Adventures Of Tom Sawyer Essay Prompts For Ap

When you’re thinking about writing your AP English Lit essay, there are a few things that you should consider. Firstly, you’re going to want to choose a novel that is versatile enough to be adapted to fit any question. Secondly, you’re going to want a text that has themes that you understand, so Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good text to choose.

In this article we will go over how to approach the free-response questions and how to adapt the themes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We will show you how to tackle past exam questions, which will give you a better understanding of how to approach your own exam. After reading the article you should then be able to write a great AP English Lit essay on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn AP English Lit Essay Themes

The themes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will provide you with a good source of topics for writing your AP English Lit essay. You’ll find that many of the themes run parallel with each other, so by understanding one theme, you will understand them all.

Slavery

One of the main themes in the novel and is evident throughout, as it forms the plot. Jim is running away to find freedom and a life without an owner. This mirrors Huck’s life as he is trying to escape his abusive father and his life of being controlled by those who don’t care for him.

Racism

A major theme in the text and runs parallel with slavery. In the Southern states, the color of Jim’s skin causes him to be treated differently. Because slavery was legal in the South, even as a free man he would be treated in the same manner as a slave under the assumption that he was. He is abused in various ways and is constantly living in fear of being captured or tortured.

Education and Society

Education and Society play an important role in the novel, as Twain criticizes the way that the educated and religious people treat others, particularly slaves. It appears that in the South, if you were a white man you would be able to get what you want and force the law to work in your favor. Huck’s father, a drunken and abusive man, is still given custody of his son despite it being against the best interests of Huck.

This theme is further highlighted through Twain’s inclusion of the slave owners being religious. Tom Sawyer is also used as a tool to highlight the problems with society in the South. He has had a formal education and religious teachings but has a disregard for Jim’s life and uses him as entertainment in his games, compared to Huck who is the opposite of Tom in both education and moral standards.

How to use The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the 2016 AP English Literature Free Response Questions

“Choose a novel or play in which a character deceives others. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the motives for that character’s deception and discuss how the deception contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.”

For free-response questions that deal with deception, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good choice. As you will know, there are various instances of deception that is evident in the novel.

One of the examples of a character who deceives others is Tom Sawyer. He purposely deceives his aunt and uncle, Sally and Silas. When Huckleberry Finn first arrives at the Phelps’s house, Sally and Silas Phelps mistake Huckleberry for Tom, leading Huck to just play along so he can attempt to rescue Jim. However, when Tom arrives he pretends to be a stranger from Ohio before pretending to be his younger brother, Sid.

Tom and Huck deceive Silas and Sally by refusing to admit that they know the runaway slave, Jim, and the fact that he is being held on the Phelps’s property. Tom’s deception continues when he steals various items from his aunt and uncle’s house and fails to confess to the crime, letting his aunt believe that it must have been rats. Tom and Huck also deceive the man who’s guarding Jim.

Huck tells various lies throughout the novel to deceive others, with one being his attempt to get rid of the slave hunters on the river. He tells them that his father and mother are onboard and that they are suffering from smallpox, to prevent the men from coming aboard the raft and discovering the truth about Jim. This is done solely to protect Jim, showing that Huck’s deception is often intended for good purposes.

The deception by Huck and Tom is so that they can free Jim from his captivity. You can see deception through other characters, too, such as the two men who pretend to be a Duke and a Dauphin.

The Duke and the Dauphin attempt to con the family of the dead Peter Wilks, by pretending to be Peter Wilks’s brothers from England. Huck realizes they are con men and alerts Peter Wilks’s sisters to the scam.

The Duke and the Dauphin also deceive Huck by selling Jim. This highlights the theme of slavery in the novel, as it emphasizes that Jim has no control over what happens to him because of his color, despite him being an adult and behaving like a father towards Huck. It emphasizes that slaves were not regarded as humans.

The deception by the Duke and the Dauphin helps to highlight the text’s criticism of white society. Despite the Duke and Dauphin being criminals, Jim is unable to prevent himself from being sold, because of the color of his skin, underlining the flaws in society.

How to use The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the 2015 AP English Literature Free Response Questions

“Select a novel, play, or epic poem in which acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Then write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim.”

Cruelty is highlighted throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, making it a good choice for free-response questions that ask you to analyze cruelty in a text.

