Mid-Year Exam 2014-15

Essay on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1876-85)

Huckleberry Finn is Twain's story of a child's passage from youth into adulthood, but it is also an allegory about America's passage into maturity. Twain's problem, though, was that he could not devise a happy ending for his hero. Can Huck ever get clear of his culture's racism, greed and perverse romanticism? What psychological obstacles does he face? What feat must he accomplish to make a happy ending possible? Remember that Twain himself did not think he had any answers.

Find a thesis which interprets Twain's novel as both a psychological study and a political allegory.

What vision of America emerges as Huck and Jim drift South? What is at the root of America's problems according to Twain? How can they be overcome? Is a happy ending possible?

The Situation: Jim realizes that he has passed Cairo. (Cairo Passed (114)) (The Raft is Smashed (115))

Kentucky: The Grangerfords and the Stephensons (Chapters 17 and 18 (pp. 117-134))

Huck and Jim on the Big River (135-137) 

Scamming Twain's America with The Duke and The Dauphin:

One Horse Towns:

The Long Lost Uncles of the Wilks Family:

Turning in Jim:

  • Huck's Letter to the Widow Douglas (221-23) [S]omehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was 
  • Huck's Tale to Aunt Sally (230)
  • The Duke and Dauphin Tarred and Feathered (239-40)

Twain's Ending: What was he thinking?

What vision of America emerges as Huck and Jim drift South? What is at the root of America's problems according to Twain? How can they be overcome? Is a happy ending possible?


Slave Hunt, Dismal Swamp, Virginia, 1862
by Thomas Moran


Eastman Johnsonís Ride for Liberty ó
The Fugitive Slaves, March 2, 1862 (1862)