Life in the 1800s has taken on an almost idealistic quality in the minds of many Americans. The images linked to this era of our history are, on the surface, pleasurable to recall: one room school houses; severe self-reliance; steam-powered railroads and individual freedom. All in all, we seem to recall a well-scrubbed past. Maybe, as we cross into the next century, it”s time to take another look at the so-called “good old days. ” Two very well written works that help to see the latter side of family life in the late 1800s are Maggie: A Girl Of The Streets and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.Order now
By chance, an evident parallel is drawn in comparing Huck Finn”s relationship with his father to that of the relationship between Maggie and her parents. Huck is the son of the town drunkard, a man who goes away for long stretches and beats his son when he”s home. Maggie is quite the same, with the exception of residing in her household with two town drunks. Maggie and her family are in a small, miserable tenement residing in a dark crevis of New York City with the life of those around them passing them by. Similarly, Huck and “Pap” live in a bantam shanty on a sordid island in the Mississippi River, America surging past them as well.
Maggie Johnson grows up amid abuse and poverty in the Bowery . Her mother, Mary, is a vicious alcoholic; her brother, Jimmie, is mean-spirited and brutish; her youngest brother Tommie dies at a very young age. Her alcoholic father is nameless, largely absent and casually cruel when present. He deems it necessary to beat the sense into people. These constant beatings in Maggie Johnson’s home, furniture thrown from parent to parent, and every aspect of her family life as being negative, her family situation is not an extremly healthy one.
But, despite her hardships, Maggie grows up to become a beautiful young lady whose romantic hopes for a more desirable life remain untarnished. From the beginning of Huck Finn, the reader can recognize that Huck is not living the same life as any other child in his surroundings. Huck’s disregard for manners, lack of parental influence, and rebellious attitude leads one to assume that his family life is not quite as healthy as it could be. His adoptive family, consisting of himself and Widow Douglass, appears to him far too civilized. His father is far too drunk, greedy, and neglectful of his own son to provide a healthy family life for him.
Perhaps, in relation to his family life with his father, the lifestyle Huck leads with Widow Douglass is too healthy for his taste rather than too civilized. Without taking note of how many people make up Maggie or Huck’s, their poorly functioning homes are almost exact when considering their chaotic and unpredictable nature. With a mother like Mary and a father like hers, it can hardly be surprising, the novel implies, Maggie grow up as they do. Nonetheless, Maggie and Huck are seldom aware of what mood the drunk/abusive parent might be in.
Any situation that interferes with healthy family functioning can lead to a “dysfunctional family”. For example, the absence of positive reciprocal relationships between Maggie and her mother and Huck Finn and his father are very detrimental to their futures in growing up. The children of a dysfunctional family can take on many different roles. Both Maggie and Huck Finn take on the role of the responsible child or caretaker. Upon taking on this role, they both attempt to maintain peace in their family by assuming responsibility for the needs of others.
In the beginning of the novella, Maggie is introduced with her youngest brother Tommie who she is taking care of. Even more extensive role playing is on the part of Huck who assumes the resposibility for Jim’s needs for most of the time that they are together. However, this relationship works differently than that of Maggie’s. Jim is both Huck’s advisor and trustworthy companion but also allows Huck the element of control that he couldn’t find in a white man. This “fake” parenthood relieves Huck of any lifelong responsibilities to Jim and also allows Twain to eventually separate the two without any emotional repercussions.
In short, they lack a pure familial bond implicating a tragedy of sadness at the center of their relationship. Everyone has had a conflict with their family at some time or another, but for some it is more of a lifetime struggle involving much confusion and emotional pain. Often adult children of dysfunctional families will feel controlled by others and at the same time will not take responsibility for others” thoughts, feelings and actions. This is much like Maggie’s dependance on Pete to control her life and Huck’s attempt to break free through the entire work from being controlled.
To break free, one must take back control over one’s life and give back control of other’s lives. By the conclusion of The Adventure Of Hucklebery Finn, he has had some good glimpses of civilization on his journey up and down the river, and most of what he has seen has not been very pretty. But, he has broken free and has control over his future. As for Maggie, one may say that her committing suicide was due to a lack of control in her life, whereas taking her own life was the only way she saw fit to “control” her ongoing situation. . She may indeed “go teh hell,” but largely because her mother damned her there from birth.