Essay, Research Paper: Adventures Of Huck Finn By Mark Twain

Literature: Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain contains symbolism associated
with superstition. This is demonstrated by both the actions and beliefs of the
characters and the events which occur in the story. The way in which friendship
supersedes superstition and popular beliefs plays a major role throughout. Huck
in particular is forced to mature and forget superstition when he is faced with
the internal dilemma of his best friend, Jim, being a runaway slave. In Chapter
one, Huck sees a spider crawling up his shoulder, so he flicks it into the flame
of a candle, where it shrivles up before he could retrieve it. Huck realizes
that it is a bad omen, which will bring bad luck. He becomes scared and shakes
off his clothes, then proceeds to turn in his tracks three times. He then ties a
lock of his hair with a thread to keep the witches away. "You do that when
you've lost a horseshoe that you've found, instead of nailing it up over the
door, but I hadn't ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep of bad luck
when you'd killed a spider."(Twain 5). In chapter four, Huck sees Pap's
footprints in the snow. He then goes to Jim to ask him why Pap is here. Jim goes
and gets a fist sized hairball, which was taken from an ox's stomach. Jim asks
the hairball, “Why is Pap here?” But the hairball won't answer. Jim says it
needs money, so Huck gives Jim a counterfeit quarter that Huck had been bragging
about earlier in the novel. Jim puts the quarter under the hairball. The
hairball talks to Jim and Jim tells Huck that it says: “Yo’ole father doan’
know yit what he’s a-gwyne to do. Sometimes he spec he’ll go ‘way, en den
ag’in he spec he’ll stay. De bes’ way is tores’ easy en let de ole man
take his own way. Dey’s two angles hoverin’ roun’ ‘bout him. One uv’em
is white en shiny, en t’other one is black. De white one gits him to go right
a little while, den de black one sil in en gust it all up. A body can't tell yit
which one gwyne to fetch him at de las’. But you is all right. You gwyne to
have considable trouble in yo’ life, en considable joy. Sometimes you gwyne to
git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you’s gwyne to
git well ag’in. Dey’s two gals flyin’ ‘bout yo’ in yo’ life. One uv
‘em’s light en t’other one is dark. One is rich en t’other is po’.
You’s gwyne to marry de po’ one fust en de rich one by en by. You wants to
keep ‘way fum de water as much as you kin, en don't run no resk, ‘kase
it’s down in de bills dat you's gwyne to git hung.” (Twain 19). When Huck
goes home and finds Pa there, it re-enforces his belief in the occult and also
his trust in his friend Jim. In Chapter ten, Huck and Jim run into some “good
luck and some bad luck”. The mere concept of “good luck and bad luck” may
be in itself considered superstition, but more interesting events begin to
unfold. While snooping around in an overcoat, Huck and Jim find eight dollars in
one of the pockets. Then, after they eat some dinner on the Friday, they are
lying in the grass, when Huck runs out of tobacco. He decides to go to the
cavern to get some, and finds a rattlesnake. In southern culture it is “bad
luck” to touch the skin of a rattlesnake, however Huck kills it anyway, and
rolls it up to its original shape and puts it on the foot of Jim's blanket as a
decoration. Later, when night comes, Jim sits down on the blanket and the
snake's mate is there. It lunges out, and it bites Jim on the heel. Jim tells
Huck to chop off the snake's head, and to then skin the body of the snake. They
then decide to cook part of it, and eat it. Huck decides that he will be nice to
Jim, and try and make him feel better about the snakebite, so he takes the
rattles off and ties them to Jim wrist as a bracelet. Jim said it would help
him, and to this Huck narrates to the readers, “I made up my mind I wouldn’t
ever take a-holt of a snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what had
come of it.” (Twain 52). Throughout the novel we see Huck struggling to
resolve his mixed feelings and emotions with regard to Jim and to the world in
which he is growing up. On the one hand, he has become engrained with very
primitive ideas or superstitions, which tend to persist even alongside the
religious beliefs of the community around him. Also, although not directly
mentioned in the book, Huck seems to constantly struggle with the issue of
whether or not to return Jim to the widow. He seems to feel instinctively that
slavery is wrong – this is implied by the very fact of his running away with
Jim. However, he constantly questions whether or not it would be better for both
of them to return home – home to normal life but not to end his friendship
with Jim. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is filled with symbolism associated
with the superstitious beliefs of the South at the time of slavery. The spider
episode, the hairball, and the rattlesnake were given as justifiable examples of
why the escapade was doomed to failure by bad luck – all of this played out
without a direct reference to the “badness” or evil of slavery itself.
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