Essay Example: Racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Published: 2023-07-14
Essay Example: Racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Essay type:  Analytical essays
Categories:  Racism Mark Twain Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essays by wordcount
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 752 words
7 min read

Written by Mark Twain in the 19th century, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an exploration of racism in the south. The book follows the life of Huckleberry Finn, a homeless boy, and his struggles against various societal issues, particularly racism. A series of fortunes and misfortunes see him team up with a slave, Jim, with whom they escape from St. Petersburg. Though the book was written more than two centuries ago, some of its themes are as relevant today as they were back then. In this light, this paper seeks to explore the theme of racism in the book and relate to events in the 21st century American society.

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Set in a period when racism was prevalent in the United States, most of the characters in the novel make racist remarks. However, none of the characters is as virulently racist as Pap, Huckleberry's father. In one instance, he bitterly complains that some northern states even allow blacks to vote. He also laments that he once saw a black man better dressed than him. Pap was also greatly outraged by the fact that the man was a college professor, yet he was illiterate (Twain, 2011). Pap's character represents the prevalent beliefs in the south during the period. The whites believed that they were superior to the blacks. As such, they were not expected to enjoy some of the rights enjoyed by the whites, such as voting rights. Also, they were not expected to have higher levels of education and wealth than the whites. Times have greatly changed since Huckleberry's time. The institution of slavery fell, and blacks have played greater roles in the political, economic, and social spheres. For instance, not only are they allowed to vote, but the country has even elected a black president. However, racism persists in society in subtle tones. For instance, racial inequality over the years has made it difficult for the majority of blacks to lead decent lives (Horowitz et al., 2019). As such, it can be assumed that just as Pap thought, most blacks may not dress as decently as the whites. Moreover, studies have shown that blacks face barriers in accessing healthcare and education, though all Americans have the right to access these services. Therefore, violation of their rights persists.

The low regard for black lives is also shown in the book. When Aunt Sally questions the disappearance of Tom, Huck lies that the boat had been involved in an accident. Concerned, Aunt Sally asks whether anyone was hurt, to which Huck replies, "No'm. Killed a nigger" (Twain, 2011). To show the disregard for black lives, Aunt Sally says, "Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt" (Twain, 2011). Her response shows that killing a black was not considered to be a big deal. While slaves are no longer sold in the country and executions such as those witnessed in the past were abandoned, the regard for black lives in the United States remains low. Studies have shown that one in 1,000 black boys and men in the country is killed by the police (Khan, 2019). White boys and men are 2.5 times less likely to experience the same (Khan, 2019). Black women and girls are also more likely to be killed by police as compared to other races. Movements such as the Black Lives Matter have been formed in recent years to raise awareness of the disparity (Tedeneke, 2016). Generally, this trend shows that the low regard for black lives depicted in the book exists even today.

As shown in the paper, the theme of racism is prevalent throughout the novel. The whites view the blacks as inferiors, and even their deaths are not seen as a big deal. Interestingly, though Mark Twain wrote this masterpiece more than two centuries ago, the themes are also relevant today. While racism was abolished and racial discrimination is not as loud today as it used to be, the economic and social disparity between the whites and blacks remain. Moreover, questions are still raised concerning the value of black lives in the United States.


Horowitz, J. M., Brown, A., & Cox, K. (2019, April 9). Race in America 2019. Retrieved from pew research Center:

Khan, A. (2019, August 16). Getting killed by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America. Retrieved from Los Angeles Times:

Tedeneke, A. (2016, August 11). The Black Lives Matter movement explained. Retrieved from World Economic Forum:, M. (2011). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Boadview press.

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Essay Example: Racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. (2023, Jul 14). Retrieved from

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