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Using Huck Finn on an AP Test
Transcript of Using Huck Finn on an AP Test
This book is set in the pre-Civil War South and involves a escaped slave traveling with a small white boy. Obviously, there'll be some discussion about race.
For an AP exam remember:
Twain uses a satirical approach to condemn the hypocrisy and ignorance of this time.
Making this a perfect novel to use for prompts that include or are related to:
The author's point of view through narration.
Specific literary devices such as satire or allegory.
Major theme questions that address the idea of race relations, hypocrisy, and the obvious... Slavery.
Society and Our Struggle With It
For an AP exam remember:
As mentioned Huck is an adventure novel and encapsulates the idea of a "hero's journey"
Several prompts that could work with this theme are:
Societal "outsiders" and the effect they have
Independent education/Education in unlikely places
What is taught vs. What is true
The traditional "coming of age" idea
Huck Doesn't Turn Jim In
BIG IDEAS that relate
How can I write about this awesome book for a Prose Question?
Crash Course on Jim
A revolutionary character at the time - a slave with feelings?!?
Exists partially to expose the reader to the possibility (neigh, the probability) that all characters can be complex, meaningful, and sympathetic, regardless of their race.
Is VERY superstitious. Twain uses these superstitions to compare to Miss Watson's and Widow Douglas' religious rituals and beliefs. Are they really that different?
Unlike other character's Jim is a foil to most of the hypocrisy in this novel, making him a useful character in prompts that have to do with integrity/inherent goodness, the power of spirit and hope, and characters actions in the face of adversary.
Crash Course on Pap
Serves primarily as a foil to Huck, as a reason for Huck to escape the home. Without Pap, we'd feel less sympathetic towards Huck's plight of living in Missouri.
Like Huck, he doesn't want to be civilized. Unlike Huck, he is ignorant and racist. This is one extreme end to the spectrum of values Huck has been exposed to.
Like we said before - he is extremely racist and ignorant. He doesn't like the fact a well educated, well dressed, black man is voting, so he decides not to vote himself.
Pap can be used as an example as well as a foil to not only Huck, but Jim as well.
All three of these characters are uneducated and poor, but Huck and Jim have a different outcome then Pap
WHY? (Think about the power of empathy and education and the corruption of spirit)
SOME BACKGROUND INFO, BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Huck Finn is CONTROVERSIAL.
It was released in 1885 by MARK TWAIN and talked about things people didn't want to talk about.
But Huck Finn is about other things too!!!!
Namely, the spirit of adventure, freedom, and morality.
At it's core, it is an adventure tale.
It also happens to be regarded as one of the three Great American Novels.
Crash Course on Huckleberry Finn (the character)
He is still just a boy - this matters because although he's been raised in society's eyes and has been taught society's values, he has not become fully corrupted. He can still become friends with someone like Jim.
He longs to escape Missouri. It's a place where people get "sivilized", and Huck will have none of that.
Huck feels caught in between different sets of values - society's (which Widow Douglas instilled in him) and his father's (which he may have accidentally acquired). One of the main conflicts in the novel is which set is the more "correct" one, and where do his own values lie in between these extremes?
He ends the book deciding to head out West, and maybe find his own set of values there.
Just think of the novel's main themes
when you read a prose prompt. If it
relates, it'll flow:
Society and our struggle with it
The American Spirit
Huck is young and naive (not necessarily in a bad way) enough to leave his home, leave his school, and leave his guardians so he can chase adventure.
Similarly, Huck is naive enough to look at Jim and see a slave, but also see a friend. He hasn't been around long enough to conform to radical Southern ideas about race and slavery.
For an AP Exam remember:
In relation to the coming of age idea is the theme of youth. It is clear that Twain does not value education or religious merit on how many years of school you've attended or how many church services you've participated in.
For Twain the most enlightened characters are often the most youthful or "ignorant" i.e Huck and Jim
The American Spirit
Huck represents the idea of "rugged individualism" that was popular during that time.
Basically, it was a romanticized view of pioneers that would venture into new lands.
While the Mississippi River isn't exactly new and undiscovered, the freedom that comes with it is.
Huck explores and goes on his adventure, and at the time, there was nothing more American than that.
For an AP Exam remember:
Touted as a great American novel,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
is a go to choice when given a prompt on
The American Spirit (adventure, independence)
Important scene to reference when using the theme of "The American Spirit"
Both Huck and Jim have a call to a greater freedom
While they are both setting out on their own they are united in their goals
This scene could be used to cite an example of society's expectations vs. personal values
As well as the empathy and intelligence of the youth
This is a key scene to use as an example of the unending American Spirit, even after his adventures, Huck is inclined to head out on another journey; feeling there is still more to explore and still more to escape from.
Because Huck may not need to pass his AP Test....
BUT YOU DO
The perfect prompt for Huckleberry Finn would be something like:
Discuss a work of prose that communicates ideas such as society and its expectations, youth, and/or the American spirit. Include conflict from the time period the piece was set in.
Unfortunately, the chances you'll get this exact prompt are about as likely as Tom Sawyer actually going to ONE CLASS.
Information to remember if you want to write the Open Book Question on Huck Finn
Important scenes of the novel:
Huck doesn't turn Jim in
Important characters in the novel: