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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

1885 novel by Mark Twain

For other uses, see Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (disambiguation).

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or as it is known in more recent editions, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a novel by American author Mark Twain, which was first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885.

Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written throughout in vernacular English, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry "Huck" Finn, the narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective) and a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The book is noted for "changing the course of children's literature" in America for the "deeply felt portrayal of boyhood".[2] It is also known for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. Set in a Southernantebellum society that had ceased to exist over 20 years before the work was published, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often scathing satire on entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.

Perennially popular with readers, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has also been the continued object of study by literary critics since its publication. The book was widely criticized upon release because of its extensive use of coarse language. Throughout the 20th century, and despite arguments that the protagonist and the tenor of the book are anti-racist,[3][4] criticism of the book continued due to both its perceived use of racial stereotypes and its frequent use of the racial slur "nigger".


See also: List of Tom Sawyer characters

In order of appearance:

  • Tom Sawyer is Huck's best friend and peer, the main character of other Twain novels and the leader of the town boys in adventures. He is mischievous, good hearted, and "the best fighter and the smartest kid in town".[5]
  • Huckleberry Finn, "Huck" to his friends, is a boy about "thirteen or fourteen or along there" years old. (Chapter 17) He has been brought up by his father, the town drunk, and has a difficult time fitting into society. In the novel, Huck's good nature offers a contrast to the inadequacies and inequalities in society.
  • Widow Douglas is the kind woman who takes Huck in after he helped save her from a violent home invasion. She tries her best to civilize Huck, believing it is her Christian duty.
  • Miss Watson is the widow's sister, a tough old spinster who also lives with them. She is fairly hard on Huck, causing him to resent her a good deal. Mark Twain may have drawn inspiration for this character from several people he knew in his life.[5]
  • Jim is Miss Watson's physically large but mild-mannered slave. Huck becomes very close to Jim when they reunite after Jim flees Miss Watson's household to seek refuge from slavery, and Huck and Jim become fellow travelers on the Mississippi River.
  • "Pap" Finn, Huck's father, a brutal alcoholic drifter. He resents Huck getting any kind of education. His only genuine interest in his son involves begging or extorting money to feed his alcohol addiction.
  • Judith Loftus plays a small part in the novel — being the kind and perceptive woman whom Huck talks to in order to find out about the search for Jim — but many critics believe her to be the best drawn female character in the novel.[5]
  • The Grangerfords, an aristocratic Kentuckian family headed by the sexagenarian Colonel Saul Grangerford, take Huck in after he is separated from Jim on the Mississippi. Huck becomes close friends with the youngest male of the family, Buck Grangerford, who is Huck's age. By the time Huck meets them, the Grangerfords have been engaged in an age-old blood feud with another local family, the Shepherdsons.
  • The Duke and the King are two otherwise unnamed con artists whom Huck and Jim take aboard their raft just before the start of their Arkansas adventures. They pose as the long-lost Duke of Bridgewater and the long-dead Louis XVII of France in an attempt to over-awe Huck and Jim, who quickly come to recognize them for what they are, but cynically pretend to accept their claims to avoid conflict.
  • Doctor Robinson is the only man who recognizes that the King and Duke are phonies when they pretend to be British. He warns the townspeople, but they ignore him.
  • Mary Jane, Joanna, and Susan Wilks are the three young nieces of their wealthy guardian, Peter Wilks, who has recently died. The Duke and the King try to steal their inheritance by posing as Peter's estranged brothers from England.
  • Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps buy Jim from the Duke and the King. She is a loving, high-strung "farmer's wife", and he a plodding old man, both a farmer and a preacher. Huck poses as their nephew Tom Sawyer after he parts from the conmen.

Plot summary[edit]

Huckleberry Finn, as depicted by E. W. Kemblein the original 1884 edition of the book

In Missouri[edit]

The story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri (based on the actual town of Hannibal, Missouri), on the shore of the Mississippi River "forty to fifty years ago" (the novel having been published in 1884). Huckleberry "Huck" Finn (the protagonist and first-person narrator) and his friend, Thomas "Tom" Sawyer, have each come into a considerable sum of money as a result of their earlier adventures (detailed in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Huck explains how he is placed under the guardianship of the Widow Douglas, who, together with her stringent sister, Miss Watson, are attempting to "sivilize" him and teach him religion. Huck finds civilized life confining. His spirits are raised when Tom Sawyer helps him to slip past Miss Watson's slave, Jim, so he can meet up with Tom's gang of self-proclaimed "robbers". Just as the gang's activities begin to bore Huck, his shiftless father, "Pap", an abusive alcoholic, suddenly reappears. Huck, who knows his father will spend the money on alcohol, is successful at keeping his fortune out of his father's hands. Pap, however, kidnaps Huck and takes him out of town.

In Illinois, Jackson's Island and while going Downriver[edit]

Pap forcibly moves Huck to an abandoned cabin in the woods along the Illinois shoreline. To evade further violence and escape imprisonment, Huck elaborately fakes his own murder, steals his father's provisions, and sets off downriver in a 13/14-foot long canoe he finds drifting downstream. Soon, he settles comfortably on Jackson's Island, where he reunites with Jim, Miss Watson's slave. Jim has also run away after he overheard Miss Watson planning to sell him "down the river" to presumably more brutal owners. Jim plans to make his way to the town of Cairo in Illinois, a free state, so that he can later buy the rest of his enslaved family's freedom. At first, Huck is conflicted about the sin and crime of supporting a runaway slave, but as the two talk in-depth and bond over their mutually held superstitions, Huck emotionally connects with Jim, who increasingly becomes Huck's close friend and guardian. After heavy flooding on the river, the two find a raft (which they keep) as well as an entire house floating on the river (Chapter 9: "The House of Death Floats By"). Entering the house to seek loot, Jim finds the naked body of a dead man lying on the floor, shot in the back. He prevents Huck from viewing the corpse.[6]

To find out the latest news in town, Huck dresses as a girl and enters the house of Judith Loftus, a woman new to the area. Huck learns from her about the news of his own supposed murder; Pap was initially blamed, but since Jim ran away he is also a suspect and a reward of 300 dollars for Jim's capture has initiated a manhunt. Mrs. Loftus becomes increasingly suspicious that Huck is a boy, finally proving it by a series of tests. Huck develops another story on the fly and explains his disguise as the only way to escape from an abusive foster family. Once he is exposed, she nevertheless allows him to leave her home without commotion, not realizing that he is the allegedly murdered boy they have just been discussing. Huck returns to Jim to tell him the news and that a search party is coming to Jackson's Island that very night. The two hastily load up the raft and depart.

After a while, Huck and Jim come across a grounded steamer. Searching it, they stumble upon two thieves named Bill and Jake Packard discussing murdering a third named Jim Turner, but they flee before being noticed in the thieves' boat as their raft has drifted away. They find their own raft again and keep the thieves' loot and sink the thieves' boat. Huck tricks a watchman on a steamer into going to rescue the thieves stranded on the wreck to assuage his conscience. They are later separated in a fog, making Jim (on the raft) intensely anxious, and when they reunite, Huck tricks Jim into thinking he dreamed the entire incident. Jim is not deceived for long and is deeply hurt that his friend should have teased him so mercilessly. Huck becomes remorseful and apologizes to Jim, though his conscience troubles him about humbling himself to a Black man.

In Kentucky: the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons[edit]

Traveling onward, Huck and Jim's raft is struck by a passing steamship, again separating the two. Huck is given shelter on the Kentucky side of the river by the Grangerfords, an "aristocratic" family. He befriends Buck Grangerford, a boy about his age, and learns that the Grangerfords are engaged in a 30-year blood feud against another family, the Shepherdsons. Although Huck asks Buck why the feud started in the first place, he is told no-one knows anymore. The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons go to the same church, which ironically preaches brotherly love. The vendetta finally comes to a head when Buck's older sister elopes with a member of the Shepherdson clan. In the resulting conflict, all the Grangerford males from this branch of the family are shot and killed by the remaining Shepherdsons — including Buck, whose horrific murder Huck witnesses. He is immensely relieved to be reunited with Jim, who has since recovered and repaired the raft.

In Arkansas: the Duke and the King[edit]

Near the Arkansas-Missouri-Tennessee border, Jim and Huck take two on-the-run grifters aboard the raft. The younger man, who is about thirty, introduces himself as the long-lost son of an English duke (the Duke of Bridgewater). The older one, about seventy, then trumps this outrageous claim by alleging that he himself is the Lost Dauphin, the son of Louis XVI and rightful King of France. The "duke" and "king" soon become permanent passengers on Jim and Huck's raft, committing a series of confidence schemes upon unsuspecting locals all along their journey. To divert public suspicion from Jim, they pretend he is a runaway slave who has been recaptured, but later paint him blue and call him the "Sick Arab" so that he can move about the raft without bindings.

On one occasion, the swindlers advertise a three-night engagement of a play called "The Royal Nonesuch". The play turns out to be only a couple of minutes' worth of an absurd, bawdy sham. On the afternoon of the first performance, a drunk called Boggs is shot dead by a gentleman named Colonel Sherburn; a lynch mob forms to retaliate against Sherburn; and Sherburn, surrounded at his home, disperses the mob by making a defiant speech describing how true lynching should be done. By the third night of "The Royal Nonesuch", the townspeople prepare for their revenge on the duke and king for their money-making scam, but the two cleverly skip town together with Huck and Jim just before the performance begins.

In the next town, the two swindlers then impersonate brothers of Peter Wilks, a recently deceased man of property. To match accounts of Wilks's brothers, the king attempts an English accent and the duke pretends to be a deaf-mute while starting to collect Wilks's inheritance. Huck decides that Wilks's three orphaned nieces, who treat Huck with kindness, do not deserve to be cheated thus and so he tries to retrieve for them the stolen inheritance. In a desperate moment, Huck is forced to hide the money in Wilks's coffin, which is abruptly buried the next morning. The arrival of two new men who seem to be the real brothers throws everything into confusion, so that the townspeople decide to dig up the coffin in order to determine which are the true brothers, but, with everyone else distracted, Huck leaves for the raft, hoping to never see the duke and king again. Suddenly, though, the two villains return, much to Huck's despair. When Huck is finally able to get away a second time, he finds to his horror that the swindlers have sold Jim away to a family that intends to return him to his proper owner for the reward. Defying his conscience and accepting the negative religious consequences he expects for his actions—"All right, then, I'll go to hell!"—Huck resolves to free Jim once and for all.

On the Phelps' farm[edit]

Huck learns that Jim is being held at the plantation of Silas and Sally Phelps. The family's nephew, Tom, is expected for a visit at the same time as Huck's arrival, so Huck is mistaken for Tom and welcomed into their home. He plays along, hoping to find Jim's location and free him; in a surprising plot twist, it is revealed that the expected nephew is, in fact, Tom Sawyer. When Huck intercepts the real Tom Sawyer on the road and tells him everything, Tom decides to join Huck's scheme, pretending to be his own younger half-brother, Sid, while Huck continues pretending to be Tom. In the meantime, Jim has told the family about the two grifters and the new plan for "The Royal Nonesuch", and so the townspeople capture the duke and king, who are then tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

Rather than simply sneaking Jim out of the shed where he is being held, Tom develops an elaborate plan to free him, involving secret messages, a hidden tunnel, snakes in a shed, a rope ladder sent in Jim's food, and other elements from adventure books he has read,[7] including an anonymous note to the Phelps warning them of the whole scheme. During the actual escape and resulting pursuit, Tom is shot in the leg, while Jim remains by his side, risking recapture rather than completing his escape alone. Although a local doctor admires Jim's decency, he has Jim arrested in his sleep and returned to the Phelps. After this, events quickly resolve themselves. Tom's Aunt Polly arrives and reveals Huck and Tom's true identities to the Phelps family. Jim is revealed to be a free man: Miss Watson died two months earlier and freed Jim in her will, but Tom (who already knew this) chose not to reveal this information to Huck so that he could come up with an artful rescue plan for Jim. Jim tells Huck that Huck's father (Pap Finn) has been dead for some time (he was the dead man they found earlier in the floating house), and so Huck may now return safely to St. Petersburg. Huck declares that he is quite glad to be done writing his story, and despite Sally's plans to adopt and civilize him, he intends to flee west to Indian Territory.


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn explores themes of race and identity. A complexity exists concerning Jim's character. While some scholars point out that Jim is good-hearted and moral, and he is not unintelligent (in contrast to several of the more negatively depicted white characters), others have criticized the novel as racist, citing the use of the word "nigger" and emphasizing the stereotypically "comic" treatment of Jim's lack of education, superstition and ignorance.[8][9]

Throughout the story, Huck is in moral conflict with the received values of the society in which he lives. Huck is unable consciously to rebut those values even in his thoughts but he makes a moral choice based on his own valuation of Jim's friendship and human worth, a decision in direct opposition to the things he has been taught. Twain, in his lecture notes, proposes that "a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience" and goes on to describe the novel as "...a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat".[10]

To highlight the hypocrisy required to condone slavery within an ostensibly moral system, Twain has Huck's father enslave his son, isolate him and beat him. When Huck escapes, he immediately encounters Jim "illegally" doing the same thing. The treatments both of them receive are radically different, especially in an encounter with Mrs. Judith Loftus who takes pity on who she presumes to be a runaway apprentice, Huck, yet boasts about her husband sending the hounds after a runaway slave, Jim.[11]

Some scholars discuss Huck's own character, and the novel itself, in the context of its relation to African-American culture as a whole. John Alberti quotes Shelley Fisher Fishkin, who writes in her 1990s book Was Huck Black?: Mark Twain and African-American Voices, "by limiting their field of inquiry to the periphery," white scholars "have missed the ways in which African-American voices shaped Twain's creative imagination at its core." It is suggested that the character of Huckleberry Finn illustrates the correlation, and even interrelatedness, between white and Black culture in the United States.[12]


The original illustrations were done by E.W. Kemble, at the time a young artist working for Life magazine. Kemble was hand-picked by Twain, who admired his work. Hearn suggests that Twain and Kemble had a similar skill, writing that:

Whatever he may have lacked in technical grace ... Kemble shared with the greatest illustrators the ability to give even the minor individual in a text his own distinct visual personality; just as Twain so deftly defined a full-rounded character in a few phrases, so too did Kemble depict with a few strokes of his pen that same entire personage.[13]

As Kemble could afford only one model, most of his illustrations produced for the book were done by guesswork. When the novel was published, the illustrations were praised even as the novel was harshly criticized. E.W. Kemble produced another set of illustrations for Harper's and the American Publishing Company in 1898 and 1899 after Twain lost the copyright.[14]

Publication's effect on literary climate[edit]

Twain initially conceived of the work as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that would follow Huckleberry Finn through adulthood. Beginning with a few pages he had removed from the earlier novel, Twain began work on a manuscript he originally titled Huckleberry Finn's Autobiography. Twain worked on the manuscript off and on for the next several years, ultimately abandoning his original plan of following Huck's development into adulthood. He appeared to have lost interest in the manuscript while it was in progress, and set it aside for several years. After making a trip down the Hudson River, Twain returned to his work on the novel. Upon completion, the novel's title closely paralleled its predecessor's: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade).[15]

Mark Twain composed the story in pen on notepaper between 1876 and 1883. Paul Needham, who supervised the authentication of the manuscript for Sotheby's books and manuscripts department in New York in 1991, stated, "What you see is [Clemens'] attempt to move away from pure literary writing to dialect writing". For example, Twain revised the opening line of Huck Finn three times. He initially wrote, "You will not know about me", which he changed to, "You do not know about me", before settling on the final version, "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; but that ain't no matter."[16] The revisions also show how Twain reworked his material to strengthen the characters of Huck and Jim, as well as his sensitivity to the then-current debate over literacy and voting.[17][18]

A later version was the first typewritten manuscript delivered to a printer.[19]

Demand for the book spread outside of the United States. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was eventually published on December 10, 1884, in Canada and the United Kingdom, and on February 18, 1885, in the United States.[20] The illustration on page 283 became a point of issue after an engraver, whose identity was never discovered, made a last-minute addition to the printing plate of Kemble's picture of old Silas Phelps, which drew attention to Phelps' groin. Thirty thousand copies of the book had been printed before the obscenity was discovered. A new plate was made to correct the illustration and repair the existing copies.[21][22]

In 1885, the Buffalo Public Library's curator, James Fraser Gluck, approached Twain to donate the manuscript to the library. Twain did so. Later it was believed that half of the pages had been misplaced by the printer. In 1991, the missing first half turned up in a steamer trunk owned by descendants of Gluck's. The library successfully claimed possession and, in 1994, opened the Mark Twain Room to showcase the treasure.[23]

In relation to the literary climate at the time of the book's publication in 1885, Henry Nash Smith describes the importance of Mark Twain's already established reputation as a "professional humorist", having already published over a dozen other works. Smith suggests that while the "dismantling of the decadent Romanticism of the later nineteenth century was a necessary operation," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn illustrated "previously inaccessible resources of imaginative power, but also made vernacular language, with its new sources of pleasure and new energy, available for American prose and poetry in the twentieth century."[24]

Critical reception and banning[edit]

In this scene illustrated by E. W. Kemble, Jim has given Huck up for dead and when he reappears thinks he must be a ghost.

While it is clear that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was controversial from the outset, Norman Mailer, writing in The New York Times in 1984, concluded that Twain's novel was not initially "too unpleasantly regarded." In fact, Mailer writes: "the critical climate could hardly anticipate T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway's encomiums 50 years later," reviews that would remain longstanding in the American consciousness.[25]

Alberti suggests that the academic establishment responded to the book's challenges both dismissively and with confusion. During Twain's time and today, defenders of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn "lump all nonacademic critics of the book together as extremists and 'censors', thus equating the complaints about the book's 'coarseness' from the genteel bourgeois trustees of the Concord Public Library in the 1880s with more recent objections based on race and civil rights."[12]

Upon issue of the American edition in 1885, several libraries banned it from their shelves.[26] The early criticism focused on what was perceived as the book's crudeness. One incident was recounted in the newspaper the Boston Transcript:

The Concord (Mass.) Public Library committee has decided to exclude Mark Twain's latest book from the library. One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The library and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people.[27]

Writer Louisa May Alcott criticized the book's publication as well, saying that if Twain "[could not] think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses he had best stop writing for them".[28][29]

Twain later remarked to his editor, "Apparently, the Concord library has condemned Huck as 'trash and only suitable for the slums.' This will sell us another twenty-five thousand copies for sure!"

In 1905, New York's Brooklyn Public Library also banned the book due to "bad word choice" and Huck's having "not only itched but scratched" within the novel, which was considered obscene. When asked by a Brooklyn librarian about the situation, Twain sardonically replied:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote 'Tom Sawyer' & 'Huck Finn' for adults exclusively, & it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.[30]

Many subsequent critics, Ernest Hemingway among them, have deprecated the final chapters, claiming the book "devolves into little more than minstrel-show satire and broad comedy" after Jim is detained.[31] Although Hemingway declared, "All modern American literature comes from" Huck Finn, and hailed it as "the best book we've had", he cautioned, "If you must read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys [sic]. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating."[32][33] However, the noted African-American writer Ralph Ellison argues that "Hemingway missed completely the structural, symbolic and moral necessity for that part of the plot in which the boys rescue Jim. Yet it is precisely this part which gives the novel its significance."[34]Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Powers states in his Twain biography (Mark Twain: A Life) that "Huckleberry Finn endures as a consensus masterpiece despite these final chapters", in which Tom Sawyer leads Huck through elaborate machinations to rescue Jim.[35]


In his introduction to The Annotated Huckleberry Finn, Michael Patrick Hearn writes that Twain "could be uninhibitedly vulgar", and quotes critic William Dean Howells, a Twain contemporary, who wrote that the author's "humor was not for most women". However, Hearn continues by explaining that "the reticent Howells found nothing in the proofs of Huckleberry Finn so offensive that it needed to be struck out".[36]

Much of modern scholarship of Huckleberry Finn has focused on its treatment of race. Many Twain scholars have argued that the book, by humanizing Jim and exposing the fallacies of the racist assumptions of slavery, is an attack on racism.[37] Others have argued that the book falls short on this score, especially in its depiction of Jim.[26] According to Professor Stephen Railton of the University of Virginia, Twain was unable to fully rise above the stereotypes of Black people that white readers of his era expected and enjoyed, and, therefore, resorted to minstrel show-style comedy to provide humor at Jim's expense, and ended up confirming rather than challenging late-19th century racist stereotypes.[38]

In one instance, the controversy caused a drastically altered interpretation of the text: in 1955, CBS tried to avoid controversial material in a televised version of the book, by deleting all mention of slavery and omitting the character of Jim entirely.[39]

Because of this controversy over whether Huckleberry Finn is racist or anti-racist, and because the word "nigger" is frequently used in the novel (a commonly used word in Twain's time that has since become vulgar and taboo), many have questioned the appropriateness of teaching the book in the U.S. public school system—this questioning of the word "nigger" is illustrated by a school administrator of Virginia in 1982 calling the novel the "most grotesque example of racism I've ever seen in my life".[40] According to the American Library Association, Huckleberry Finn was the fifth most frequently challenged book in the United States during the 1990s.[41]

There have been several more recent cases involving protests for the banning of the novel. In 2003, high school student Calista Phair and her grandmother, Beatrice Clark, in Renton, Washington, proposed banning the book from classroom learning in the Renton School District, though not from any public libraries, because of the word "nigger". The two curriculum committees that considered her request eventually decided to keep the novel on the 11th grade curriculum, though they suspended it until a panel had time to review the novel and set a specific teaching procedure for the novel's controversial topics.[42]

In 2009, a Washington state high school teacher, John Foley, called for replacing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a more modern novel.[43] In an opinion column that Foley wrote in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, he states that all "novels that use the ‘N-word' repeatedly need to go." He states that teaching the novel is not only unnecessary, but difficult due to the offensive language within the novel with many students becoming uncomfortable at "just hear[ing] the N-word."[44]

In 2016, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was removed from a public school district in Virginia, along with the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, due to their use of racial slurs.[45][46]

Expurgated editions[edit]

Publishers have made their own attempts at easing the controversy by way of releasing editions of the book with the word "nigger" replaced by less controversial words. A 2011 edition of the book, published by NewSouth Books, employed the word "slave" (although the word is not properly applied to a freed man). Their argument for making the change was to offer the reader a choice of reading a "sanitized" version if they were not comfortable with the original.[47] Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben said he hoped the edition would be more friendly for use in classrooms, rather than have the work banned outright from classroom reading lists due to its language.[48]

According to publisher Suzanne La Rosa, "At NewSouth, we saw the value in an edition that would help the works find new readers. If the publication sparks good debate about how language impacts learning or about the nature of censorship or the way in which racial slurs exercise their baneful influence, then our mission in publishing this new edition of Twain's works will be more emphatically fulfilled."[49] Another scholar, Thomas Wortham, criticized the changes, saying the new edition "doesn't challenge children to ask, 'Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?'"[50]



  • Huck and Tom (1918 silent) by Famous Players-Lasky; directed by William Desmond Taylor; starring Jack Pickford as Tom, Robert Gordon as Huck and Clara Horton as Becky[51]
  • Huckleberry Finn (1920 silent) by Famous Players-Lasky; directed by William Desmond Taylor; starring Lewis Sargent as Huck, Gordon Griffith as Tom and Thelma Salter as Becky[52][53]
  • Huckleberry Finn (1931) by Paramount Pictures; directed by Norman Taurog; starring Jackie Coogan as Tom, Junior Durkin as Huck, and Mitzi Green as Becky[53][54]
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939) by MGM; directed by Richard Thorpe; starring Mickey Rooney as Huck[55]
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1955), starring Thomas Mitchell and John Carradine[56]
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Eddie Hodges and Archie Moore[57]
  • Hopelessly Lost (1973), a Soviet film[58]
  • Huckleberry Finn (1974), a musical film[59]
  • Huckleberry Finn (1975), an ABC movie of the week with Ron Howard as Huck Finn[60]
  • The Adventures of Con Sawyer and Hucklemary Finn (1985), an ABC movie of the week with Drew Barrymore as Con Sawyer[61]
  • The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), starring Elijah Wood and Courtney B. Vance[62]
  • Tom and Huck (1995), starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Tom and Brad Renfro as Huck[63]
  • Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue (2008), a VeggieTales parody[64]
  • The Adventures of Huck Finn [de] (2012), a German film starring Leon Seidel and directed by Hermine Huntgeburth[65]
  • Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn (2014), starring Joel Courtney as Tom Sawyer, Jake T. Austin as Huckleberry Finn, Katherine McNamara as Becky Thatcher[66]



