Samuel Langhorne Clemens, under his pen-name Mark Twain, had previously published the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which the character of Huckleberry “Huck” Finn is introduced for the first time. Eight years after its release, the sequel was published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and was followed by the American version two months later.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was originally published without the definite article at the start of its title, is set in the antebellum South when the economy was fuelled by plantations using slave labour. The novel follows Huck’s journey down the river Mississippi with Jim, a slave who ran away from his owner Miss Watson.
Notable as one of the first American novels to be written in vernacular English, it is told in the first person by Huck himself. This is said to have revolutionised American literature, with Ernest Hemingway later claiming that “All modern American literature comes from…Huckleberry Finn.”
Despite such later acclaim, the book was greeted with mixed reviews on its release and within just a month it had been banned by the library in Concord, Massachusetts for being “trash…suitable only for the slums.” Other libraries in the late 19th and early 20th century followed suit, and the novel continues to divide opinion due to its frequent use of the n-word and its portrayal of black characters. However, defenders of the book instead interpret Twain’s creation as a masterpiece of American literature that uses satire to present a powerful attack on racism.