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    Analysis of American Rhetoric in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn



    American Rhetoric: How does one text (or at most two) on our syllabus reflection the power of language to shape an American reality, and what makes that reality American? Consider the importance of language instruction or language lessons. How do authors make sense of America in self-consciously linguistic terms? Analyze form and style as well as content, both what a text says and how it says it. You may want to consider instances where language breaks down or where an author represents the limits of rhetoric.2.Privacy:“One does not dress for private company as for a public ball,” writes Benjamin Franklin, marking a significant distinction between private and public life as well as between modes of expression or literary style. What is privacy, and why is it important in one text (or at most two) on our syllabus? What is noteworthy about the representation of private life in America? Can private life be publicly significant and, if so, how? What are potential problems of privacy indicated by the text(s)? Huck Finn says that “it’s kind of natural to hide under the bed when you are up to anything private.” Explain how the text(s) of your choice might suggest an argument for, or a critique of, specific notion of privacy.3.Voice: In “Song of Myself,” Whitman celebrates “the belched words of my voice” and “forbidden voices. “How does one text (or at most two) on our syllabus represent aspects of “voice, “and why is voice important? You may wish to consider how a character or persona is shaped by an idea of the living voice. How does a written text incorporate aspects of speech, song, or other kinds of oral utterance? Define “voice” by drawing on examples from the text. How might a specific kind of voice express new ideas about literature or politics? What does the representation of voice suggestabout the text’s relation to readers?







Subject Literature Pages 6 Style APA


Analysis of American Rhetoric in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Rhetoric is a tool in literature used by authors to persuade their readers regarding a certain issue. In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses American rhetoric to discredit the justifiers of slavery. Through the main character, Huck Finn, the readers get to realize that slavery is not a black and white issue. There are so many grey areas regarding slavery and Twain exposes them to the readers.

Huck is a slave of religion. The widow keeps forcing religion unto him. She teaches him how to talk, eat, and act like a good Christian boy. When his father comes back, Huck becomes a slave to his abusive nature (Twain 124). The abuse from his alcoholic father pushes him to flee and on his way he meets with Jim. Jim is a slave literary. He belongs to Miss Watson, who treats him like her property, having even separated him from his family.

The Power of Language to Shape an American Reality

Language is powerful and it can be used to shape the reality. In the book, we see how language use controls and also influences how the characters relate and how they make decisions. For example, when Huck and Jim get separated in the fog on the raft, Huck says, “it was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger-but I don’t it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it” (Twain 81). By calling Jim a nigger, it shows that he sees it a demeaning thing to apologize to Jim. Huck sees Jim as inferior, which is why he takes ‘fifteen minutes before he can get up and go apologize to Jim’ (Twain 81).

Written in 1800’s, the book shows just how harsh the African Americans were treated by the whites. Twain use of dictions play a great role in showing the attitude that whites had regarding the blacks. He uses the n-word in so many instances. While this name is hardly used in the modern American, it was a very common name associated with blacks. The whites used the n-word for no other reason, other than to degrade the blacks and show them just how inferior they were. Huck uses this word to show his superiority complex, despite him being no different from Jim in terms of circumstances.

The racial slur in the book represents the American reality, not just in the old days, but also in the modern America. There are numerous instances where people, especially politicians’ use racial slur against people of a different race. Huck believes he is superior to Jim, not just because Jim is a runaway slave but most especially because he is black (Twain 161). Huck grows in a society where white people are regarded as superior. It does not matter if they are poor or not. Huck is poor and not so educated. To add the salt to the injury, he is running away from his father. There is no difference between the situation he finds himself in and what Jim is facing. However, just because Jim is a black slave, Huck feels entitled to superiority.

Jim, who is a black slave in the book, is portrayed to use improper words to communicate (Twain 158). His dialect shows that he is uneducated. It also shows that he has an accent different from other characters in the text. In the modern American, it is easier to differentiate a Native American from an African American or a Latino from their accent.

Apart from Jim, everyone’s dialect is very different from the dialects used by the modern Americans. Every dialect has changed in one way or another. The style and the form used in Huck Finn depict the reality of Americans back then. Twain uses slang and the dialects that would otherwise be considered improper in the modern America. The content also depicts what was common in the olden days. Slave trade was not unusual to early Americans. Miss Watson wants to sell Jim to someone else who could treat him cruelly and separate him from his wife and children. Whoever owned a slave in the early days had the right to sell him to someone else as slaves were regarded as property.

Mark Twain does not use different dialects just for the sake of it. The dialects are used and organized in a very clear manner in a bid to bring out issues and characters in a clear manner. The author appeals to the emotions of his readers with the language he uses in interactions between Huck and Jim. Huck and Jim are so different when they meet. However, as they interact, a bond is developed between them and their friendship overcomes the prejudices (Twain 161). As indicated above, Huck uses the n-word a number of times to refer to Jim. He does this even though he does not know that he is being racist. The kind of language he uses and how he deals with Jim shows the kind of a society he has grown into. He was raised knowing that African Americans are called niggers and so he continues with the trend. The friendship between them is a unique one. Race, class, status, or social prejudices do not influence it. 

Importance of Language Instruction or Language Lessons

The story is narrated by Huck who is 13-year old and uneducated. Twain uses slang words and even double negatives so that the reader can see how Huck reasons. He also uses it to create irony. For example, Huck who is young and also ignorant, says things which when you read the book, you understand them as false. This creates humor and irony. While his grammar is definitely bad and mostly incorrect, it is way better than that of Jim.

Language is important. The kind of language that the author uses helps appeal to the emotions of the readers. The dictions used evoke different emotions in the readers. Consider the following excerpt:

“I wouldn’t shake my nigger, would I? -the only nigger I had in the world, and the only property.’ ‘We never thought of that. Fact is, I reckon we’d come to consider him OUR nigger; yes, we did consider him so-goodness knows we had trouble enough for him” (Twain 241).

Such a passage is enough to evoke strong emotions from the readers. It is so distasteful to call an African American nigger, without even going to the extent of calling him ‘my only property’ (Twain 241). The strong diction makes readers to sympathize with Jim and even connect with him in the process.

There is a great importance in language lessons. It makes it easy for one to differentiate between different dictions and even get meaning out of them. The passage above may not seem strange to someone who does not understand the weight of the word ‘nigger.’ It may not even appear to be harsh for someone who does not understand it.

The author also uses some difficult language that may confuse the readers. Huck, due to his uneducated nature, uses language incorrectly. In some areas, he even uses double negatives. This may make it hard for some readers to understand, limiting the power of persuasion.

There are several instances where Huck has used difficult language. For instance, “She got mad, then, but I didn’t mean no harm” (Twain 78). Written in a clear manner, this simply means, ‘I did not mean any harm but she got mad’ (Jing 1)

“What you know ‘bout witches?” (Twain 85). This statement is grammatically incorrect. Written in a correct language, it simply means, “What do you know about witches?” (Jing 1)

Twain is known for his use of complex language. While it adds flavor to the language, syntax complexity may make it hard for a reader to be persuaded to buy the idea that the author is selling (Jing 3).

Conclusively, The adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an amazing piece of literature. Mark Twain does not use language just for the sake of it. Every word, every phrase, every incorrect grammar is used to mean something specific. All these add up to bring out the issue of slavery and racism in a clear manner. By the end of the book, the reader’s perspective on slavery is completely changed. The author makes the readers to sympathize with Huck and Jim and to connect with them.




Twain, Mark. The adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Scholastic, 1987.

Yu, Jing. “Translating ‘others’ as ‘us’ in Huckleberry Finn.





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