Great Books 102: Renaissance to Modern

Twain's Huckleberry Finn–Sapheads and Numskulls: Liberty is Freedom From Lies


Samuel Langhorne Clemens—better known by his pen name, Mark Twain—is the father of American literature. He rejected the special privilege traditionally given to British culture in 19th-century America. Twain’s works, including especially The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, proved that the American language was aesthetically capable of beautiful prose, and in doing so challenged the genteel tradition of American literature. While its narrator, Huckleberry Finn, is unreliable and unsophisticated, the novel presents complex moral dilemmas and pushes the reader to explore the American sources of Huck’s character.


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Discussion Questions

  • What are the moral dilemmas presented in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?
  • Is Mark Twain the quintessential American writer? Why or why not?
  • How are Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn related?

Q & A Session

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Daniel J. Sundahl is a Professor of English at Hillsdale College, where he is the director of the Hillsdale College Program in American Studies. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Utah.