In the words of Pap, “You think you’re better’n your father, now, don’t you, because he can’t ? ” 2. In Mark Twain’s adventure novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck Finn escapes from civilized society to traverse the Mississippi River. Throughout the book, Twain uses various themes such as social ostracism to comment on human nature and its role in shaping society. Sometimes mainstream society is not as right and moral as it believes, and when individuals try to justify it they push away their own humanity.
Twain demonstrates this through the various lifestyles, comparing the intellects and beliefs of different social classes, and Huck’s conforming to each facet of society. One of the first instances Twain uses to portray sociological exclusion reveals itself in the contrast of lifestyles. Throughout his life both prior to and after his “murder,” circumstances expose Huck to opposing ways of life including but not limited to rich vs. poor and simple vs. complex.
Personifying middle-class society, Widow Douglass acts as a mother figure for Huck, deeming it her duty to “sivilize” 1 her adopted son, dressing him well and sending him to school. On the contrary, Pap observes that “You’ve put on frills” and swears to take him “down a peg” 14. The two family icons pull Huck in opposite directions, but as influential as they may be, Huck knows he does not have a place in either world. If anything, Huck identifies more with the simplicity of Pap’s natural way of life than with the materialism of the middle-class of society.
Willfully shunning both Pap and Widow Douglas, Huck finds a way to “keep Pap and the widow from following” him instead of moving “far enough off before they missed ” 31. Furthermore, a contrast of the characteristics of men and women presents itself when Huck attempts a reconnaissance mission as a girl in St. Petersburg. Huck cannot go as himself because society would catch him and return him to what he escapes from, but the way men and women live is different enough that they cannot impersonate each other.
Although he practices and thinks he manages, Jim’s comment that Huck does not “walk like a girl” 41 does not do it justice. Almost instantly the woman Huck chooses to question sees through his disguise, explaining that His last hope in maintaining his anonymity crumbles when he states his name as “Mâ€”Mary Williams” 44 instead of Sarah Williams, attempting to cover up his mistake by claiming his name was Sarah Mary Williams. After critiquing his performance, the woman remarks that he “might fool men, maybe” 46, emphasizing the mental, physical, and social differences between the two sexes.
They differ in the way they throw, catch, and in the way they thread a needle; the only part of his facade that Huck demonstrates well lies in the things country folk know, such as where the most moss grows on a tree. The way a person lives also affects him or her in greater ways, changing the way one believes as well as the way a person thinks. The differences between people encompass a profound array of features including religion and intelligence. Mark Twain uses Jim and Widow Douglas to portray contention between Christianity and superstition.
At first, Huck finds himself surrounded by conventional Christian beliefs and what the widow calls “Providence” 8, which refers to the Christian God the term “providence” means the will of God or hand of God. Constantly questioning the faith and the purpose of prayer, Huck ponders its place in his life using the only logic he knows and in the end favors the simpler superstitions of Jim. Leaving Christianity behind, Huck embraces, for example, the philosophy of throwing salt over his shoulder to dispel bad luck and the belief in the ongoing misfortune associated with touching a rattlesnake’s skin.
Believing that “nothing come of ” 8, there is no room for doubt in Huck’s reasoning to abandon life with Widow Douglas for rafting on the Mississippiâ€”Huck’s beliefs do not belong in that part of society. Similarly, separation exists in the realm of intelligence, specifically between whites and blacks. While on the raft, Huck tells stories of kings and dukes to Jim and his “eyes out” at the idea of people who “ each other your majesty your grace your lordship” 57.
When discussing King Solomon, Jim misses the true meaning of the story despite Huck’s attempts to teach him, and Huck thinks, “you can’t learn a nigger to argue” 60. Tom Sawyer’s gang also illustrates the levels of competence and naÃ¯vetÃ© in terms of Tom’s literary knowledge. Lacking the same interest in books, Huck finds Tom telling him “You don’t seem to know anything” and calling him a “perfect saphead” 11 when Huck asks too many questions about Arabs and genies. Huck is not a fool and neither is Tom; however, Huck has “street smarts” whereas Tom possesses a more formal education and more book learning.
Try as he might, Huck does not fit into the same part of society. As much as he tries to fit in with the cultures he comes across, he always sticks out. Wherever the wind takes him, Huck seems to conform to whatever social group he immerses himself in. While he stays with Widow Douglas, Huck gradually accepts the rules of the middle-class. At first, he hates going to school, but “by and by so stand it” and “the longer went to school the easier it got to be. 11 Additionally, learned to tolerate the “widow’s ways” 11, and although he likes “the old ways best,” he likes “the new ones, too, a little bit” 11. However, Pap kidnaps him, and before long Huck adapts “to being where , and it” 18, until Huck tires of Pap’s abuse. Belonging to neither civilized society nor life in nature, Huck strikes out on the river. At each place he stops, he learns to follow in the footsteps of whoever’s company he keeps. With each group he happens to join, he soon finds that he has no place in their ranks and withdraws to the river.
Wherever he goes, Huck finds a way to fit in only to find that he doesn’t belongâ€”belonging to all societies, yet none of them. The only place where he finds relative peace is on the river. It is the only place where there is nothing to struggle against. Huck is a misfit wherever he goes, rejecting and rejected by mainstream society and every other accepted society that he finds along the river. Throughout his journey, Huck finds different ways of separating himself from society while being a part of it. He sees how quickly life changes and how lifestyles can affect a person.
Further set apart by his views, Huck forsakes traditional beliefs for superstition and the balance of luck. Through his journey along the Mississippi River, Huck also understands how much intelligence changes. Feeling no affinity for any aspect of mainstream society he experiences, Huck willingly spurns what he knows as humanity for the society that suits him. At the close of his journey when Aunt Sally makes plans to “adopt and sivilize ,” Huck informs the reader that he has no desire to join high societyâ€”” been there before” 220.