Essay, Research Paper: Adventures Of Huck Finn By Twain

Literature: Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is based on a young boy’s coming of age in
Missouri of the mid-1800s. This story depicts many serious issues that occur on
the “dry land of civilization” better known as society. As these somber
events following the Civil War are told through the young eyes of Huckleberry
Finn, he unknowingly develops morally from both the conforming and
non-conforming influences surrounding him on his journey to freedom. Huck’s
moral evolution begins before he ever sets foot on the raft down the
Mississippi. His mother has died, and his father is constantly in a drunken
state. Huck grows up following his own rules until he moves in with the Widow
Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. Together, the women attempt to civilize
Huck by making him attend school, study religion, and act in a way the women
find socially acceptable. However, Huck’s free-spirited soul keeps him from
joining the constraining and lonely life the two women have in store for him.
The freedom Huck seeks in Tom Sawyer’s gang is nothing more than romantic
child’s-play. Raiding a caravan of Arabs really means terrorizing young
children on a Sunday school picnic, and the stolen “joolry” is nothing more
than turnips or rocks. Huck is disappointed that the adventures Tom promises are
not real and so, along with the other members, he resigns from the gang. Still,
he ignorantly assumes that Tom is superior to him because of his more suitable
family background and fascination with Romantic literature (Twain). Pap and
“the kidnapping” play another big role in Huck’s moral development. Pap is
completely antisocial and wishes to undo all of the civilizing effects that the
Widow and Miss Watson have attempted to instill in him. However, Pap does not
symbolize freedom; he promotes drunkenness, prejudice, and abuse. Huck escapes
the cabin to search for the freedom he yearns for. It is after he escapes to
Jackson Island that he meets the most influential character of the novel, Jim.
After conversing, Huck learns things about the runaway slave that he had never
been aware of. Jim has a family, dreams, and talents such as knowing “all
kinds of signs about the future,” people’s personalities, and weather
forecasting (Twain 69). However, Huck sees Jim as a gullible slave. He plays
tricks on him like the “rattlesnake event” that nearly gets Jim killed. At
this point in the novel, Huck still holds the belief that blacks are essentially
different from whites. In addition, his conscience reminds him that he’s a
“low-down and dirty abolitionist” for helping Jim run away from his owner.
Huck does not see that Jim is looking for freedom just as he is (Master Plots).
The first adventure Huck and Jim take part in while searching for freedom is the
steamboat situation. Huck shows development of character in tricking the
watchman into going back to the boat to save the criminals. Even though they are
thieves, and plan to murder another man, Huck still feels that the forfeit of
their lives would be too great a punishment. Some may see Huck’s reaction to
the event as crooked but, unlike most of society, Huck Finn sees the good in
people and attempts to help them with sincerity and compassion. Getting lost in
the fog while floating down the Mississippi River leads to a major turning point
in the development of Huck Finn’s character. Up to this event, he has seen Jim
as a lesser person than himself. After trying to deny the fog event to Jim, he
says, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble
myself to a slave; but I done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterward,
neither (Twain 92).” He continues by explaining how he could never do such a
thing again. Huck has clearly gained respect for Jim here, which explains the
risks he is willing to take for Jim later in the book. A short yet significant
scene is when the men on shore want to check Huck’s raft for runaway slaves.
He escapes by tricking them into thinking that his dad is onboard with smallpox.
