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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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8. Regional Realism   

8. Regional

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•  Authors
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Activities: Author Activities

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) - Author Questions

Back Back to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) Activities
  1. Comprehension:Why are Huck and Jim on the raft in Huckleberry Finn? What life experiences do these two characters have in common? How are they different from one another?

  2. Context: According to Twain, what are James Fenimore Cooper's "literary offenses"? How does Twain's assessment reflect his own commitment to "realism" as an artistic ideal? Is his analysis a fair indictment of Cooper?

  3. Context: How would you describe the narrative structure of Huckleberry Finn? Are some episodes in Huck and Jim's journey more important than other episodes? Does the novel have a climax? If so, what do you consider to be the climactic moment?

  4. Context: Unlike Joel Chandler Harris, Charles W. Chesnutt, and Sarah Orne Jewett, Twain narrates the entire action of his novel through Huck's vernacular speech. Why do you think he does not employ an educated, urbane frame narrator like so many other authors who experimented with representing regional dialects? What roles do the frame narrators play in the stories by Harris, Chesnutt, and Jewett?

  5. Exploration: In the past century and a half, many schools and libraries have banned Huckleberry Finn or have contemplated banning it. What makes this book so controversial? How might the reasons for Americans' discomfort with the novel have changed over time? How does Huckleberry Finn compare to other books that have been banned for one reason or another over the years (The Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, Ulysses, even Harry Potter)? For what reasons, if any, should a book be removed from a school's reading list or library?

  6. Exploration: Critics disagree about Twain's portrait of Jim in Huckleberry Finn. How does the characterization of Jim participate in common nineteenth-century stereotypes of African Americans? How does Jim compare to some of the African American characters and writers discussed in Unit 7? Are there ways that Jim challenges racist stereotypes?

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