Huckleberry Finn Character Analysis Lesson Plan
- 29 pages
- Subject: Character Analysis, Historical Context, Plot, Setting, Lesson Plans and Educational Resources
- Common Core Standards: RL.9-10.1, RL.9-10.3, RL.9-10.4
- Grade Levels: 8, 9, 10, 11
Additional The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Resources
Huckleberry Finn’s Character Revealed through Conflict
This lesson plan focuses on how Huckleberry Finn’s character is revealed through his relationship with Tom Sawyer and through the conflicts Huck experiences after he is kidnapped by his father. Students will identify Huck’s internal and external conflicts in several chapters and examine how he resolves them. They also will examine how Tom Sawyer serves as a foil for Huck’s character. By analyzing how Huck resolves the conflicts in his life and how his character differs from Tom Sawyer’s, students will be better able to describe Huck’s heroic character traits and explain how they contribute to the development of romantic themes in the novel.
Skills: close reading, contrasting, drawing inferences from the text, supporting interpretations with details from the text
Learning Objectives: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to
- define local color writing and vernacular style and identify elements of realism and romanticism in the novel
- identify and describe the setting of the novel and explain how it informs the plot and Huck Finn’s character as a romantic hero
- describe the function of a literary foil and explain how Tom Sawyer acts as a foil for Huck Finn
- analyze and describe Huck Finn’s internal and external conflicts and explain how he resolves them
- draw conclusions about Huck Finn’s character based on his resolution of various conflicts and his relationship with Tom Sawyer
About This Document
Owl Eyes lesson plans have been developed to meet the demanding needs of today’s educational environment and bridge the gap between online learning and in-class instruction. The main components of each plan include the following:
- An introduction to the text
- A step-by-step guide to lesson procedure
- Previous and following lesson synopses for preparation and extension ideas
- A collection of handouts and worksheets complete with answer keys
Each of these comprehensive, 60-minute plans focus on promoting meaningful interaction, analytical skills, and student-centered activities, drawing from the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and the expertise of classroom teachers.
Introduction to the Lesson
Published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a sequel to Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The character of Huck Finn appears in the previous novel, Tom Sawyer appears in the sequel, and the plot of Huckleberry Finn begins where the plot of Tom Sawyer ends. However, the thematic development in Huckleberry Finn bears little resemblance to that of Tom Sawyer. Larger in scope and deeper in its examination of the pre-Civil War Southern society that existed on the banks of the Mississippi River, Huckleberry Finn is a work of sharp satire and social criticism that exposes hypocrisy, corruption, and makes a strong moral statement against slavery.
Huck’s story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, the small Missouri town on the Mississippi River that is the setting in Tom Sawyer. Running away from his abusive, drunken father, Huck soon finds himself rafting down the Mississippi in the company of another runaway, a slave named Jim who has escaped captivity. Believing what he has been taught by his racist society—that God has ordained slavery as part of the natural order—Huck feels guilty for helping Jim attempt to reach freedom across the river in Illinois, but the two become faithful companions as their journey continues. Ultimately, Huck must resolve what he perceives as a moral dilemma regarding Jim’s freedom: he must decide between consigning Jim once again to the misery and degradation of slavery or rescuing him and thus damning Huck’s own soul.
While The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been criticized in modern times for racist elements, at the time of its publication, Huck’s believing that going to hell is preferable to leaving Jim in slavery was considered a shocking condemnation of its evils, making Twain’s novel progressive for its time. Throughout the novel, Huck’s adventures drive the plot, but it is through his character that the novel’s most profound themes are realized.
Because of Twain’s depiction of slavery in pre-Civil War Missouri, the novel should be read through a historical lens; to fully understand Huck’s character, however, the book also should be read through the lens of literary movements in American fiction. Huckleberry Finn exemplifies regionalism, or local color writing, that developed after the Civil War and served as a bridge between 19th-century romanticism and the rise of realism in 20th-century American literature. Works of local color, including Huckleberry Finn, are realistic in describing the setting, customs, and dialects of a geographical region of the country at a particular time, while also developing themes consistent with the philosophies of romanticism: idealizing nature, emphasizing personal freedom, examining the emotional life of the individual, and viewing human nature as intrinsically good, unless or until corrupted by society.
Twain’s knowledge of the Mississippi River and the small settlements along its banks, acquired from personal experience in his youth, accounts for the authenticity of local color detail in his realistic descriptions of the novel’s setting and social environment. The novel’s themes, however, evolve from romantic concepts, especially evident in the contrast between nature and society and in the development of Huck’s character. On the river, living apart from society, Huck and Jim find freedom, peace, and beauty; life on shore, however, is characterized by hypocrisy, greed, duplicity, cruelty, and violence—all traits of humanity at its worst. At the end of his journey with Jim, Huck decides to “light out for [Indian] territory ahead of the rest.” He has seen enough of “civilized” society and has no desire to be a part of it. In Huck’s intrinsic goodness remaining uncorrupted by society, he becomes Twain’s romantic hero.
As Huck pursues his adventures, eventually encountering Tom Sawyer once again, readers find the plot compelling and often humorous. In the novel’s sharp social criticism, more mature readers recognize and appreciate Twain’s consummate artistry as an American novelist exploring important themes in ways that other writers of his time were not.
Worksheet Excerpt: Analyzing Huck’s Conflicts in Chapter 7
Refer to the text in chapter 7 as you complete the handout. As a group, discuss the questions about the chapter. When you agree on answers to the questions, make notes on your handout. Choose one person in your group to write the annotation, as described at the end of the handout. Discuss the annotation as it is being written to make sure it thoroughly reflects the thinking of your group.
Describe Huck’s external conflicts in chapter 7. Whom and what does he struggle against?
Describe how Huck resolves the conflicts.
What is revealed about Huck by the way he resolves the conflicts in the chapter? What are some words you would use to describe Huck based on how he resolves it?
Sum it up: Highlight the title of chapter 7. Write an annotation that summarizes Huck’s conflicts in the chapter, how he resolves them, and what is revealed about his character by the way he resolves them.