Mark Twain was a famous American author who wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was from St. Petersburg, Missouri and he wrote about life on the Mississippi and many other areas as well.
Although Huckleberry Finn is a novel, it also has four distinct dialects. One of the characters, Tom Sawyer, speaks in the Missouri Negro dialect while Huck and Jim speak in a Southwestern backwoods dialect that is not considered language but is commonly shared by fictional characters. The result is that Twain can change the dialect according to who he’s talking to-even if they’re speaking with one another. Twain was able to create a version of Pike County for interactions with other central characters as well as himself.
Twain’s first novel, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” was composed in 1876. The protagonist, Jim, uses the black slave dialect and when this dialect is represented in others, it sounds different than how Twain wrote it.
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Twain was often creative with his dialogue to help achieve the most authentic imagery. In Huck Finn, when Jim is thinking he saw Huck die on the river, he says, “I was most broken-hearted because you were lost and I did not care anymore what happened to me or my raft.” Then, upon meeting up with Huck again at the end of the book, he is smart enough to realize that a reunion means so much.
Many slaves didn’t get a formal education, but Twain wrote about this disparity in their dialogue, mostly by dropping words or making errors in their speech.
When the Phelps have a slave that’s superstitious, he says, “Oh it’s the witches. I wish I was dead,” he says. He refers to them as always being at work, and leaving him scared to death.” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is purposefully written in African-American dialect to portray a historically accurate picture of American society at the time of the novel.
The Grangerford family and the townsfolk of Arkansaw speak in a backwoods Southwestern dialect. This comes from their isolation from society and familiarity with each other, as well as a slight variation depending on where they’re from. It makes people easily identifiable by place in this dialect, which has also made Huck recognizable since it’s a part of his identity.
When Huck wanders through the dark and unfamiliar countryside, he befriends Jim, who lives in an isolated homestead. The Bloodline began in the south of Kentucky and had a very strong southern accent. Because they dropped case letters throughout their dialogue, this phrase flowed quickly.
There are important differences in the way that men from different regions speak. This is shown by the use of misspelled words, harsh dialect, and a large number of regionalisms. For example, Boggs makes a comment about another man saying, “I wish he’d threaten me so I knew I wasn’t going to die for a thousand years.” The use of these techniques allows Twain to create some important distinctions when it comes to setting the stage for his story.
This goal of Mark Twain is achieved through his use of multiple dialects. By using different dialects, he also individualized the characters and their outlook on life.
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