You are not currently logged in. Please create an account or log in to view the full course.

Twain: Huckleberry Finn

4. The Ending of the Novel

This is the course trailer. Please create an account or log in to view this lecture.

  • Description
  • Cite

About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the controversial ending of the novel, focusing in particular on: (i) the sense in which the ending of the novel complicates the idea that the novel is about the moral development of Huck: the reappearance of Tom Sawyer, his treatment of Jim, and Huck's refusal to do anything about it; (ii) the other complication: the fact that Jim has already been freed by this point in the novel; (iii) Leo Marx's view that the ending of the novel "must be attributed to the benevolence of the very people whose inhumanity first made it necessary"; (iv) Twain's own understanding of the end of his novel, and the reaction of early audiences ("it just went with a long roll of artillery-laughter all down the line"); (v) Toni Morrison's view that the ending of the novel shines an important light on what life was like for African-Americans not in the period when the book was set (1830s) but when the book was written (1880s), when all African-Americans had been freed; (vi) the fact that Huck and Jim do not have any kind of relationship after their journey together ends; and (vii) the fact that Huck expects to find 'freedom' in the west – and the reality of what the west was actually like in this period.


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 - The Ending of the Novel [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Ruys Smith, T. "Twain: Huckleberry Finn – The Ending of the Novel." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Mar 2021,