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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Webquest

Understanding Mark Twain & his place in the 19th Century

For this webquest, please use the following resources & others as needed (Google searches, reputable websites, NOT Wikipedia). If you use a resource that is not listed be low, please cite that source with a hyperlink (insert → link) in your answer.

Mark Twain In His Times

  • This interpretive archive, drawn largely from the resources of the Barrett Collection, focuses on how "Mark Twain" and his works were created and defined, marketed and performed, reviewed and appreciated. The beauty of this site is its vast collection of primary sources.

PBS's Mark Twain Scrapbook

  • A resource that accompanies the Ken Burns documentary on Mark Twain (about 4 hours long - but you could watch it) - a great chronological summary with awesome graphics.

NOTE: You may need resources other than these sites to find the answers to these questions!!

Part 1: Mark Twain’s Life

  1. Name Mark Twain’s hometown.

  1. What was Mark Twain’s real name?

  1. How old was Mark Twain when he took his first job?

  1. How did commerce move in the mid to late 1850s? What was Twain’s role?

  1. What was Mark Twain’s favorite profession?

  1. What significant event caused the river traffic to stop?

  1. Describe Twain as a miner.

  1. What does the name “Mark Twain” mean?

  1. What was Twain’s wife’s name?

  1. Mark Twain published which famous general’s memoirs? Why?

  1. Which two events led to Twain’s loneliness late in his life?

  1. What did Twain do to reduce his loneliness? Do you find this behavior strange? Explain.

  1. What do you regard as the most interesting aspect of Mark Twain’s life?

Part II: 19th Century Values & The Society that Twain Satirized

  1. First, we need to understand that Twain is a realist writer. He is writing about what he knows and what is realistic. Do some brief research on the literary movement of Realism and record characteristics of realist writing:

Now that we understand Realism, we need to know about the world that Twain was writing about...slavery was a thing of the past, the Civil War had been fought, but he had experienced both. He was writing in the Jim Crow South.

  1. Describe some laws characteristic of the Jim Crow South - you can focus on Twain’s region in Missouri around the Mississippi River if you find that information.

  1. What were some prevailing views about African Americans in the post-Civil War south? Had views from before the war changed? How so?

Focus: Huckleberry Finn (Use the Mark Twain In His Times site)

  1. Go to Imagining Slavery in MT's Works and determine why Twain’s depiction of slavery in Huckleberry Finn is generally considered ambiguous.

  1. Still at Imagining Slavery in MT's Works - Choose one illustration from Huckleberry Finn to describe and explain how it may illustrate Twain’s treatment of the subject.

  1. What is black-face minstrelsy?

  1. How was the “old south” described to Northern readers? Also, determine when the genre of Old South Plantation Tales became popular with Northern audiences.

  1. What are some characteristics of “Southwest Humor”?

  1. How was Huckleberry Finn advertised when it was first released? Pick a piece of publicity (links on the bottom) and summarize its strategy.

  1. Who illustrated the original version of the story? Why did Twain select him to illustrate?

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