Related works[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade)…. 1885.
  2. ^"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Summary & Characters". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  3. ^Twain, Mark (October 1885). Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).... ... - Full View – HathiTrust Digital Library – HathiTrust Digital Library. HathiTrust.
  4. ^Jacob O'Leary, "Critical Annotation of "Minstrel Shackles and Nineteenth Century 'Liberality' in Huckleberry Finn" (Fredrick Woodard and Donnarae MacCann)," Wiki Service, University of Iowa, last modified February 11, 2012, accessed April 12, 2012Archived March 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ abcHill, Richard (2002). Mark Twain Among The Scholars: Reconsidering Contemporary Twain Criticism. SJK Publishing Industries, Inc. pp. 67–90. ISBN .
  6. ^Ira Fistell (2012). Ira Fistell's Mark Twain: Three Encounters. Xlibris. ISBN 9781469178721 p. 94. "Huck and Jim's first adventure together—the House of Death incident which occupies Chapter 9. This sequence seems to me to be quite important both to the technical functioning of the plot and to the larger meaning of the novel. The House of Death is a two-story frame building that comes floating downstream, one paragraph after Huck and Jim catch their soon—to—be famous raft. While Twain never explicitly says so, his description of the house and its contents ..."
  7. ^Victor A. Doyno (1991). Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain's creative process. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 191. ISBN .
  8. ^2. Jacob O'Leary, "Critical Annotation of "Minstrel Shackles and Nineteenth Century 'Liberality' in Huckleberry Finn" (Fredrick Woodard and Donnarae MacCann)," Wiki Service, University of Iowa, last modified February 11, 2012, accessed April 12, 2012Archived March 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^Fredrick Woodard and Donnarae MacCann, "Minstrel Shackles and Nineteenth Century "Liberality" in Huckleberry Finn," in Satire or evasion?: Black perspectives on Huckleberry Finn, eds. James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney, and Thadious M. Davis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992).
  10. ^Mark Twain (1895). Notebook No. 35. Typescript, P. 35. Mark Twain Papers. Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
  11. ^Foley, Barbara (1995). "Reviewed work: Satire or Evasion? Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn, James S. Leonard, Thomas A. Tenney, Thadious Davis; the Word in Black and White: Reading "Race" in American Literature, 1638-1867, Dana D. Nelson". Modern Philology. 92 (3): 379–385. doi:10.1086/392258. JSTOR 438790.
  12. ^ abAlberti, John (1995). "The Nigger Huck: Race, Identity, and the Teaching of Huckleberry Finn". College English. 57 (8): 919–937. doi:10.2307/378621. JSTOR 378621.
  13. ^Twain, Mark (Samuel L. Clemens) (2001). The Annotated Huckleberry Finn : Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade). Introduction, notes, and bibliography by Michael Patrick Hearn (1st ed.). New York, NY [u.a.]: Norton. pp. xlv–xlvi. ISBN .
  14. ^Cope, Virginia H. "Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: Text, Illustrations, and Early Reviews". University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on January 17, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  15. ^Mark Twain and Michael Patrick Hearn, The Annotated Huckleberry Finn: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1981).
  16. ^Philip Young, Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration, (University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1966), 212.
  17. ^Baker, William (1996). "Reviewed work: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain". The Antioch Review. 54 (3): 363–364. doi:10.2307/4613362. hdl:2027/dul1.ark:/13960/t1sf9415m. JSTOR 4613362.
  18. ^Rita Reif, "First Half of 'Huck Finn,' in Twain's Hand, Is Found," The New York Times, last modified February 17, 1991, accessed April 12, 2012
  19. ^William Baker, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain"
  20. ^McCrum, Robert (February 24, 2014). "The 100 best novels: No 23 – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884/5)". The Guardian. London. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  21. ^Walter Blair, Mark Twain & Huck Finn (Berkeley: University of California, 1960).
  22. ^"All Modern Literature Comes from One Book by Mark Twain"
  23. ^Rita Reif, "ANTIQUES; How 'Huck Finn' Was Rescued," The New York Times, last modified March 17, 1991, accessed April 12, 2012
  24. ^Smith, Henry Nash; Finn, Huckleberry (1984). "The Publication of "Huckleberry Finn": A Centennial Retrospect". Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 37 (5): 18–40. doi:10.2307/3823856. JSTOR 3823856.
  25. ^Norman Mailer, "Huckleberry Finn, Alive at 100," The New York Times, last modified December 9, 1984, accessed April 12, 2012
  26. ^ abLeonard, James S.; Thomas A. Tenney; Thadious M. Davis (December 1992). Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn. Duke University Press. p. 2. ISBN .
  27. ^Shelley Fisher Fishkin, "Was Huck Black?: Mark Twain and African-American Voices" (New York: Oxford UP, 1993) 115.
  28. ^Brown, Robert. "One Hundred Years of Huck Finn". American Heritage Magazine. Archived from the original on January 19, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  29. ^"One Hundred Years Of Huck Finn – AMERICAN HERITAGE".
  30. ^Marjorie Kehe, "The 'n'-word Gone from Huck Finn – What Would Mark Twain Say? A New Expurgated Edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' Has Got Some Twain Scholars up in Arms," The Christian Science Monitor, last modified January 5, 2011, accessed April 12, 2012
  31. ^Nick Gillespie, "Mark Twain vs. Tom Sawyer: The Bold Deconstruction of a National Icon," Reason, last modified February 2006, accessed April 12, 2012
  32. ^Ernest Hemingway (1935). Green Hills of Africa. New York: Scribner. p. 22.
  33. ^Norman Mailer, "Huckleberry Finn, Alive at 100"
  34. ^"Twentieth Century Fiction and the Mask of Humanity" in Shadow and Act
  35. ^Ron Powers (2005). Mark Twain: A Life. New York: FreePress. pp. 476–77.
  36. ^Mark Twain and Michael Patrick Hearn, 8.
  37. ^For example, Shelley Fisher Fishin, Lighting out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
  38. ^Stephen Railton, "Jim and Mark Twain: What Do Dey Stan' For?," The Virginia Quarterly Review, last modified 1987, accessed April 12, 2012
  39. ^Alex Sharp, "Student Edition of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Is Censored by Editor"
  40. ^Robert B. Brown, "One Hundred Years of Huck Finn"
  41. ^"100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999". March 27, 2013.
  42. ^Gregory Roberts, "'Huck Finn' a Masterpiece -- or an Insult," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, last modified November 25, 2003, accessed April 12, 2012
  43. ^"Wash. teacher calls for 'Huck Finn' ban". UPI. January 19, 2009.
  44. ^John Foley, "Guest Columnist: Time to Update Schools' Reading Lists," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, last modified January 5, 2009, accessed April 13, 2012
  45. ^Allen, Nick (December 5, 2016). "To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn banned from schools in Virginia for racism". Telegraph. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  46. ^"Books suspended by Va. school for racial slurs". CBS News. December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  47. ^""Huckleberry Finn" and the N-word debate". Retrieved August 6, 2021.
  48. ^"New Edition Of 'Huckleberry Finn' Will Eliminate Offensive Words". January 4, 2011.
  49. ^"A word about the NewSouth edition of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – NewSouth Books".
  50. ^""New Editions of Mark Twain Novels to Remove Racial Slurs," Herald Sun, last modified January 4, 2011, accessed April 16, 2012". Archived from the original on April 21, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  51. ^Huck and Tom at the American Film Institute Catalog
  52. ^IMDB, Huckleberry Finn (1920)
  53. ^ abwes-connors (February 29, 1920). "Huckleberry Finn (1920)". IMDb.
  54. ^IMDB, Huckleberry Finn (1931)
  55. ^The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the American Film Institute Catalog
  56. ^The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at IMDb
  57. ^The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the American Film Institute Catalog
  58. ^Hopelessly Lost at AllMovie
  59. ^Huckleberry Finn at the TCM Movie Database
  60. ^Huckleberry Finn at IMDb
  61. ^The Adventures of Con Sawyer and Hucklemary Finn at the TCM Movie Database
  62. ^The Adventures of Huck Finn at AllMovie
  63. ^Tom and Huck at AllMovie
  64. ^Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue at IMDb
  65. ^The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at IMDb
  66. ^Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn at IMDb
  67. ^Huckleberry no Bōken (anime) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
  68. ^Huckleberry Finn and His Friends at IMDb
  69. ^Huckleberry Finn Monogatari (anime) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
  70. ^The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  71. ^Big River at the Internet Broadway Database
  72. ^Manga Classics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (2017) UDON Entertainment ISBN 978-1772940176
  73. ^Matthews, Greg (May 28, 1983). The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Crown Publishers. ISBN  – via Google Books.
  74. ^LeClair, Tom. "A Reconstruction and a Sequel." Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, September 25, 1983.
  75. ^Kirby, David. "Energetic Sequel to 'Huckleberry Finn' is Faithful to Original." The Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 1983.
  76. ^Kirkus Review: The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Greg Matthews. Kirkus, September 9, 1983.
  77. ^Ledin, Victor and Marina A. "GROFE: Grand Canyon Suite / Mississippi Suite / Niagara Falls". Naxos Records. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  78. ^"Huckleberry Finn EP". Duke Special. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  79. ^The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at IMDb

