America land of the free and home of the brave; the utopian society whichevery European citizen desired to be a part of in the 18th and 19th centuries. The revolutionary ideas of The Age of Enlightenment such as democracy anduniversal male suffrage were finally becoming a reality to the philosophers andscholars that so elegantly dreamt of them. America was a playground for theideas of these enlightened men. To Europeans, and the world for that matter,America had become a kind of mirage, an idealistic version of society, a placeof open opportunities. Where else on earth could a man like J.
D. Rockefellerrise from the streets to one of the richest men of his time? America stood forideals like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People in America hadan almost unconditional freedom: freedom to worship, write, speak, and live inany manner that so pleased them. But was this freedom for everyone? Was America,the utopia for the millions of common men from around world, as great as thephilosophers and scholars fantasized? America, as a society, as a country, andas a leader was not as picture perfect as Europeans believed. The United States,under all the gold plating, carried a burden of unsolved national problems,especially racial. The deep scar of slavery had left a dent in the seeminglyimpenetrable armor of the country.
From the times of early colonization to thelate 19th century, Africans had been brought over by the thousands inovercrowded and unsanitary slave ships and sold like cattle to the highestbidder, an inhumane and despicable act that America, land of the free and homeof the brave, allowed to happen. Why’slavery is what the plantation society ofthe South thrived on. The Souths entire economic system was built upon theshoulders of the African slave. Too precious and dear to let go, the South heldon to this institution until the Thirteenth Amendment was signed in by Lincolnin 1865. In this hypocritical society is where The Adventures of HuckleberryFinn finds itself. Mark Twains The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an epicstory of the journey of a redneck boy and a runaway slave, escaping the grips ofsociety in the hope of a chance at the freedom they long for so dearly.
Thenovels author, Mark Twain, also grew up in this society. Samuel Clemens,Twains birth name, led a life that had a great influence on the works that heproduced later in his life. Born in Florida, Missouri, Clemens childhood wasfilled with adventures much like those found in both The Adventures of TomSawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Following his childhoodexperiences, Clemens worked on steamboats on the Mississippi River up until theriver was closed during the Civil War. The war opened his eyes to the issue ofslavery, which shows up in many of his works, including Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry Finn takes place when slavery was very much a part of Southernculture and society, nearly thirty years prior to the Civil War.
Since theinstitution of slavery was such a stronghold of Southern society duringHuckleberry Finn, Hucks helping bring Jim to freedom makes him an outlaw. InJames Wrights The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn published in GreatWriters of the English Language: American Classics in 1991, Wright clarifies forthe reader that Huck in helping Jim, was not only going against the moralcodes of the South, but was going against strict written law (14). Sincehelping a runaway slave was written law, Hucks helping Jim signifies Huckmaking a conscience decision to rebel openly against society. In WalterBlairs So Noble and So Beautiful a Book published in TwentiethCentury Interpretations of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1968, Blairsuggests, In those slave-holding days, the whole community was agreed as toone thing the awful sacredness of slave property (70). The unity of theSouthern society in regard to slavery is what made it so difficult for theUnited States to rid itself of it.
Slavery was in fact, sacred, and to goagainst this evil religion was taboo. To help steal a horse or a cow was alow crime, but to help a hunted slave or to hesitate to promptly betray himto a slave catcher when opportunity offered was a much baser crime, and carriedwith it a stain, a moral smirch which nothing could wipe away (Blair 70). Blair makes an interesting point here. He states that to go against slavery wasa moral smirch. Slavery was so much a part of these peoples lives thatthey made it part of their morality, their religious sense.
It was morallycorrect to enslave another human being, but to help another was a crime. Thisillustrates the irony and hypocrisy of the South. The characters and actions inHuckleberry Finn embody the culture of a growing nation and the people thatcomprised it. All aspects of Huckleberry Finn as a novel promote realism andaccurately portray life in 19th century America. In Pearl James TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn published in Novels for Students in 1997,James states, Twain personifies the American folk culture through his use ofcolloquialism, using speech rather than writing in his dialogue (14). HereJames emphasizes the importance of the local dialect Twain uses in his characterdialogue.
This is significant in persuading the reader of the realism of thebook. Published in Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn in 1968 Bernard DeVoto states in his Viewpoints thatthe novel derives from the folk and embodies their mode of thought morepurely and more completely than any other written (114). DeVoto has furtheredthe fact that Huckleberry Finn, in essence, is like a picture from the past, adoorway to the history of our culture. Although when first written HuckleberryFinn was considered trash and strictly a childrens book, the opinion of thenovel has changed over the course of the years.
