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Novel is set along the Mississippi River during the 1830s or 1840s.
This region was still a frontier area.
Large stretches of land were sparsely inhabited.
Few cities and towns.
Majority of people lived off the land, farming, hunting, fishing and trapping.
Industrialization was still in its early stages.
Steam technology was becoming dominant.
Few schools in rural Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Mississippi.
Most children attended classes only long enough to learn to read and write.
No theaters, libraries, or museums in the region.
Entertainment and popular education were offered by traveling showmen, musicians, circus performers, preachers, and lecturers.
In the 1830s and 1840s, after the North had abolished slavery, there began the great national debate over its extension in the new states created from the western territories.
Northerners opposed the extension of slavery, citing moral as well as practical objections.
Southern states were dependent on slave labor.
The whites in the South generally defended slavery and supported its extension into the new states.
Most white American, no matter where they lived and what their attitudes toward slavery were, agreed that blackk people were intellectually and morally inferior to white people.
Racist beliefs, attitudes, and behavior that would be considered reprehensible today were commonplace then.