Summer Coursework - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

NOTE: Read this entire page BEFORE reading the novel.


Huckleberry Finn, casual inheritor of gold treasure, rebel against school and church, rafter of the Mississippi, and savior of Jim the runaway slave, is the archetypal American maverick.

Fleeing the respectable society that wants to "sivilize" him, Huck Finn shoves off with Jim on a rhapsodic raft journey down the Mississippi River. The two bind themselves to one another, becoming intimate friends and agreeing "there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."

As Huck learns about love, responsibility, and morality, the trip becomes a metaphoric voyage through his own soul, culminating in the glorious moment when he decides to "go to hell" rather than return Jim to slavery.

Mark Twain defined classic as "a book which people praise and don't read"; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a happy exception to his own rule. Twain's mastery of dialect, coupled with his famous wit, has made Huckleberry Finn one of the most loved and distinctly American classics ever written.


There are six ways you can get a hold of this novel:

    1) Buy the novel at a bookstore.
                         This is what is required in a college classroom because you are expected to highlight and make notes within the text itself. 
    2) Check-out the novel from the public library.
                         This is less than ideal because you will have to return it when the due date arrives - which means you will not be able to use it in class. 

    3) Read the novel as a .pdf online.
                         Click here to go to read the novel on your computer screen. Alternatively, right-click here, and hit "save link as", to save it to your computer.

    4) Listen to the audio book on your iPod.
                         Click here to listen to the audio book. You can right-click here, and hit "save link as", to download it. Add it to your iPod like any other mp3 file.

    5) Read the novel on your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or other e-reader.
                         Click here to download the file to put on your Kindle.
                         Click here to download the file to put on any other e-reader.

Note regarding the use of Kindle, Nook, Kobo and other e-readers: We intend to make all of the texts which we cover this year available for Kindle and others. If you are considering buying one, this might be a good reason. You may, of course, use them during class. IPads are a different story. The jury is still out.


You are about to study a book that contains the word “nigger.” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and many other works of literature worthy of our attention, contain that word as well as others that may be considered offensive. Exploring the meaning and use of the word does not mean an acceptance or approval of it.


       1) Read the tricky parts out loud.

When writers try to capture a regional accent or a style of speaking, it is said to be "written in dialect." Look at the following sentence from the novel:

        Dog my cats ef I didn’ hear sumf’n. Well, I know what I’s gwyne to do: I’s gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it agin.

   "Dog my cats" is an old expression which would be like saying, "Well I'll be darned." Here is the translation in standard English 

       Dog my cats if I didn't hear something. Well, I know what I am going to do: I am going to sit down here and listen until I hear it again.

Much of the novel is written in dialect, especially the parts spoken by Jim, the runaway slave. The best advice for understanding the parts written in dialect is to simply read it out loud. Go ahead. Read that first line again out loud this time. It makes more sense.

      2) Use SparkNotes or another study guide. 

While SparkNotes alone will not get you a passing grade on the test, it will help you understand what you read. If you are having trouble, read a chapter, then read SparkNotes, then read a chapter, then read SparkNotes, etc.

      3) Phone a friend

Get a study group together or call a friend from the class. Talk about the text. Figure it out together.