Where the Huck is Finn? The Hunt for Huckleberry Finn in Hannibal

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Zima, Dusty
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Master of Arts (MA)
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The Mississippi River town of Hannibal, Missouri clings to the romanticized notion that it is "America's Hometown." The visitor's bureau, chamber of commerce, and the Hannibal Jaycees strive to portray Hannibal as an ideal oasis for the young at heart. The inspiration for the town's attempt at such pristine preservation is its most famous citizen, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as, Mark Twain. In keeping with the town's nostalgic and romanticized image, city officials have promoted Tom Sawyer, with what they believe to be his endearing shenanigans and humorous pranks, as the ideal boy, and Hannibal, as his idyllic playground. On the other hand, Hannibal has swept Huckleberry Finn and the painful memory of slavery that is associated with his character and his eponymous text under the rug so as not to burden the tourists, townspeople, and the town itself with Hannibal's true slaveholding past and the racism lingering in the present. In doing so, the town of Hannibal has created for itself an extremely profitable tourism business that is, at its root, a disturbingly distorted and completely false representation of Twain's characters, texts, and boyhood hometown.