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Humor and Irony in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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“Persons attempting to find a moral in [this narrative] will be banished” (Twain 3). Just as his first lines in the novel, Mark Twain fills The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with his signature style of humor and irony, which makes it one of the most influential works of American literature. This controversial novel relates the story of Huck, a rebellious white boy, and Jim, a black slave. Together they run away in the pursuit of freedom down the Mississippi River. When published, the novel received a lot of criticism for Twain’s implicit moral message; the novel is Twain’s indictment against racism.
Throughout the years, Huck Finn’s message has been misinterpreted as racist. In fact, according to John H. Wallace the narrative is “racist trash” (112), mainly because of the word “nigger” (Twain 7), which is used more than two hundred times. Never-theless, most anti-Huck critics fail to understand the elemental use of the word. Twain intends to unveil the South’s reality; therefore, the absence of the word “nigger” would result in the erroneous portrayal of how a twelve-year-old, uneducated boy from Missouri would talk. For the same previous reason, Twain gives each character different speech. Not in order to generalize and stereotype, but actually “[forming] identity… by social realities” (James 16). Despite Twain’s intention, the diction he uses for Jim’s portrayal has offended several students and parents throughout the nation, for its jester-like characteristics (Henry 25). In reality, the different slangs, not just Jim’s, give each character the needed humanity to make them more “believable, complex, and therefore dignified” (James 16). Twain’s chosen diction exposes the reality of human beings, which a censored versio...

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... 14-17. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web, 19 April 2014.
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Wallace, John H. “Huckleberry Finn Is Racist Trash.” Readings on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Ed. Katie de Koster. The Greenhaven Press literary companion to American literature. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. 112-20. Print.
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