Further reading[edit]

  • Beaver, Harold, et al., eds. "The Role of Structure in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn." Huckleberry Finn. Vol. 1. No. 8. (New York: Johns Hopkins Textual Studies, 1987) pp. 1–57.
  • Brown, Clarence A. "Huckleberry Finn: A Study in Structure and Point of View." Mark Twain Journal 12.2 (1964): 10-15. Online
  • Buchen, Callista. "Writing the Imperial Question at Home: Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians Revisited." Mark Twain Annual 9 (2011): 111-129. online
  • Gribben, Alan. "Tom Sawyer, Tom Canty, and Huckleberry Finn: The Boy Book and Mark Twain." Mark Twain Journal 55.1/2 (2017): 127-144 online
  • Levy, Andrew, Huck Finn's America: Mark Twain and the Era that Shaped His Masterpiece. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015.
  • Quirk, Tom. "The Flawed Greatness of Huckleberry Finn." American Literary Realism 45.1 (2012): 38-48.
  • Saunders, George. "The United States of Huck: Introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Modern Library Classics, 2001) ISBN 978-0375757372, reprinted in Saunders, George, The Braindead Megaphone: Essays (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007) ISBN 978-1-59448-256-4
  • Smiley, Jane (January 1996). "Say It Ain't So, Huck: Second thoughts on Mark Twain's "masterpiece""(PDF). Harper's Magazine. 292 (1748): 61–.
  • Tibbetts, John C., And James M, Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film (2005) pp 1–3.

Study and teaching tools[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at Standard Ebooks
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at Project Gutenberg
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn public domain audiobook at LibriVox
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with all the original illustrations – Free Online – Mark Twain Project (printed 2003 University of California Press, online 2009 MTPO) Rich editorial material accompanies text, including detailed historical notes, glossaries, maps, and documentary appendixes, which record the author's revisions as well as unauthorized textual variations.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Digitized copy of the first American edition from Internet Archive (1885).
  • "Special Collections: Mark Twain Room (Houses original manuscript of Huckleberry Finn)". Libraries of Buffalo & Erie County. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved September 21, 2007.

Underwater Museum Allows Divers to Explore Shipwrecks From the Battle of Gallipoli


Ready to take a deep dive into history—literally? Scuba divers can now explore the hulks of British and French ships sunk off the coast of Turkey during World War I’s Gallipoli Campaign.

