A third person narrator describes the experiences of the boys, interspersed with occasional social commentary. In its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain changes to a first person narrative which takes moral conflicts more personally and thus makes greater social criticism possible. The two others subsequent books, Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective, are similarly in the first person narrative from the perspective of Huckleberry Finn.
The book has raised controversy for its use of the racial epithet "nigger"; a bowdlerized version aroused indignation among some literary critics.
The book has also gotten criticism for the caricature-like portrayal of Native Americans through the character Injun Joe. He is depicted as malevolent for the sake of malevolence, is not allowed to redeem himself in any way by Twain, dies a pitiful and despairing death in a cave and upon his death is treated as a tourist attraction. Revard suggests that the adults in the novel blame the character's Indian blood as the cause of his evil.