Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 18, 2014
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

February 18, 1885:  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published in the US. Mark Twain’s book was first published in Canada and the United Kingdom the year before but didn’t reach his homeland until this date. It is commonly called one of the Great American Novels and is the first major work of American literature written in vernacular English. The book is full of wonderful descriptions of people and places along the Mississippi River and set in Southern antebellum society which had disappeared about twenty years before the book came out. It is often satirical in nature when poking fun at entrenched attitudes, especially concerning racism. Even at the time, the book received criticism due to the coarse language. Today, there is much concern over racial slurs included in the text.

The book is set in 1835 when steamboats first began sailing the Mississippi. It is narrated by Huck Finn himself. The book explores themes of race and identity.  While anti-slavery in tone, there is considerable debate today about the use of racial slurs and stereotypical treatment of Jim, a runaway slave. Huck is faced with the demands of a society that embraces slavery and his own moral compass in regards to this person who has become his friend and accomplice. The story continues through several states and 366 pages. Originally appearing with cover art by Taylor, it was illustrated by E. W. Kemble.

Mark Twain was the pen name for Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. He was the sixth of seven children, only three of whom survived childhood. The family moved to Hannibal, Missouri when Sam was four. This port town on the Mississippi River served as a locale for his two most famous stories, albeit under an assumed name. Missouri was a slave state at the time of his birth and he was familiar with the institution. Clemens senior was a judge and lawyer, but he died when his son was eleven. Young Clemens became a printer’s apprentice in 1851 and soon was working both as a typesetter and a contributor of articles. He left the area at age 18.

Eventually he was encouraged to become a riverboat pilot which was a higher status (and pay) job than that of captain. He encouraged his brother to join him on the river and saw in a dream the dreadful explosion of the boat that took his brother’s life. He carried the guilt with him for the rest of his life. He continued to pilot ships until 1861 when the Civil War broke out. Twain briefly joined the Confederate Army but soon took off for Nevada where he joined another brother. His first real success with writing came in 1865 with his humorous tall tales. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right.

Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And hain’t that a big enough majority in any town?

You can’t pray a lie — I found that out.

All kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out. – all from Mark Twain in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Also on this day: Michelangelo – In 1564, the great Renaissance man died.
#3 – In 2001, Dale Earnhardt died in a NASCAR crash.
Talking and Talking – In 1841, the first filibuster was used in the US Senate.
Mass Murder – In 1983, the Wah Mee Massacre took place.


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