Tourism officials have transformed the century-old wrecks in the Dardanelles Strait into a “museum under the sea,” reports Diego Cupolo for the London Times. The ships sank in 1915, when Ottoman and Allied forces faced off on the Gallipoli peninsula—a deadly victory by the Central Powers that would impact the lives of future world leaders Winston Churchill and Mustafa Kemal.

The Gallipoli Historic Underwater Park opened this month near the Turkish seaport of Canakkale, next to the ancient Greek ruins of Troy. Visitors can dive to the wrecks of 14 warships, including the HMS Majestic, a 421-foot British battleship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 27, 1915.

“It’s like a time machine that takes you back to 1915 and World War I,” diver and documentary maker Savas Karakas tells Fulya Ozerkan of Agence-France Presse (AFP).

Underwater Museum Allows Divers to Explore Shipwrecks From the Battle of Gallipoli

Some of the wrecks are in relatively shallow waters of less than 25 feet. Others are deeper at around 60 to 100 feet. One sunken ship—HMS Triumph—rests 230 feet below the surface.

Yusuf Kartal, an official with Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, tells TRT World’s Karya Naz Balkiz that the underwater park is “a different world.”

He adds, “You see the submerged ship[s] as they were 106 years ago and experience the chaos of war secondhand.”

Despite the continued threat posed by unexploded mines and ordnance, Turkish authorities decided to open the area to divers. (“In the whole Dardanelles we have many thousands” of live torpedoes, Kartal says to Joshua Hammer of the New York Times; most “require a serious jolt to detonate.”) The government’s decision—and the broader practice of diving to wartime shipwrecks—has drawn criticism from those who consider the sunken vessels military graveyards, the London Times reports.

Plans to turn the wrecks into an underwater park took shape in 2017, following the centennial of the 1915–16 campaign. Officials had hoped to open the park this summer but were forced to delay until October by the resurging Covid-19 pandemic.

“There was history and treasure lying underwater for more than 100 years,” Ismail Kasdemir, head of the Canakkale Historical Site, tells AFP. “The diving community was curious.”

Underwater Museum Allows Divers to Explore Shipwrecks From the Battle of Gallipoli

Though British and French troops landed on Gallipoli on February 17, 1915, actual combat did not begin until April 25. The Allies planned to march up the peninsula, capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and open a path to the Black Sea that would give Russia access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Conceived by Churchill, then first lord of the admiralty, the operation’s bitter trench warfare resulted in massive casualties on both sides. The Allies abandoned the campaign 11 months later, in January 1916, and the disgraced Churchill retreated from politics for nearly 20 years. He would return to office in 1940, leading Great Britain to victory in World War II as prime minister.

The Allies’ failure at Gallipoli owed much to Ottoman commander Kemal, who succeeded in preventing British and French forces from advancing past their beachheads in several key battles. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, Kemal helped establish the Republic of Turkey as a secular state and adopted the surname of Atatürk, or “Father Turk.”

Today, residents of Turkey view the Ottoman victory at Gallipoli as a defining moment for the end of the empire and the birth of a new nation. Karakas, whose grandfather was wounded at Gallipoli, remembers seeing scars from the battle on his loved one’s hands.

“I was always scared of them,” Karakas tells Reuters’ Yesim Dikmen and Mehmet Emin Caliskan. “But when I come to Gallipoli and dive, the rusted metal and steel of the wrecks reminds me of my grandfather's hands and I hold his hand under the water.”

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Marvel's What If...?: 10 Epic Battles You'd Never See in the Regular MCU

Warning: This article contains full spoilers for Marvel's What If...?: Season 1! For more on the animated series, check out our review of the Season 1 finale, and then see our breakdown of the most shocking What If...? moments and a list of all the returning MCU actors.

Now that Loki has opened up the Marvel multiverse, Marvel's What If...? has shown us some of the alternate realities where life in the MCU took a slightly different turn. Over the course of Season 1, we saw some pretty wild superhero battles, including a number that would flat-out never happen in the regular MCU.

From Hank Pym showing how to beat a Hulk to Uatu going full Dragon Ball Z against Ultron, let's take a look back at the biggest and most unexpected match-ups in What If...?: Season 1.

Captain Carter vs. Shuma-Gorath

While the premiere episode follows the main story beats of Captain America: The First Avenger pretty closely, it does take a last-minute swerve. Rather than duke it out with Red Skull, Captain Carter is faced with a much bigger and more powerful enemy - the unholy monstrosity known as Shuma-Gorath. We might have expected this monster to appear in a future Doctor Strange movie, but not trading blows with a serum-empowered version of Peggy Carter. Good thing this Cap carries a sword along with her shield.

The Ravagers vs. The Collector and The Black Order

In the Avengers movies, the Black Order are happy to do the bidding of their master Thanos. Who would have thought we'd see the Mad Titan fight against these minions, and as a teammate of T'Challa, no less? The role reversal is strong in the climax of Episode 2. This episode also does far more than the movies ever have in showcasing the threat posed by The Collector. When you've accumulated valuable trophies like Captain America's shield and Hela's helmet, even the galaxy's brightest heroes are outmatched.

Hulk vs. Yellowjacket

There's super-strength, and then there's the Hulk. The Green Guy's power is near-incalculable, and he's perfectly capable of fending off entire army battalions on his own (as we saw once more in this episode). But we also learned just how easily even the Hulk can fall when someone has the right tools. One Magic School Bus-style trip into Hulk's bloodstream and Hank Pym is able to plant a bomb that explodes Hulk from the inside. A real blowout victory, if you will. It's a stark reminder of just how dangerous Pym's technology can be when in the wrong hands. Especially if those hands are his own.

"Nick Fury" vs. Yellowjacket

Episode 3 gave us another unexpected match-up when Nick Fury confronted a grieving Hank Pym at the grave of Hope van Dyne. For once, we saw Fury taking matters into his own hands and putting up a surprisingly good fight against his much more powerful foe. Who knew Fury was so limber? Of course, by the end it was clear "Fury" was actually Loki in disguise, but still. We're not apt to see this alliance in the regular MCU anytime soon.

