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Huck Finn Essay, Research Paper
The Struggle to Find Oneself
In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, the main character
enters a transitional period of his life. This character, Huck Finn, faces many situations forcing
him to deal with decisions that carry with them the ability to bring about change. Since
transition can be defined as “the process of entering change”, Huck begins searching for an
identity which is truly his own. In determining his self image, Huck deals with conformity and
freedom, trying on different identities that do not belong to him, and shaping these new found
tributes into an identity which best suits his conscience.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins with Huck under the care of Widow Douglas
as “she took me for her son, and allowed that she would civilize me; but it was rough living in
the house all the time.”(p.1) Huck has become so used to being free that he sees the Widow
Douglas’ protection solely in terms of confinement. Huck finds this unacceptable because he
loses his freedom amongst “the bars and shackles of civilization.”(p.2) Huck feels that he
belongs out under the stars where the community cannot bound him. Huck then faces the return
of his drunkard father.
When Huck’s father comes back to the town, he only intends to steal money from his
son.; “I hain’t heard nothing but about you being rich. That’s why I come. You get me that money
tomorrow-I want it.”(p.15) Huck’s own father does not feel one bit inclined to treat his son with
any respect. Then his father brings him to a log cabin deep in the woods and Huck once again
faces confinement. Huck’s escape, flight, and the changing of his identity are his only release
from being in the log cabin. Then after escaping from it all, Huck is left with himself and his
The raft on which Huck and Jim travel demonstrates one of symbols of freedom in the
story. To Huck, the raft seems to be the safest place that brings freedom on which he can grow
and experience life. However, when duke and king enter the scene, the raft is no longer free.
King and duke rob Huck and Jim of their isolation from society and the real world. The only
way Huck can escape from the abuse of his father and society is to rid himself of his known
This leads to Huck’s first confrontation with the trying on of different identities and the
“death” of himself. If he “dies,” “they will search the river and they’ll soon get tired of that and
won’t bother no more about me.”(p.26) By faking his “death”, Huck will escape his problems
and he will allow himself to experience life from different points of view. His “death” leads to
his own self-survival because his “death” will give him his freedom, the one thing that Huck
As Huck drifts down the river on his raft, he begins to look for himself. He attempts to
slip into the identities of others to experience things in a different way than they normally would
be. Huck’s longing for freedom is his only self-desire. His freedom requires that he find a
conscious, moral identity. He must discover his true self and know himself as a person and as an
individual in order to be free. However, other characters in the story put on different identities
for much different reasons than Huck. Huck learns from these peoples’ downfalls. One example
would be king and duke.
Huck learns from them that there comes a time when to draw the line and when lying
becomes unnecessary. King and duke both put up fake identities in order to scam people of their
money. Huck discovers the truth about king and duke but he feels that “if they wanted us (Huck
and Jim) to call them kings and dukes, I hadn’t no objections, long as it would keep peace.”(p.95)
Huck makes this statement because he learned from his father that “the best way to get along
with his (Pap’s) kind of people is to let them have their own way.”(p.95) Throughout the
experiences on Huck’s journey, his identity slowly adapts to his conscience.
One aspect of his identity which appears earlier on in the book is his religion. Huck has
learned to adapt to the views of society and to make them into what he feels is right according to
his conscience. An example of this is when Huck talks about turning Jim in and decides “all
right then, I’ll go to hell”(p.162) when he ends up deciding that he does not want to turn him in.
Huck actually improves his conscience by refusing to turn Jim in. However, Huck thinks that he
is making it worse. Huck has no self-conscious sense of the change that has occurred in himself.
All of this reveals Huck’s “deformed” conscience because he thinks he is doing wrong when he is
really doing the right thing. Also, the subject of Jim and black people as a whole causes some
change in Huck.
At the beginning of the story, Huck does not even think blacks are human, but throughout
Huck and Jim’s journey along the river together, Huck learns otherwise. At one point, Huck
even “goes and humbles himself to a nigger”(p.5) and another time he promises to keep the
reason why Jim ran away a secret, even though “people would call me a low-down Abolitionist
and despise me for keeping mum.”(p.32) These are some of the many examples throughout the
story that show us that Huck really cares for Jim and that he truly changes his views of blacks.
Even though Huck knows that black people are not supposed to be respected, Huck cannot go
against what he feels is right and gives Jim the respect that he deserves.
Throughout this journey, Huck encounters many different situations in which he learns to
adapt and react to each in a way that he feels suitable. Huck learns about life and the real world.
He then gathers what he has learned and combines it into an identity, which suits him. This
enables him to create a conscience with which he finds himself comfortable. Huck finding
himself really did cause a struggle considering all that he had to put up with in order to do so.
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