While some of its material is considered offensive and crude, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain, should be taught in classrooms due to its well-established, unquestionable literary merit. This controversial novel does indeed evoke anti-racist themes, as it accurately depicts a period in American history while developing a palatable backdrop to what many consider to be "the great American novel." Starting from when it was published in 1885, Huck Finn has been a center of controversy for many years. In the novel's first wave of controversy and censorship, critics focused on the vulgarity of the novel. The Concord Public Library banned it in 1885, charging that the novel was "trash suitable only for the slums" (Karolides 398). It makes sense that some would be concerned about the vulgarities, and the lifestyle that Huck Finn lives. He lives a very free and naughty lifestyle. He smokes, he drinks, he "swears, steals fruit from farmers' pastures, swims naked in the Mississippi," and runs away from home" (Jarnow 15). As it was in 1885, many are concerned about how the celebration of this lifestyle will influence young boys. However it is the free-spirited lifestyle which captures the great American spirit, which is why today the novel is still referred to today as "the great American novel" (Jarnow 4). By living the free lifestyle and in the end proclaiming that he's "got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest," Huck represents the American pioneer with the refusal to let civilization halter his ambitions and to live out his life in a free land" (Twain 438). Also, Huck Finn matures greatly and eventually becomes more responsible, more open and less prejudiced, so that essentially the novel could in fact have a positive influence on little boys. .
Since 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has encountered a more modern wave of controversy that centers around race.