Nowadays, Huck Finn is as a lightning rod for racial issues, which explains why so many schools have banned the book over the years. But in the late 18th century, when Mark Twain published it, the novel was more controversial as a critique of childhood in America. In the Times, Year in Reading alum Parul Sehgal reads Huck Finn’s America, a new book by Andrew Levy that sheds light on the context of the era. You could also read our founder C. Max Magee on reading Huck Finn as a child.
Azar Nafisi thinks the best way to pin down a culture is to take a look at its canonical works of literature. In The Republic of Imagination, as Adam Begley details in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, she examines a few of America’s classic novels, including Babbitt, Huck Finn and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. You could also read Jonathan Russell Clark’s review of the book for The Millions.
Students at the University of California Santa Barbara, Rutgers, Oberlin, and others have been requesting “trigger warning” labels on literature from The Great Gatsby to Huck Finn. In The Guardian, University College London Professor John Mullan snipes, “You might as well put a label on English literature saying: warning – bad stuff happens here.”