Reviews of Huckleberry Finn in the late 19th Century
In the 20th Century, no other book was discussed or fought over more then The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. The book has been banned and reinstated in many school systems and libraries throughout this century. Controversy over the use of the word “nigger” has been one of the biggest arguments. The fact that people are still feeling the sting and abuse from the creation of this slang word is understandable. The other problem that many people have is that Jim, the black main character, was played off as a comical, half-wit character. This didn’t help much when this character was used as the icon for the early minstrel shows of the 20th Century. Both of these arguments have been used since the 50’s as reasons to ban the book and never have it in any public facility. The controversy that surrounds this book has followed it wherever it goes and it’s a wonder that it still is used in classrooms around the country today.
The reasons above have kept this book in discussion and in circulation through out the 20th Century and probably this will continue into the 21st Century. What concerns me about most about this is that we are imposing 20th Century values on a book that was written in the 19th Century. Trying to censor this book is like trying to fight for child rights in the novel Oliver Twist. The main thing about this book that interests me is what did the critics of Mark Twain’s time have to say about the novel? What concerns did they have about the book? Did they like it, hate it, and why?
To commence with (as Huckleberry Finn would say), Twain at the time was a respected author and writer. When this book came out in the late 19th Century, The Civil War had been over for a few years, The Reconstruction era was ending as the country’s scar were beginning to heal, and the African-Americans were going through their first trial period of being free Americans. This is the time when Huckleberry Finn came out. When critics first read the book, their reviews from what I read were mixed.