Doctor Strange vs. Strange Supreme

Doctor Strange has already gone up against some of the most terrifying villains in the MCU, including Dormammu and Thanos. Who would have thought his greatest battle would be against himself? Episode 4 shows us the full power of magic unleashed when the good and evil halves of Strange collide. And where our Stephen Strange would surely find a way of triumphing in the regular MCU, all bets are off in the realm of What If...?. By the end, Strange Supreme found himself the sole survivor of a universe torn to shreds by his actions.

Doctor Strange's Cloak vs. The Marvel Zombies

The MCU movies have established Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation as a character unto itself, one who doesn't always obey the whims of its master. That really pays off in the opening moments of Episode 5, where the Cloak shows up just in time to save a befuddled Bruce Banner from zombified versions of the Avengers and the Black Order. When the enemy thrives on human flesh, it sure pays to have an ally who has no flesh of its own.

Wakanda vs. the US Military

This may be What If...?, but Episode 6 showed us an all too believable turn of events when General Ross waged war against the nation of Wakanda. It turns out global superpowers don't like it when a remote African nation suddenly turns out to be king of the technological hill. It doesn't help that Episode 6 casts Killmonger as an Emperor Palpatine-esque mastermind manipulating both sides. The end result is a bombastic clash between Wakanda's elite warriors and a fleet of Killmonger/Tony Stark-designed anime robots. Compared to this episode, the scope of the final battle in 2018's Black Panther feels quaint.

Thor vs. Captain Marvel

Thor and Captain Marvel were both off-world during the events of Civil War, which is probably just as well for the sake of the planet. But if you've ever wondered what might happen if these two strongest Avengers went head-to-head, Episode 7 has the answer. We've never seen punches land this hard in the movies. Each blow sends these heroes flying across entire continents. Fortunately, this feud proved to be as short-lived as hero vs. hero rivalries usually are.

Ultron vs. Uatu

Episode 8 marked a major turning point for Marvel's What If...?, as Uatu shifted from passive observer to active defender of the multiverse. It takes a special kind of villain to orchestrate that change, and we got just that with a turbo-charged version of Ultron. The ensuing battle may well be the biggest and most memorable in the series so far. Who knew Uatu had that kind of power to throw around? Not that it was enough to stop a being with a perfect Synthezoid body and the power of the Infinity Gauntlet.

The Guardians of the Multiverse vs. Ultron

The season finale delivered Round 2 of the epic Ultron throwdown, with the newly minted Guardians of the Multiverse giving their all to stop Ultron. Between a Doctor Strange imbued with the power of countless demonic entities and an Ultron capable of rewriting reality as we know it, the power levels here were off the charts. Where else will you see a portal dump thousands of Marvel Zombies on top of a killer android? The Avengers should count themselves lucky they only ever had to deal with vanilla Ultron.

Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.


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AI flaws could make your next car racist

Tesla recently announced the newest version of its self-driving car software, following the software’s role in a dozen reported collisions with emergency vehicles that are the subject of a federal agency probe. While these collisions happened for a variety of reasons, a major factor may be that the artificial intelligence driving the car is not used to seeing flashing lights and vehicles pulled over on the shoulder, so the underlying algorithms react in unpredictable and catastrophic ways.

Modern AI systems are "trained" on massive datasets of photographs and video footage from various sources, and use that training to determine appropriate behavior. But, if the footage doesn’t include lots of examples of specific behaviors, like how to slow down near emergency vehicles, the AI will not learn the appropriate behaviors. Thus, they crash into ambulances.

Given these types of disastrous failures, one recent trend in machine learning is to identify these neglected cases and create "synthetic" training data to help the AI learn. Using the same algorithms that Hollywood used to assemble the Incredible Hulk in "The Avengers: Endgame" from a stream of ones and zeros, photorealistic images of emergency vehicles that never existed in real life are conjured from the digital ether and fed to the AI.

I have been designing and using these algorithms for the last 20 years, starting with the software used to generate the sorting hat in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone," up through recent films from Pixar, where I used to be a senior research scientist.

Using these algorithms to train AIs is extremely dangerous, because they were specifically designed to depict white humans. All the sophisticated physics, computer science and statistics that undergird this software were designed to realistically depict the diffuse glow of pale, white skin and the smooth glints in long, straight hair. In contrast, computer graphics researchers have not systematically investigated the shine and gloss that characterizes dark and Black skin, or the characteristics of Afro-textured hair. As a result, the physics of these visual phenomena are not encoded in the Hollywood algorithms.

To be sure, synthetic Black people have been depicted in film, such as in last year’s Pixar movie "Soul." But behind the scenes, the lighting artists found that they had to push the software far outside its default settings and learn all new lighting techniques to create these characters. These tools were not designed to make nonwhite humans; even the most technically sophisticated artists in the world strained to use them effectively.

Regardless, these same white-human generation algorithms are currently being used by start-up companies like Datagen and Synthesis AI to generate "diverse" human datasets specifically for consumption by tomorrow’s AIs. A critical examination of some of their results reveal the same patterns. White skin is faithfully depicted, but the characteristic shine of Black skin is either disturbingly missing, or distressingly overlighted.

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Once the data from these flawed algorithms are ingested by AIs, the provenance of their malfunctions will become near-impossible to diagnose. When Tesla Roadsters start disproportionally running over Black paramedics, or Oakland residents with natural hairstyles, the cars won’t be able to report that "nobody told me how Black skin looks in real life." The behavior of artificial neural networks is notoriously difficult to trace back to specific problems in their training sets, making the source of the issue extremely opaque.

Synthetic training data are a convenient shortcut when real-world collection is too expensive. But AI practitioners should be asking themselves: Given the possible consequences, is it worth it? If the answer is no, they should be pushing to do things the hard way: by collecting the real-world data.

Hollywood should do its part and invest in the research and development of algorithms that are rigorously, measurably, demonstrably capable of depicting the full spectrum of humanity. Not only will it expand the range of stories that can be told, but it could literally save someone’s life. Otherwise, even though you may recognize that Black lives matter, pretty soon your car won’t.

Theodore Kim is an associate professor of computer science at Yale University.

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