The majority of the literarycritics that have expressed their opinion on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnconsider it a literary masterpiece and the first true American classic. In F. R. Leavis Viewpoints published in Twentieth Century Interpretations of TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1968, Leavis heralds the novel by emphasizingthat Huckleberry Finn, by general agreement Mark Twains greatest work, issupremely the American classic, and it is one of the great books of the world(109). While Leavis has recognized Huckleberry Finn as the Americanclassic, other critics go further.
In Louis J. Budds Introduction toNew Essays on Huckleberry Finn published in 1985, Budd decrees, More sotoday, people who pay any mind to books get used to hearing Huckleberry Finncalled the great American novel, a masterpiece, a classic, and even a worldclassic (1). Twain has created a masterpiece that can be enjoyed by not onlyscholars but by anyone. Appearing in Modern Critical Interpretations in 1986,James Cox stresses in A Hard Book to Take that Huckleberry Finn, althoughread by people of all ages, loved throughout the nation, it finally made itsway into the academy so that professors of literature at least a good numberof them have come to take both confidence and pleasure in deeming it amasterpiece of American literature (87). The majority of the critics agree onTwains success with Huckleberry Finn. Twain employs many devices of language,especially characterization, to enhance the read of the book.
In Mark TwainsThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain utilizes a plethora of characters andtheir interactions with Huck to illustrate Hucks views of society. From theonset of the novel, Huck Finn is presented with negative experiences relating tosociety, forcing him to escape from this suffocating and life-threateningenvironment. Miss Watson, as one of the first characters that the readerwitnesses Huck interacting with, stands for the hypocritical society that Huckis trying to escape from, which becomes blatantly evident to Huck when she plansto take the eight hundred dollars for Jim. Miss Watson and the Widow Douglasattempt to sivilize Huck, which in essence cramps Hucks style.
James Wrights The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn associates beingsivilized with being overrun with violence and greed (15). Thesource of the sivilizing is society, which is represented here by MissWatson. In Leo Marxs Mr. Eliot, Mr.
Trilling, and Huckleberry Finnappearing in The American Scholar in 1953, Marx believes that it is she whokeeps pecking at Huck, who tries to teach him to spell and to pray and tokeep his feet off the furniture (29). Miss Watsons pecking is an annoyanceto Huck and causes him to want to escape. The Widow Douglas, she took me forher son and she allowed she would sivilize meand so when I couldnt standit no longer, I lit out (HF 1). The characteristics of being sivilizedare also physically uncomfortable to Huck. He does not enjoy starchy clothes andsitting properly.
Huck is a backwoods boy, wishing to be free. She put me inthem new clothes again, and I couldnt do nothing but sweat and sweat, andfeel all cramped up (HF 1). This cramping of style is what again forces Huckto want to escape at the conclusion of the novel. Huck has a general sympathyfor mankind.
He sees people for what they are, regardless of the outside masksthey may use to hide their true selves. On the outside, Miss Watson appears tobe a lovely old lady. Comparatively, Jim appears to be a dirty, worthless slave,less than human. But Huck knows this is not true. He sees both Miss Watson andJim in a different light. Marx later explains that by giving in to the offer ofthe slave trader of eight hundred dollars to sell Jim down the river without hisfamily, Huck now comes to the conclusion that Miss Watson, in short, is theenemy (29).
This realization is the first step in the moral development thatHuck experiences throughout the course of the novel. While Miss Watsonrepresents some of the hypocritical aspects of society, Pap is the characterthat Twain has created to be the hated villain. The ultimate evils of societyfound in the novel are no more apparent than in the character of Pap, who isHucks father. Paps violent behavior and drunken rages eventually result ina desperate attempt by Huck to save his life and escape from the cruel anddishonest society he wishes to not be a part of. Cox makes the point in hisanalysis of Pap that first of all, his treatment of Huck convicts him ofchild abuse (90). Paps treatment of Huck makes the reader sympathizewith Huck and allows the reader to see some of the violent aspects of society.
But by-and-by Pap got too handy with his hickry and I couldnt standit (HF 27). Paps alcoholism and abuse eventually lead to threats onHucks life, which becomes the deciding factor in Hucks decision to flee. He chased me round and round the place, with a clasp knife, calling me theAngel of Death and saying he would kill me (HF 32). The violent behaviorof Pap further instigates Hucks view that society is evil, violent, andwithout compassion. Paps evil characteristics are not limited to that of adrunken child abuser.