This scene shows a negative view of human nature. The men had helped Huck until
they realized that they were in danger themselves. They put their own safety
above that of others, and while this is sometimes acceptable, it is by no means
a noble trait (Gerber). On the other hand, Huck risks his own freedom to see
that Jim finds his. The feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons adds
to Huck’s distaste for society and it’s teachings. In this adventure, Huck
learns what a feud is and also witnesses the horrid aftermath the hostility
brought upon the two families. Another part of Huck’s moral metamorphosis in
this event is that he has come to miss the one man that has given him fatherly
love throughout the excursion. The Duke and the King join Huck and Jim in the
middle of the novel. The two con men use Huck and Jim to fulfill their greed and
desires. Like the two men from the steamboat occurrence, Huck knows that their
schemes are wrong. The con men’s attempt to masquerade as the brothers of the
late Peter Wilks is an important part of Huck’s development. Later on the Duke
and King try to take Peter’s estate, however, Huck decides to return the money
to Peter’s three daughters. This action demonstrates further moral growth, as
does his choice to abandon the two con men. Huck also learns how conniving
people can be while attending the funeral of Peter Wilks. Women would walk up to
Peter’s daughters and “kiss their foreheads, and then put their hand on
their head, look up towards the sky with the tears running down, and bust out
sobbing just to give the next woman a show” Huck has never seen anything “so
disgusting.” When he sees one of the daughters crying beside the coffin, it
makes a deep impact on him (Twain 213). Not only did he experience his first
bout with puppy love, he also feels compassion for an innocent victim. “All
right then, I’ll go to hell!” represents the highest point in Huck’s moral
development. He has decided to go against his conscience by freeing Jim, and in
doing so, reject society. While the society he has grown up in teaches that
freeing slaves is wrong, Huck has evolved to a point where he can realize that
what he feels is right, and that his own beliefs are superior to those of
Southern civilization (Englewood 47). Jim has taught him what it is like to feel
free while gliding down the Mississippi. When Huck would need safety from the
dry land, Jim has always been his haven. However, the next situation Jim and
Huck go through will bring another turning point--for the worst. When Tom
Sawyer’s relatives catch Jim, Huck decides he will get his friend back. He
sees Uncle Silas as such a good man, but fails to see that he owns slaves like
all the rest. Also, just as Jim looks up to Huck, Huck looks up to Tom Sawyer,
and let’s his useless rescue attempts jeopardize Jim’s freedom. Jim does
show compassion yet again when he attempts to save the Duke and King from being
tarred and feathered, but there is an apparent stagnant period in Huck’s
development during the “rescue attempt.” Huck let’s Tom Sawyer take the
controls and sits quietly while Tom puts Jim through ordeal after ordeal (Twain
296). When it is made certain that Jim is a free man, Huck learns the truth
about his father’s death and who was in the floating house at the beginning of
the journey. It is made evident to the reader that Huck thanks Jim for
protecting him from the gruesome nature, and does not regret the adventures he
and Jim had together. Huckleberry Finn was able to rise above the rest of
society. As a young boy, he learned many things about the cruel world, and what
freedom really means. Huck will never accept “civilization” and he will
always go back to the safety net of the Mississippi River. Though there were
times when he made the wrong decision, the reader must realize that growing up
is a trial-and-error. Society has come a long way since the Civil War, and it is
important to realize that people like the characters, Jim and Huckleberry Finn,
have made freedom accessible to all that need a harbor from the dry limits of
society soil (Englewood 53). Although Huckleberry Finn seems to get into a lot
of trouble, as he is dishonest at many times throughout the novel, his character
seems to melt in the reader’s hand once his fine moral nature begins to
unfold. The game Huck plays drifts him into an occasion of rare moral crisis,
where he must choose between violating the entire code of social, religious,
conventional behavior which the world has taught him, and betraying the person
who needs and loves him most and whom he loves most. He writes a letter which
tells Miss Watson that her slave, Jim, is in Mr. Phelp’s possession. After
writing the letter he says: “I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the
first time I had ever so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I
didn’t do it straight off but laid the paper down and set there thinking how
good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to
hell.” After studying the letter he then said, “All right, then, I’ll go
to hell” and tore it up (Twain 216). Another thing that affected Huck and may
have contributed to his unhappiness that brought him over the edge to run away
was lack of money. Early on Huck and his father sold his fortune to Judge
Thatched for a dollar. This lack of money may have put an even bigger strain on
the father, causing him drink his sorrows away and act irrationally towards
Huck. This brought on the constant beatings that Huck was forced to endure until
he gained the courage to fake his death, and leave his pitiful life back at the
mouth of the river. Money also played a part concerning those two swindling
crooks, the King and Duke. The king and Duke tried to pass themselves off as
being distant relatives. Their new identity would put them at hand with a large
amount of cash. Ultimately their cover was revealed. Huck is able to escape
unscathed, but the King and Duke weren’t as fortunate as tar and feathers
awaited them (Twain 318). Drinking also plays a part in Huck’s dilemmas as the
story unravels drinking led Huck’s father to beat him. Living in an unhappy
situation such as this gave Huck reason to start out on his own adventure.
Drinking also led to the Duke’s easy admittance of hiding the money. In this
situation, the drunkenness exhibited by both characters helped to put a hole in
their cover up. While they were questioned and served a heavy punishment, it was
really Huck who stole the money before all of their eyes (Master Plots).
Throughout the novel Huck overcomes numerous obstacles and endures various
negative repercussions to attain both emotional and physical freedom. Twain’s
implied lessons were expressed within Huckleberry’s moral dilemmas. The novel
ends with a frustrated Huck stating; “ Aunt Sally she’s gonna adopt me and
civilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” Although the novel
ends leaving the reader with a sense that Huck is truly free, he will forever be
followed by his moral dilemmas.
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