Huckleberry Finn’s Impact on Modern American Literature

Topics: Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Slavery in the United States Pages: 2 (725 words) Published: December 19, 2011
Ernest Hemingway once said “all modern American literature began with Huckleberry Finn.” Huckleberry Finn, a remarkably well written novel by Mark Twain, has received almost excessive praise since it was written and first published in 1884. On the other hand, it has been condemned for vulgarity and accused of stealing Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s thunder. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a similar novel about slavery written about thirty-two years earlier. Huckleberry Finn’s impact on modern American literature was so great that it could be compared to Shakespeare’s impact on European theater. To be the true basis of modern American literature, a novel would have to be centered on American concepts. One of the most prominent American concepts is “the American Dream”. Huckleberry Finn is the first novel to encompass “the American Dream”, chronically many different Americans’ approach to their own American dream, and how they chase it. One instance of this in Huckleberry Finn is when Huck and Jim coincidentally become raft-mates with two swindlers, going about their dream of finding fortune in an illegal and morally wrong way, taking advantage of ladies, children, the elderly and even men. Twain does a superb job of demonstrating “the American dream” and the consequences of chasing it ruthlessly. Intertwined with the stories of dream chasers is another American concept, a black slave’s mistreatment and his search for his dream, freedom. Although Twain wrote the novel after slavery was abolished, he set it several decades earlier, when slavery was still a fact of life. But even by Twain’s time, things had not necessarily gotten much better for blacks in the South. In this light, one might read Twain’s depiction of slavery as an allegorical representation of the condition of blacks in the United States, even after the abolition of slavery. This is shown prominently throughout the novel through the co- protagonist, a black slave named Jim, and his adventures and misadventures. A...
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