Mark Twain's America

Mark Twain's America
Caroline Harrison: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One week


It seems that most everyone has heard of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  What is interesting, besides the book, is that Huck Finn’s experiences represent a period in United States history during the time of First Lady Caroline Harrison.


     In this lesson, students will read Huckleberry Finn and analyze the text for historical contexts.  A variety of evaluation tools are listed that help develop a picture of life in the last half of the 19th century in the United States.

Materials Required:

Copy of Huckleberry Finn (from library or online). Word Processor (or paper and writing utensil) Computer PowerPoint (optional)


1. Provide a copy of Huckleberry Finn for students.  If this is not feasible, high school English textbooks usually contain an excerpt.  Several websites listed in the resource section contain the entire text for free, viewable online.  (Due to changes in website names and availability, the following list of sites may not be available.)  Performing a search on a search engine ( for example) will normally locate a more recent site with an online version.

2.  Use one of the following evaluation tools:

  • A book report emphasizing historical elements that portray life in America at the time.  Have students type a rough draft using a word processor and peer edit.
  • Students can also type a report to compare and contrast the events in the book to events of today.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation highlighting major themes in the book.
  • Collectively as a class write a play that would expand on the events of the novel.

Extending the Lesson:

  • If designing a play, perform it with the help of the theater teacher in the school.
  • Book reports and PowerPoint presentations can be shared and discussed with the class.

Sources & Resources:

Websites: Credits:
This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University.