Huckleberry Finn gets his own story

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Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published this date in 1885. He originally appeared in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876.

The character of Huck Finn is based on Tom Blankenship, the real-life son of a sawmill laborer and some time drunkard named Woodson Blankenship, who lived in a “ramshackle” house near the Mississippi River behind the house where the author grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. The father of Huck, called “Pap” Finn, may be based on Jimmy Finn, a full-blown alcoholic who lived on the streets, and it is only through Twain’s remembrances that Woodson is characterized as a drunkard. Twain left Hannibal and his boyhood at an early age and his memories of these people are colored by what he could have known and understood at the time, as a boy of less than 14 years old. Twain’s friend Tom Blankenship didn’t attend school because there were no public schools at the time, and his family was too poor to send him to a private school. Left at loose ends in a busy household with six sisters and lacking a mother who seems to have died when he was young, this Tom was indeed “at liberty” most of the time.

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Twain mentions his childhood friend Tom Blankenship as the inspiration for creating Huckleberry Finn in his autobiography: “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person—boy or man—in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.” – (from Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Wikipedia)

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–Mark Twain is the pseudonym of Samuel Clemons.

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