The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Enrichment Activitiesby Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered an American classic by many. The elements of humor, loyalty, friendship, and prejudice are all present throughout the chapters of this novel. Mark Twain takes readers on a raft ride down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim, an escaped slave. Along the way they run into danger, as well as some interesting and funny characters.
- Having students complete a culminating project is an important aspect of any literature unit.
- In many ways, Jim assumes the role of a father to Huck. Working with a partner, find examples of this. Share your findings with the members of your group.
- Select a favorite scene of the book and, with classmates assuming the necessary roles, act it out reading the dialogue. This will give you a feel for the flow of the dialects that were common during the time of the novel.
- Research Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens). Write a biographical sketch and share it with the members of your group.
- Read Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Write a book review of it, comparing it to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Research slavery and write a report about it. In your report answer the following questions: Which were the slave states? Which were the free states? How was it determined that a new state would be free or slave? What reasons did slave states give for justifying their need for slaves? How was slavery one of the issues that led to the Civil War? (Social Studies)
- Research the dialects of American English and write a short report. What are the major dialects? How do dialects arise? (Social Studies)
- Make a model of the raft Huck and Jim used to float down the Mississippi River. (Art)
- Using an atlas or other reference, locate the Mississippi River. How long is it? What states does it border? Research the Mississippi of the 1830s (about the time the novel takes place) and compare how the river was used then to the way it is used today. Make an oral presentation of your findings to your group or class. (Social Studies)
- Describe Huck's feelings about living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. Which one of the ladies does he like more? Why? What does he feel about their attempts to "civilize" him?
- What kind of man was Huck's father? Use examples from the story to support your answer. How did Huck feel when his father returned to the village?
- Why does pap forbid Huck to go to school? How would you react to pap's demand if you were Huck? Explain.
- Why did Huck stage his own death?
- When Huck finds Jim, he promises that he will not turn Jim in, even though Jim is a runaway slave. What does this tell you about Huck's character?
- What did the river mean to Huck? Explain.
- Huck quickly realizes that the Duke and Dauphin are con men. What is a con man? What does his ability to see these men for what they really are tell you about Huck? What does his decision not to confront them about their fraud tell you?
- How was Jim betrayed? How did Huck react when he learned that Jim had been captured as a runaway slave? What did he decide to do?
- The story contains several ironic episodes. Identify three and describe them. Explain why they are ironic.
- Throughout the story, Huck rebels against civilization. At the end of the novel, has he become more "civilized"? Explain.
- Important ideas and concepts to highlight with your students, as well as a writing connection.
Huckleberry Finn, son of the town's drunk, lives with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, the widow's sister. He likes the widow, but doesn't enjoy her attempts to "civilize" him. When pap, Huck's father, returns to town, he wants Huck to live with him, mostly because he wants to get his hands on money that Huck is entitled to. (Huck shares $12,000 with Tom Sawyer. In Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which was written earlier, Huck and Tom found the money in a robber's cave. The money was then put in trust for them.)
Since Huck doesn't want to go with pap, his father catches him and takes him to a cabin where nobody can find him. Huck escapes, though, and hides out at Jackson's Island. A few days later Huck finds Jim, Miss Watson's slave. Jim tells Huck that he ran away because he was afraid that Miss Watson was going to sell him to a slave trader in New Orleans. Huck promises not to turn Jim in.
They begin traveling down the river on a raft, hoping to get Jim to the free states. Along the way they have several adventures. They take up with two con men, one of whom betrays Jim by telling a man that Jim is a runaway slave. When Huck learns that Jim has been captured, he and Tom Sawyer, who has joined him, plan an elaborate scheme to save Jim, finally freeing him.
The story is episodic with many adventures, rich in the dialects of the times, and provides vivid details of life along the Mississippi before the Civil War.
Ideas and Concepts to Highlight
- Note that the story is told in the first person, with Huck as the narrator. Emphasize that Twain used the dialects of the times and that he wrote the story as if Huck were actually speaking. (Some students may have trouble with the dialects.)
- Discuss the setting. The story takes place in the South prior to the Civil War. The country was divided into slave and free states.
- Explain that the novel is episodic. The plot consists of numerous events, each of which is a very short story by itself. (Critics often complain that Twain wandered with the plot and occasionally needed to rely on coincidence to make things work out. Although this may be valid in some cases, it doesn't diminish the story's appeal and many strengths.)
- Emphasize the powerful contrasts that are found throughout the book, the most striking being the differences between Huck and Tom, and slavery and freedom.
- Note Huck's basic goodness. Although he has faults, he is willing to go against his society to help Jim.
- Point out Twain's use of irony, which he frequently employs to give his opinions on the behavior of people. A good example is Huck's belief in the values of his society. He has been taught that slavery is right, and feels that it is wrong for him to help Jim. Yet he helps Jim anyway and accepts Jim as an individual.
Writing Connection: "The Continuing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
Huck is truly an interesting character. Uneducated, he is intelligent; a product of his times, he nevertheless is willing to break social customs (and laws) that he feels are wrong. Although he has a keen understanding of people, he doesn't always make the right decisions. One of his most unwavering traits, however, is his desire to avoid being "civilized." That's why at the end of the novel he intends to go to "Injun" territory.
For this assignment, instruct your students to imagine that Huck did indeed go to Injun territory. Keeping in mind his personality, students are to write of his continuing adventures. Have students answer the questions below to generate ideas.
- Where does Huck go after Jim is freed?
- Why does he go there?
- How does he get there?
- What happens when Huck arrives?
- How does this new adventure affect or change Huck?
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
A Horse's Tale
The Innocents Abroad
Life on the Mississippi
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories
The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories
Tom Sawyer Abroad
Tom Sawyer Detective
The Tramp Abroad
What Is Man?
English Teacher's Great Books Activities Kit
by Gary Robert Muschla
English Teacher's Great Books Activities Kit
More than 180 reproducible student activities for teaching reading and writing skills, based on great literature that covers various genres, themes, and cultures.