Teaching Huckleberry Finn Characters
When reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with your class, you will focus most of your discussions on one of the main characters of Huckleberry Finn: Huck Finn! Although Huck Finn is an adolescent, Mark Twain has created a complex character who is learning his way in the world. For example, to get away from his pa, he fakes his own death and finds freedom on the river. But his curiosity and pride get the better of him, and he has to disguise himself as a girl, so he can find out how people are grieving over him. He risks his "freedom" to see if he is loved and missed from the very people that he is trying to get away from.
When teaching character traits, goals, and emotions, the use of journals and teacher facilitated-discussions work well. Ask students to make a list of character traits for Huckleberry Finn in their journals after you have read about a fourth of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Give students five to ten minutes to make a list about one of the most important characters of Huckleberry Finn.
Make a class list of character traits on chart paper. Then pair up students and assign them one or two character traits of Huck Finn. They should look through the part of the story they have already read and find proof of this character trait. For example, if one of the traits is adventurous, then proof of this trait would be found in chapters seven and eight when he is escaping from Pa and going out on his own.
You can add to your list as you read the book with students.
Jim is another one of the characters of Huckleberry Finn whom you will spend a great deal of class time discussing. You can do a similar activity to the character trait activity above when discussing Jim. Before you ask students to write about Jim or even read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is important to discuss the use of the word "nigger" in the text. Explain to students how long ago Mark Twain wrote this book, and that term was used for an African-American at that time. You will also want to make sure that students understand the issue of slavery and how much Jim and Huck Finn are actually risking for freedom and family.
One reason why The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Mark Twain are so popular is the cast of characters of Huckleberry Finn. From Tom Sawyer to Miss Watson to the King and the Duke, your students will meet new characters almost every day when they read this novel. To keep them all straight, assign students the task of making a list of characters and adding to it every time they meet a new character while reading. Next to the name of the character, students should write the page or chapter he/she is introduced and one or two traits to remember the characters of Huckleberry Finn. In class discussions, you can focus on why each is important to the story and how they help or hurt Huck Finn and Jim.