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Twain’s Life: An Influence on Writing the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Because of Mark Twain’s satirist and humorous point of views, he was able to create characters and situations in his writing that reflected real- life people and events. He was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri. Mr. Clemens’s own boyhood life at Hannibal, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, and his years as a pilot on the same river, gave him a vivid background and a close familiarity with various southwestern types that proved invaluable in the production of such a book as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Matthews 79).

Clemens, the first great American author, had a rough start in life- his early years were plagued by frequent illness. His family moved to Hannibal, Missouri to open up a general store. Hannibal provided the setting for much of Clemens’ fiction. Hannibal’s fictional name in the novel was St. Petersburg (Moss and Wilson 19). He developed his pen name Mark Twain from working on a steamboat. This name would be used as his signature name for all of his works.

Although the family’s fortune’s continued to decline, the next few years gave young Sam the childhood he ould later chronicle (with a few changes of course) in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Matthews 16). The language reflected in Twain’s Huck Finn depicts the realistic colloquialism of the south during that time. Twain was raised in a racist society and the language he used accurately reflects the attitudes of that society (Matthews 13). Many people have had problems accepting the language and use of words in the novel because they find it offensive to all of society, but Twain was a realist and only wrote from societies point of view.

Mark Twain was raised with slaves (Matthews 12). He actually developed a pretty close relationship with one when he was a young boy. Twain was taught that slavery was good, approved by both God and man (Matthews 12). In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain was actually making fun of the idea of slavery, saying that it contradicted the whole idea of American freedom. Twain drew on experiences and viewpoints he encountered later in life as well, merging them into events in the novel (Moss and Wilson 19). In 1857 he became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi (Moss and Wilson 19- 0).

He was an apprentice of one of the greatest steamboat pilots, Horace Bixby. Bixby would train Clemens (prior to adoption of pen name Twain) for four years. He soon thereafter became a licensed steamboat pilot. During his training, he learned the Mississippi River’s patterns and shape. Becoming a pilot and meeting a wide variety of interesting river men provided him with invaluable knowledge, insight, and sources of inspiration. Twain’s river boating gave him an intimate knowledge of the Mississippi, evident in the pages of Huckleberry Finn (Moss and Wilson 20).

Because of Twain’s knowledge of the river, he was able to take Huck and Jim on an adventure, allowing them to have encounters with real places along the river. Twain believed every fictional character had its real-life source (Moss and Wilson 19). In fact, most of the characters in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were developed from Twain’s real-life encounters. Over the years he kept notebooks describing people and places that found there way into Huckleberry Finn (Moss and Wilson 19). The two most pivotal characters in the novel are taken from real-life characters.

Huck and Jim are modeled on real-life characters Tom Blankenship and Uncle Dan’l (Moss and Wilson 19). Miss Watson, the fictional name, was taken from Mary Ann Newcomb who was Twain’s schoolteacher (Moss and Wilson 19). When Mark Twain’s father died, he began having a closer relationship with his mother, who became the inspiration for Aunt Polly in Huck Finn. Jane Lampton Clemens, Twain’s mother, is fictionalized in Huck Finn as Aunt Polly (Moss and Wilson 19). Phelp’s farm is where a lot of the novel takes place.

Phelp’s farm was odeled from Twain’s Uncle John Quarle’s farm (Moss and Wilson 19). Jackson’s Island was really Glassock’s Island- located near Hannibal, Missouri (Moss and Wilson 19). Pap Finn, who was Huck’s raging alcoholic father, was derived from a man who was actually known as Hannibal’s drunkard. His name was Jimmy Finn, very similar to Twain’s faux character (Moss and Wilson 19). Twain grew up with a boy named Tom Blankenship. He was Twain’s best friend for a long time. Some of the encounters they had when they were younger were written about in Huck Finn.

The character Huck Finn was taken from Twain’s friend Tom Blankenship (Moss and Wilson 19). A very similar situation occurred in real life as it did in the novel. Tom Blankenship had an older brother, Benson, who stumbled upon a runaway slave on an island in 1847 and, foregoing a $50 reward for his capture, shuttled scraps of food to him all summer long (Moss and Wilson 19). Like this runaway, the fictional Jim escapes to an island; his personality, however, is drawn from a slave named Daniel who lived on Twain’s Uncle’s farm in Florida, Missouri (Moss and Wilson 19).

This was like Huck’s reluctance to turn Jim in because he developed a close relationship with him during their voyage down the Mississippi. Jim was one of the main characters in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Uncle Dan’l, a slave on Twain’s Uncle John Quarle’s farm, was a model for his decision to include Jim in the novel. Like so many other misconstrued things in the novel, Jim represents freedom, not slavery. Both Jim and Huck are searching for freedom from the lives they are living, but they find freedom only when they are away from society on their raft.

Jim s a true to life portrait of a generous and patient man Twain knew during his childhood (Matthews 13). An item from Twain’s past helps explain the enormity of Huck’s decision to aid Jim (Moss and Wilson 19). One of the themes of the novel was freedom. Twain developed the relationship between Huck and Jim to show that he was against his father in the point of view of slavery. In 1841 three whites were caught helping five slaves escape from Missouri. Twain’s own father, John Clemens, served on the jury that sentenced the three to twelve years in jail (Moss and Wilson 19). Because

Twain was against the idea of slavery and believed that what his father had done was morally wrong, he wrote about it in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain’s experiences throughout his life served influential to writing the work of fiction, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. From the embryonic years in Hannibal, Missouri to his years as a pilot on the Mississippi River, all gave him an idea and a close acquaintance of what life was truly like in the southwest. These factors proved very useful in all his writing, but especially in the production of such a triumphant book as Huck Finn.

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