Pap exemplifies the characteristics of a racist,uneducated white man to perfection. His criticism of an educated, well-to-doblack man is an ironic contrast to himself, an uneducated drunken hick. In oneof his drunken speeches, Pap rages on that they said he the black manwas a pfessor in college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowedeverythingthey said he could vote (HF 30). Pap has a resentful attitudetowards an individual who has accomplished something almost unheard of in thesetimes. He even carries this attitude as far as saying that he is not going toparticipate in voting merely because this educated capable man is black.
Itwas lection day, and I was just about to go and vote, myself, if I warnttoo drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this countrywhere theyd let that nigger vote, I drawed out (HF 30). The paragraphswhere Pap is condemning the government are crucial for the understanding of whatPap symbolizes and his importance in the novel. In Janet Holmgren McKaysAn Art So High published in New Essays on Huckleberry Finn in 1985, McKayexpresses to the reader that Paps rather lengthy diatribe against thegovment seems to belong in the novel it develops Paps character astown drunk, petty philosopher, and racist (71). Even though Pap is aterrible father and no role model for Huck, he still believes that the law hasno right to take Huck from him.
Heres the law a-standing ready to take amans son away from him a mans own son, which he has had all thetrouble and all the anxiety and all the expense of raising (HF 29). Pap alsofeels that the government is wrong for not allowing him access to the sixthousand dollars that Huck has received, and even goes as far as to blame thegovernment for his current condition. The law takes a man worth six thousanddollars and uppards, and jams him into an old trap of a cabin like this, andlets him go round in clothes that aint fitten for a hog they call thatgovment (HF 28)! Paps drunkenness, ignorance, abuse, and resentment areall aspects of his character that make him not only an enemy in the eyes of thereader, but more importantly, in the eyes of Huck. Once Huck has fled from theconstraints of society and has begun his journey down the great MississippiRiver, he encounters various characters that give further proof to his view thatsociety is evil and that the only true friend Huck has is the runaway slave Jim. Twain uses the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons to illustratethe absurd and hypocritical idiosyncrasies of Southern aristocracy of the time. In Steven Maillouxs Reading Huckleberry Finn published in New Essays onHuckleberry Finn in 1985, Mailloux explains that Buck sees no problem withhis appeal to this dubious rhetorical authority a tradition of selfperpetuating murder originating in an unknown argument (122).
Not seeing aproblem with the feud, Buck represents the ingrained beliefs of the Southernsociety. Killing another family for no known reason strikes Buck as perfectlynormal. When Buck is presented with the question of what a feud is by Huck, heexplains with a narrative saying, A man has a quarrel with another man, andkills him; then that other mans brother kills him; then the other brothers,on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousins chip in and by-and-byeverybodys killed off, and there aint no more feud (HF 119). Here againHucks general sympathy for all people shows up. Huck can not understand whypeople would kill each other and when asked by Huck if he knew why the feudstarted, Buck responds Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other oldfolks, but they dont know, now, what the row was about in the first place(HF 120). This conversation is another stepping stone for Hucks realizationthat society is evil.
The feud of the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons showsthe brutal and hypocritical manner in which society conducts itself. In RichardP. Adams The Unity and Coherence of Huckleberry Finn published inTwentieth Century Interpretations of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1968,Adams reminds the reader that the hypocritical aristocracy contributes toHucks continual awareness of the true values of a civilization that he isasked to belong to (44). The incident that strikes Huck as most ironic is histrip to church with Buck. The presence of guns sitting next to the men in churchis a perfect example of how sanctimonious society really is.
Next Sunday we allwent to church the men took their guns along, so did Buck, and kept thembetween their knees or stood them handy against the wall. The Shepherdson donethe same. It was pretty ornery preaching all about brotherly love, andsuch-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon, and they alltalked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith, andgood works, and free grace, and preforeordestination, and I dont know whatall, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest Sundays I had run acrossyet. (HF 121) Hucks views on the feud take on a more opinionated appearancelater in his adventures with Buck.
Huck concludes discussing the feud on thisnote: It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree. I aint agoing totell all that happened it would make me sick again if I was to do that (HF127). Hucks experience with Buck and his family show him a part of society hehad formerly not been aware of, the aristocratic element. At first seemingextremely lavish and pleasurable, Huck realizes that the supposedly refined showthe same faces of evil as Pap and Miss Watson. The character that represents theconformities to the views of society better than no other in the novel is TomSawyer.
