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Twain: Huckleberry Finn

3. Huck and Jim's Journey

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Huck and Jim's journey down the Mississippi, which forms the central part of the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the beginning of the novel: St Petersburg, Miss Watson, and Huck's father, Pat; (ii) what Huck is running away from; (iii) the character of Jim, and the extent to which his story structures the whole novel; (iv) the popular but fundamentally racist art-form of minstrelsy; (v) the range of critical opinions on the character of Jim – Ralph Ellison, David Smith, James Cox; (vi) the reason that Huck and Jim head down the river (further towards the south) rather than up it; (vii) Huck and Jim's experience on the raft; (viii) the extent to which Huck and Jim are drawn back to events on dry land, and the kind of society they encounter there; (ix) the extent to which Huckleberry Finn punctures the romantic vision of the 'Old South' that had developed since the end of the Civil War; (x) the characters of the king and the duke; and (xi) Jim's return to slavery, and Huck's decision to rescue him from him – the moral high-point of the book.


In this course, Professor Thomas Ruys Smith (University of East Anglia) explores Mark Twain's 1884/5 novel, Huckleberry Finn. In the first module, we think about the origins of Huckleberry Finn in Mark Twain's life and career up to 1884/5. In the second module, we think about what kind of book Huckleberry Finn is, before turning in the third module to the text itself and thinking about Huck and Jim's journey down the Mississippi. In the fourth module, we think about the novel's problematic and controversial ending, before turning in the fifth module to the novel's critical reception, from the very first reviews in 1885 to the criticism of individuals such as Alan Gribben, Jane Smiley, and Toni Morrison.


Thomas Ruys Smith is Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of East Anglia. His primary field of research and teaching expertise is nineteenth century literature and culture, both American and Transatlantic. Frequently, his research is focused around the life and culture of the Mississippi River. His first book, River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain (Louisiana State University Press, 2007) was an interdisciplinary examination of the different roles played by the Mississippi in antebellum American culture. His second book, Southern Queen: New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century (Continuum, 2011), was an exploration of the life and culture of one of America's most fascinating cities during a crucible period in its history. His latest monograph, Deep Water: The Mississippi River in the Age of Mark Twain (LSUP: 2019), is the first book to provide a comprehensive narrative account of Twain's intimate and long-lasting creative engagement with the Mississippi.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Ruys Smith, T. (2021, March 22). Twain: Huckleberry Finn - Huck and Jim's Journey [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Ruys Smith, T. "Twain: Huckleberry Finn – Huck and Jim's Journey." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Mar 2021,