Criticism of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Past and Present

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Criticism of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Past and Present

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the all-time most controversial American novels. Marks Twain’s masterpiece, narrated by a rebellious boy who rafts down the Mississippi river with a runaway slave, has received a wide variety of kudos and criticism since it first appeared in 1885. While it is still applauded for its childlike imagination and realistic use of dialogue, the criticisms of Huck Finn have undergone a drastic shift.

Upon its initial release, Huck Finn was blasted by some critics for indecency. They argued that Twain’s story, like dime novels, would influence young readers to forbid their parents and teachers just as Huck does Miss
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This newspaper, in neglecting to print positive reviews, shows its approval of the Concord banning.

Other newspapers, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, spoke out in support of Twain. On March 29, 1885, the Chronicle printed an article denouncing the banning in Concord, calling the actions “absurd.” This article accuses the librarian censors of not examining in depth the extent to which Twain’s novel is a “remarkably careful sketch of life along the Mississippi river forty years ago.” The Chronicle goes on to praise Twain’s use of dialect and humor which admittedly might be lost on younger readers. However, the novel is layered so that it can be enjoyed by youth seeking adventure as well as adults who understand its sharp satire of pre-Civil War Southern culture. This positive review of Huck Finn represented the majority opinion of critics across the country. Ironically though it was the negative press stirred up in places like Concord that created a buzz around Huck Finn which translated to unprecedented sales figures.

More recently, Huck Finn has been criticized for being racist toward blacks, most notably in Twain’s treatment of the hapless character Jim. Also, the excessive use of the epithet “nigger” has angered black parents and students who are forced to read the

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