Since Huck represents a revolt against society, the two form a strikingcontrast that make Hucks rebellion more apparent. Hoffman later notes Tomsrole saying, By contrast, Tom Sawyer functions as the perfect representativeof his society although mischievous, he accepts without conflict theinstinctive and intellectual values of his society (32). Huck Finn is acharacter that is practical and realistic, where Tom Sawyer is a romantic. Helives in the world of pretend and make believe. When devising his magnificentcontrivance of Jims escape, Toms plans are not his own, rather out offantasy books he had read.
Because it aint in the books sodont youreckon that the people that made the books knows whats the correct thing todo (HF 10)? The incident where the two boys are collecting supplies forToms gang is another example of Toms conformity to society. Huck Fink hasbeen taught by Pap to simply borrow things. Tom could not stand to dothis. When Tom and Huck take the candles from Miss Watson, Tom laid fivecents on the table for pay where Huck would have simply borrowed them (HF6).
This shows the striking contrast of the two characters and their views ofthe world. Tom Sawyer also represents the cruelties and evils that characterssuch as Pap and the Grangerfords displayed. In his discussion of the crueltiesof the society that Huck finds himself in, Cox states that all the othercruelties are committed for some reason for honor, money, or powerbutToms cruelty has a purity all its own (175). Where Huck has a generalsympathy for all mankind, Tom disregards the condition of others for his ownpleasure.
When Huck sees the king and duke tarred and feathered he replies,Well, it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitifulrascals, it seemed like I couldnt ever feel hardness against them any more inthe world human beings can be awful cruel to one another (HF 254). Incontrast to Hucks kindness and good heartedness, when Aunt Sally asks Tom whyhe tried to set Jim free when he already was Tom replies, Why, I wanted theadventure of it (HF 317). When Tom says this, the reader sees the evilthat society has taught this young boy. Deriving the ideas he had been taughtfrom the fantasy books he has read, Tom persuades his friends to join TomSawyers Gang.
When Tom is discussing the gang with his peers, Tom indulges inthe idea that each member must swear to an oath that Tom has got from his books. And if anybody that belonged to the band told the secrets, he must have histhroat cut, and then have his carcass burnt up and the ashes scattered allaround, and his name blotted off of the list with blood and never mentionedagain by the gang, but have a curse put on it and be forgot, forever. (HF 8) Tomgoes on to tell the members what they are going to do in this gang. We stopstages and carriages on the road, with masks on, and kill the people and taketheir watches and money (HF 9). Society here has taught a young boy to punishand kill for telling secrets and robbing and killing innocent travelers simplyfor the adventure of it.
Society is where Toms plain evilness comes from,which Huck knows and is trying to escape from. Contrary to the majority of theinteractions that Huck experiences in his adventures, he does experience a fewpositive ones, one being that of Mary Jane Wilks. Mark Twain presents thecharacter of Mary Jane Wilks as one of the few noble and sympathetic humanbeings in Huckleberry Finn. In Nancy Walkers Reformers and Young Maidens:Women and Virtue published in Modern Critical Interpretations in 1986, Walkerdescribes Mary Jane as innocent and trusting and goes on to express thatshe defends Huck when her younger sister accuses him accurately oflying (83).
One such incident that proves Mary Janes trust is an incidentwith the king and duke. For Mary Jane to prove her trust to the king and dukeshe hove up the bag of money and put it in the kings hands, and says,Take this six thousand dollars, and invest it for me and my sisters any wayyou want to, and dont give us no receipt for it (HF 186). Mary Jane iseven trusting and caring towards Huck when she knows that he is lying to herabout his identity. When Mary Jane is questioned about Hucks lies shereplies, It dont make no difference what he said the thing is for youto treat him kind, and not be saying things to make him remember he aint inhis own country and amongst his own folks (HF 191). Mary Janescharacteristics of innocence and trust make her one of the few characters in thenovel that are an exception to societys evils.
