 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
Table of ContentsAcknowledgements Introduction Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain: A Brief Chronology A Note on the Text
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Appendix A: Related Mark Twain Texts
- “A True Story Reprinted Word for Word as I Heard It,” The Atlantic Monthly (November 1874)
- From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
- From Life on the Mississippi (1883)
- “Jim’s Ghost Story,” excluded manuscript passage from Huckleberry Finn (1876)
- Sequel to Huckleberry Finn, from Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)
- Introducing Huckleberry Finn (1895)
- From “Chapters from My Autobiography, XIII,” North American Review (March 1907)
Appendix B: Contemporary Representations of Slavery and Race
- From “The Negro Out of Politics,” Chicago Tribune (24 April 1877)
- Blackface Minstrelsy (1880, 1884)
- “Tom Shows” (1882)
- From Thomas Nelson Page, “Mars Chan,” Century Magazine (April 1884)
- From George Washington Cable, “The Freedman’s Case in Equity,” Century Magazine (January 1885)
Appendix C: Illustrating Huckleberry Finn
- E.W. Kemble, Illustration for The Thompson Street Poker Club (1884)
- From E.W. Kemble, “Illustrating Huckleberry Finn,” The Colophon (February 1930)
- E.W. Kemble, Illustration of African Slavery, Century Magazine (February 1890)
- E.W. Kemble, New Illustrations for Huckleberry Finn (1899)
Appendix D: Selling Huckleberry Finn
- Sales Prospectus Blurb for Huckleberry Finn (1884)
- Sales Prospectus Poster for Huckleberry Finn (1884)
- Promotional Flyer for Huck Finn (1885)
- “Twins of Genius” Lecture Program Minneapolis-St. Paul (24 January 1885)
- Advertisement from Webster & Co. Catalogue Advertising Editions of Huck Finn (1892)
Appendix E: Reception of Huckleberry Finn
- Athenaeum (27 December 1884)
- Brander Matthews, Saturday Review (31 January 1885)
- Hartford Courant (20 February 1885)
- Life (26 February 1885)
- Boston Evening Traveler (5 March 1885)
- Daily Evening Bulletin (14 March 1885)
- San Francisco Chronicle (15 March 1885)
- T.S. Perry, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (May 1885)
- The Atlanta Constitution (26 May 1885)
- Coverage of Concord Library’s Banning of Huckleberry Finn
- New York Herald (18 March 1885)
- Literary World (21 March 1885)
- San Francisco Chronicle (29 March 1885)
- The Critic (30 May 1885)
- Hartford Courant, with Mark Twain’s response (4 April 1885)
- Reviews of Twain’s Performance of the Novel Onstage
- The Washington Post (25 November 1884)
- The Globe (9 December 1884)
- The Pittsburgh Dispatch (30 December 1884)
- The Cincinnati Enquirer (4 January 1885)
- The Minneapolis Daily Tribune (25 January 1885)
- Wisconsin State Journal (28 January 1885)
- Chicago Daily Tribune (3 February 1885)
Appendix F: Freedom versus Fate
- From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
- From Life on the Mississippi (1883)
- From A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
- From “Corn-Pone Opinions” (1901)
- From Twain’s Seventieth Birthday Dinner Speech (1905)
- From “The Turning Point of My Life,” Harper’s Bazaar (February 1911)
What People are Saying About This
"Although he does an expert job with the entire cast, [narrator William] Dufris's delivery of Jim's dialogue is his crowning achievement. . . . Jim's mind and heart come shining through." -Publishers Weekly Audio Review
Reading Group Guide
1. Critics have long disagreed about exactly what role Jim plays in Huckleberry Finn. Some have claimed, for example, that his purpose is solely to provide Huck with the opportunity for moral growth, while others have argued that he is a surrogate father figure to Huck. What do you think is Jim's role in the novel?
2. The ending of Huckleberry Finn has been the source of endless critical controveryse. Though no less than T.S. Eliot and Lionel Trilling defended the ending on the grounds that it is structurally coherent ("It is right," Eliot stated, "that the mood of the book should bring us back to the beginning"), many critics feel that the return of Tom Sawyer and his elaborate scheme for Jim's escape reduces what had been a serious quest for freedom to a silly farce. Bernard de Voto wrote, "In the whole reach of the English novel there is no more aburpt or more abrupt or chilling descent." How does the ending strike you?
3. The Mississippi can be considered a character in its own right in Huckleberry Finn. Discuss the role of the river in the novel.
4. How do humor and satire function in the book?
5. Critic William Manierre argued in a 1964-65 essay that "Huck's 'moral growth' has...been vastly overestimated," noting for example, that when his conscience begins to give him trouble, he decides he will "do whichever came handiest at the time," and that while Huck can be seen to achieve a kind of moral grandeur when he tears up the note he's written to Miss Watson, that achievement is underminded by his easy acceptance of Tom Sawyer's scheme in the last ten chapters. Do you agree or disagree?
6. In "The Greatness of Huckleberry Finn," Lionel Trilling stated that the style of the book is "not less than definitive in American literature," and Louis Budd has noted that "today it is standard academic wisdom that Twain's precedent-setting achievement is Huck's language." Discuss the effect of Twain's use of colloquial speech and dialect in the novel.
From the Trade Paperback edition.