"Contexts and Sources" provides readers with a rich selection of documents related to the historical background, language, composition, sale, reception, and newly discovered first half of the manuscript of Mark Twain's greatest work. Included are letters on the writing of the novel, excerpts from the author's autobiography, samples of bad poetry that inspired his satire (including an effort by young Sam Clemens himself), a section on the censorship of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by schools and libraries over a hundred-year period, and commentary by David Carkeet on dialects of the book and by Earl F. Briden on its "racist" illustrations. In addition, this section reprints the full texts of both "Sociable Jimmy," upon which is based the controversial theory that Huck speaks in a "black voice," and "A True Story, Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It," the first significant attempt by Mark Twain to capture the speech of an African American in print.
"Criticism" of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is divided into "Early Responses" (including the first negative review) and "Modern Views" by Victor A. Doyno, T. S. Eliot, Jane Smiley, David L. Smith, Shelley Fisher Fishkin (the "black voice" thesis), James R. Kincaid (a rebuttal of Fishkin), and David R. Sewell. Also included is Toni Morrison's moving personal "Introduction" to the troubling experience of reading and re-reading Mark Twain's masterpiece.
"A Chronology and Selected Bibliography" are also included.