In addition to being innocentand trusting, Mary Jane shows the same sympathy towards people as Huck does andcontributes to Hucks moral development. Walker later makes the point, Thepassage describing Hucks parting with Mary Jane in Chapter 28 marks thepenultimate stop in the moral development that culminates in his decision torisk his soul to help Jim (83). Huck comments on the parting between theWilks girls and the slaves saying, I thought them poor girls and them niggerswould break their hearts for grief; they cried around each other, and took on soit most made me down sick to see it. The girls said they hadnt ever dreamedof seeing the family separated or sold away from the town. I cant ever get itout of my memory, the sight of them poor miserable girls and niggers hangingaround each others necks and crying; I reckon I couldnt a stood it all butwould a had to bust out and tell on our gang if I hadnt knowed the salewarnt now account and the niggers would be back home in a week or two.
(HF200) The experience Huck had with Mary Jane left a deep impression on him. Thetreatment of the slaves goes against Hucks very being and makes him feel sickto see it. His conscience, going against what he has been taught his whole life,tells him that this is wrong and leads him to his final decision that Jimsquest for freedom is noble and worth risking himself for. The character of Jimis perhaps the most influential character in Hucks realization of his ownbeliefs. First viewing Jim as simply a slave, Hucks views change.
InHuckleberry Finn, Huck comes to view Jim as both a representative of humanityand the true father that Pap never was, learning to accept Jim as an equal. Jims fundamental characteristics of sympathy and kindness allow the reader tosee him as a symbol of all humanity. James notes in his analysis of Jim thaton the journey down the river, Huck learns that Jim has real feelings,recognizes his humanity, and vows to not play any more tricks on him (16). Jim, like any other man, has a family, and when he is separated from them, Hucksees that Jim is as human as he is.
He was thinking about his wife and hischildren, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadnt everbeen away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared as much forhis people as white folks do theirn (HF 170). Hucks statement heresignifies that Huck is coming to the realization that Jim is an equal. Huck goeson to account, He was often moaning and mourning that way, nights, when hejudged I was asleep, and saying, Po little Lizabeth, po littleJohnny He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was (HF 170-1). Jim is more toHuck than just a slave. He is a man, a companion, and a friend.
In RalphEllisons Viewpoints appearing in Twentieth Century Interpretations ofThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1968, Ellison depicts Jim like all men,is ambiguous, limited in circumstance but not in possibility Jim is notsimply a slave, he is a symbol of humanity (113). Jims characteristics ofsympathy and kindness cause the two to become true friends. As the two continuetheir journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim form not only a truefriendship, but also a father-son relationship. James continues his analysis ofHuck and Jims relationship exploring the idea that Jim fills a gap inHucks life: he is the father that Pap is not; he teaches Huck about the worldand how it works, and about friendship (16).
Part of the reason that Hucktakes so kindly to Jim is because he found no father figure in Pap. Jim caresfor Huck and looks out for him. Id see him standing my watch on top ofhisn, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad hewas when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp,up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honeyand how good he always was (HF 235) Another reason that Huck forms thismutual relationship with Jim is because of the fun times the two enjoy on theraft. Pap was not a man that Huck enjoyed being around for obvious reasons, butJim was. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jimbefore, all the time in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight;sometimes storms, and we afloating along, talking and singing, and laughing (HF235).
This enjoyment that Huck shares with Jim helps build the relationship. InJ. C. Furnas The Crowded Raft: Huckleberry Finn and Its Criticspublished in The American Scholar in 1985, Furnas quotes Mr. Lionel Trillingscomments on Huck and Jims relationship in saying, In Jim, Huck finds histrue father the boy and the negro slave form a family, a primitivecommunity (516). During the times that the two were separated, they werelost without one another.
When the two are reunited, Jim is ecstatic. It wasJims voice nothing ever sounded so good before and Jim, he grabbed meand hugged me, he was so glad to see me (HF 128). Huck feels the same wayabout Jim when he finds him on the island. Pretty soon he gapped, andstretched himself, and hove off the blanket, and it was Miss Watsons Jim Iwas ever so glad to see Jim (HF 46). Jim, being such a saintly character,makes him a perfect father figure for Huck, and throughout their journey, thatis exactly what he becomes.
Jim is also the primary reason for Huckscontinuously maturing moral sense. Throughout the course of the novel, Hucksattitude towards Jim and societys institution of slavery becomes more andmore clear to him; he realizes for the first time in his life that his ownconscience and beliefs are stronger than those of societys. In Frances V. Brownells The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn published in Novels forStudents in 1997, Brownell makes the point that it is when he is alone withJim in the secure little world of the raft drifting down the Mississippi thatHuck hears a voice of love that makes sense in a world of hatred (19). Jims love is the only love that Huck has the chance to experience in thenovel. Huck realizes this and gives up every chance he has to turn Jim in.
and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we hadsmall-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jimever had in the world, and the only one hes got now (HF 235). Jimgratefulness to Huck knows no limits. The freedom that Jim eventually comes toknow is all owed to Huck. Jim thanks Huck saying Is a free man, en Icouldnt ever ben free ef it hadn ben for Huck; Huck done it (HF 98).
