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Suggested Essay Topics

Suggested Essay Topics

Suggested Essay Topics

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Lying occurs frequently in this novel. Curiously, some lies, like those Huck tells to save Jim, seem to be “good” lies, while others, like the cons of the duke and the dauphin, seem to be “bad.” What is the difference? Are both “wrong”? Why does so much lying go on in Huckleberry Finn?

2. Describe some of the models for families that appear in the novel. What is the importance of family structures? What is their place in society? Do Huck and Jim constitute a family? What about Huck and Tom? When does society intervene in the family?

3. The revelation at the novel’s end that Tom has known all along that Jim is a free man is startling. Is Tom inexcusably cruel? Or is he just being a normal thirteen-year-old boy? Does Tom’s behavior comment on society in some larger way?

4. What techniques does Twain use to create sympathy for his characters, in particular, Jim? Are these techniques effective?

5. Discuss the place of morality in Huckleberry Finn. In the world of the novel, where do moral values come from? The community? The family? The church? One’s experiences? Which of these potential sources does Twain privilege over the others? Which does he mock, or describe disapprovingly?

6. Why might Twain have decided to set the novel in a time before the abolition of slavery, despite the fact that he published it in 1885, two decades after the end of the Civil War?

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