When using the historical approach to analyze literature, one relates the literary work to the time in which it was written. Therefore, authors incorporate important aspects of their society in the lives of their characters. As a result, knowing a bit of history before reading a novel is a good idea. When reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the reader would benefit from having some knowledge of 19th century frontier life: its slavery, religion, and violence.
When writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain incorporated the conditions of slavery during the 1800's. The separating of individual slaves was prominent during frontier life. During slave trades and auctions African Americans were sold away from their families, which left them widespread among the South. This characteristic of society during that time period could be found in the novel. Jim, the runaway slave who accompanies Huck Finn as they travel up the Mississippi, is a prime example. During the course of their journey, Jim occasionally brings up his family. He talks about how when he is free, he will earn some money and buy his wife and children from down South because he sincerely misses them. This characteristic of society also related to the Wilks" slaves. Mary Jane was seriously upset that the slaves on her plantation were going to be sold and separated. Unlike some slave holders during that time, Mary Jane was seriously upset that the mother and child would probably never see one another again after they were sold. Fortunately, the slaves were not sold nor separated. Another aspect of slavery during the 1800's was the fact that freeing or helping slaves was worse than murder and was a big risk. This aspect was included throughout the entire novel as Huck Finn tried to free Jim. As they traveled up the Mississippi River, Huck and Jim encountered instances in which they were close to getting caught.