Hucks bond with Jim, and his love for him is the cause of the moral rebellionthat Huck experiences. When Huck decides to help Jim, he has come full circlefrom the views of society and does what his conscience tells him is right. Inhis analysis of Huck, Adams stresses, When he repudiates his own consciencein this way, Huck takes a long step farther in his repudiation of Southernsociety, which has formed his conscience (Adams 45). Huck is in constantstruggle with himself, toiling over what he feels in his heart to be right, andwhat his mind tells him is right. Well, then, says I, whats the use youlearning to do right, when its troublesome to do right and aint no troubleto do wrong, and the wages is just the same (HF 101)? Huck truly believesthat when he decides, Im agoing to steal him (HF 248), that what he isdoing is wrong. It bothers Huck so much that he tries to pray to God about it.
In a rather ironic manner, Huck can not bring himself to do it, because hethinks he is wrong for helping Jim. I was trying to make my mouth say I woulddo the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that niggersowner and tell where he was, but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie andHe knowed it (HF 234). This constant battle inside Huck makes the reader feelsympathy for Huck and develop him into the hero of the novel. Hucks moralgrowth and acceptance of Jim climax in a dramatic fashion. Hucks love for Jimbecomes so strong that Huck is willing to give not only his life for him, butalso his soul. Cox discusses Hucks decision saying, This moment, when Hucksays All right, then, Ill go to hell, is characteristically the momentwe fatally approve, and approve morally (180).
Hucks decision does notcome easily to him, rather he battles with himself between what he feels isright, and what society has told him is right. Huck holds the letter telling ofJims whereabouts in his hand while he contemplates the fate of his bestfriend. Torn with himself Huck says, It was a close place. I took it up, andheld it in my hand. I was trembling, because Id got to decide, forever,betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding bybreath, and then says to myself: All right, then, Ill go to hell and tore it up.
(HF 235) Although Huck has made the right moral decision, hestill believes what he is doing is wrong. Society has taught Huck that slaveryis an acceptable practice, however, Hucks conscience can not agree with this. Huck condemns himself after his decision and ironically blames his father forwhat the reader recognizes as the morally right choice. I shoved the wholething out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in myline, being brung up to it, and the other warnt (HF 235). Hucksdecision here marks the thematic highpoint of the novel. Hucks moralmetamorphosis has now been completed by Jim, making him the most influentialcharacter in Hucks formation of his views of society.
In The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn, Mark Twain has masterfully used characterization to portrayhis views of society through the eyes of the central character, Huck. Huckmerely tells the simple story of his trip down the mighty Mississippi with therunaway slave Jim. However, Huckleberry Finn has meant much more to its readersthan Mark Twain ever could have imagined. The novel has been and remains astandard of excellence in American literature that has yet to be challenged. Marx sums up his analysis of the novel stating, Everyone agrees thatHuckleberry Finn is a masterpiece (14). Twains works in Americanliterature, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, helped writers inAmerica establish an identity for a still growing nation.
McKay praises the bookexulting, The publication of Twains most widely read and accomplishednovel was an event incalculably important to the development of a genuinelyAmerican literature (61). However with all the novels praise, James notesin her discussion, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been a source ofcontroversy since its publication in 1884 (14). Schools across the countryhave banned the novel for its frequent use of the word nigger, despite thefact that the word was one that was very much a part of the regionscolloquialism. James furthers this discussion stating, It was banned frommany public libraries on its first appearance for being trash (14).
For allthe novels criticism of being racist and a bad influence on young readers,Huckleberry Finn is still considered a true American classic. A simple redneckboy and a runaway slave. Huckleberry Finn is more than that. Whether or not MarkTwain knew what he was writing when he composed this piece, he was creating notonly a story, but a message. American society, as glorious as the history bookssay it was, had its dark elements.
If nothing else, Twain has skillfullycaptured this theme and used it to produce a highly commendable novel. TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn is that novel, a story of two friends on a questfor freedom and an escape from a cruel and oppressive society. BibliographyAdams, Richard P. The Unity and Coherence of Huckleberry Finn.
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