The theme of slavery runs through the novel, depicting the cruelty suffered by slaves at the hands of white Americans in the South. Jim runs away from where he is being kept as a slave in an attempt to get to one of the free states, because he risks being sold and separated from his family. He plans to bring his family to the free states once he has safely settled there.

The fact that he prefers to risk his life than to suffer at the hands of a new owner shows the cruelty that existed during the time around the 1830’s and 1840’s in the South. Jim’s life was in the hands of white men and, although he had kind owners, he was still owned by another human being. He knew that not all slave owners were as kind as his.

Jim suffers from cruel actions throughout the book. He is sold by the crooks, the Duke and the Dauphin, resulting in him being chained up in a shed. Even the way in which Tom and Huck attempt to rescue Jim is cruel, highlighting the effects of society on the two young boys, particularly Tom. Instead of just rescuing him quickly, they create a dramatic plot merely as a source of entertainment for themselves.

By sawing through Jim’s chains, instead of unlocking them, Tom is using Jim as a way to create adventure for himself and Huck. Being two white boys, it would not be their own lives at risk if they were caught, it is Jim’s life that would be in jeopardy. Jim is at the mercy of two children because of his color.

Tom’s cruel treatment of Jim is further evident when it is revealed that he has known that Jim is no longer a slave, as his owner, Miss Watson had died and set him free in her will. Despite Tom knowing Jim was a free man and no longer a runaway slave, he continues to use Jim as entertainment for himself, and even suggests cutting off his leg for dramatic effect in his escape plan.

Tom’s treatment of Jim shows that he has no regard for Jim’s life as a human being, highlighting the cruelty slaves endured in the South.

Cruelty is also evident in Huck’s life, having suffered at the hands of his drunken father. This again relates back to the themes of society and slavery. Twain is using Huck’s abusive father as a way to underline the flaws in white society. Huck’s father is given custody of Huck despite being abusive towards him and incapable of looking after him.

Huck is escaping his abusive father by running away. While Huck is not a slave, his life is controlled by white men who don’t seem to care for his welfare, in a way similar to Jim’s life.

With both Huck and Jim we can see a parallel with their lives. Despite the cruelties that they have both suffered, both characters try to do the right thing, morally, most of the time. Jim also acts as a father figure for Huck, further helping him to become more morally aware.

How to use The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the 2014 AP English Literature Free Response Questions

“Select a character that has deliberately sacrificed, surrendered, or forfeited something in a way that highlights that character’s values. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how the particular sacrifice illuminates the character’s values and provides a deeper understanding of the meaning of the work as a whole.”

For free-response questions that deal with sacrifice, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good novel to use, as Jim risks sacrificing his life in an attempt to secure his freedom by running away to get to the free states, where slavery had been abolished.

Jim runs the risk of being captured and potentially killed for having run away. He knows the risks but because he is about to be sold and separated from his wife and family, he escapes. He plans to get to the free states to start a new life there, in the hope that his family can then join him so they can live a life of freedom together.

Jim ultimately wants to be with his family, but by running away he is putting himself in danger. If he is sold to someone who is abusive or more controlling than his current owners he might not have the opportunity to run to freedom, so he sees this as his only chance. He would lose his family if he were sold, but losing them while he escapes is seen by him as a temporary loss that has the potential to lead to a reunion when he is finally free.

Jim further sacrifices his life and freedom when he decides that Tom needs a doctor for the bullet wound he suffered during the escape. This decision leads Jim to being captured and put in chains and could have led to him being killed. Jim sacrificing his freedom shows his selfless nature and highlights that despite the cruelties he has suffered, he is still willing to do the morally right thing.

The sacrifices that Jim makes underline the moral values that Twain is trying to establish. The characters of Jim and Huck have had no formal education but are the only ones who appear to be making logical choices, emphasizing the theme of society in the novel. Characters who appear to be educated or religious are more likely to behave in a cruel way.

Conclusion

After reading this article you should now be able to answer any free-response questions and write a great AP English Lit essay on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When re-reading the novel, remember to keep the themes in mind, as this will give you a better understanding of the text.

Don’t forget to read The Ultimate Guide to 2016 AP English Literature FRQs and The Ultimate Guide to 2015 AP English Literature FRQs. You can also find further exam advice on Albert.io.

Looking for AP English Literature practice?

Kickstart your AP English Literature prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

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