2About the WriterMark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Mississippi in 1835When he was 16, his brother Orion started a newspaper in Hannibal, Missouri, and for a time, Sam worked for him.But Sam didn’t want to stay put for long, he soon became restless and in 1853 he began to travel.First he became a journeyman printer in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York.Several years later he decided to fulfill a childhood ambition and become a riverboat pilot.
3About the Writer continued Steamboat traffic on the river was halted when the Civil War broke out in 1861.Sam volunteered in the Confederate militia for a very brief period of time before traveling with his brother to Nevada to write for a living.In Nevada, and later in California, Twain achieved some celebrity as a humorist in the frontier tradition, writing tall tales and frontier stories.He then began to travel widely, giving lectures and writing about his experiences.
4About the Writer continued He married Olivia (Livy) Langdon in 1870 and two years later he published Roughing It, based on his years in the West.One year after that, he published The Gilded Age, a satirical novel of post-Civil War life.Twain then began to look to his childhood for material.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, but sales were disappointing.
5About the Writer continued In 1883, Twain began to work on a sequel to Tom Sawyer. It was to become the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was finally published in 1884 and was sold in the U.S. in 1885.Is was instantly controversial.
6Banned!Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was banned the year after its release by the committee of the Public Library of Concord, Massachusetts, on the grounds that it was coarse, immoral and unsuitable for young readers.However, this only increased its popularity and sales.
7Big Spender Twain’s personal life became extravagant and lavish. Soon, he found himself short on cash and he embarked on a world-wide lecture tour to pay the bills.A year later, while on tour, he discovered that his beloved daughter had died of meningitis.
8Tragedy StrikesIn the years that followed, Twain suffered a series of personal tragedies from which he would never recover.His daughter jean was diagnosed with epilepsy, and Livy (his wife), after years of poor health, collapsed from what the doctors said was heart disease and nervous problems.
9Bitterness Sets InWith Livy’s death in 1904, Twain became bereft, unhappy and bitter.Several years later his daughter Jean, who lived with him, died of an epileptic seizure in her bath.A year later, suffering from angina and heart disease, Mark Twain died at the age of 75.
10Historical ContextThe novel, while published in 1884, is set years prior, before the Civil War.During those Post-Civil War years, the ideals of self-improvement, industry, and geographical expansion – the ideal of progress – dominated life and philosophy in the U.S.But in spite of the general spirit of optimism, the country was growing ever more tormented by the issue of slavery.This was especially true in Missouri, Twain’s home state and the starting point for Huck and Jim’s journey.
11Historical ContextIn 1821, under the Missouri Compromise, the territory of Missouri had been admitted into the Union as a slave state.Located south of Iowa and west of Illinois, both free states, Missouri developed strict laws that prohibited the entry of free blacks to the state.Simply entering a free state didn’t guarantee freedom for an escaped slave.In Illinois, in cooperation with the Fugitive Slave Law – African Americans not in possession of freedom papers was liable to arrest and, on conviction, to indentured labor.
12Historical ContextAlthough growing numbers of Northerners came to regard slavery as a moral issue, Southerners became more adamant and defensive about their way of life.It is many of these qualities and situations Twain spotlights in his novel.
13The Economic GapThe cast gulf separating rich and poor was justified by the economist William Sumner, whose theory of Social Darwinism held that business, left to its own devices, would eliminate the weak and reward the strong.Twain’s concern for the fate of the weak is evident in his heroic trio: Huck and Jim and the raft.
14The Heroic Trio Huck and Jim are uneducated outcasts of society The raft they use to travel upon is no longer the “fittest” form of transport on the river.