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I chose to examine the symbolism of the raft and river, and the journey Huck and Jim take on it in Mark Twain’s “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn”.

The Raft and the Mississippi River play a major role in this book. The river comes to symbolize many things, and one important role I believe the river play is being the deliverer for both Huck and Jim. The river takes both Huck and Jim away from captivity. As Huck was running from both Pap and the Widow, and Jim was running from Miss Watson the river helps to cover their footsteps. With Jim confined to the raft during the day it is very difficult for them to hunt. The river also helps to feed them.

Huck and Jim are on their journey to Cairo so that Jim can become a free man and to reunite with his family. The river became their life always in motion, and they began to grow an attachment towards the river and one another.

The river controls the voyage of Huck and Jim; as it won’t let them land in Cairo because of the fog where Jim could have been free; it separates them for a time when Huck stays with the Grangerford’s and then re-unites them. The control of the river also brought Huck to meet the fraudulent, thieving Duke and King, who overpowered him, just as Pap did. This brought Huck and Jim’s journey to an end when the Duke and King sold Jim to the Phelps’s for forty dollars and Jim is enslaved once again.

The raft also played an important role in this journey, it is just as important as the river is. The river symbolizing Huck and Jim’s life always in motion with transitional harmony, and the raft symbolizing their home in motion on the river. The raft made both Huck and Jim feel free from captivity and safe from the chaotic world around them. As the river controlled their journey the raft is what transported Huck and Jim on this journey, without the raft Huck and Jim would not have gotten as far as they did. The raft not only transported Huck and Jim but also helped to carry all of the supplies accumulated on this journey.

Huck and Jim grew an attachment to the lonesome river, but on the raft is where they began to grow an attachment for each other. Huck just a boy trying to survive from all the hardship his father brought on him developed an affection for and responsibility to Jim. Huck has never seen nor experienced a tender, caring father-and on the raft is when Huck first began to experience this. On the raft Jim began to guide Huck like no other and Huck began to mature. Huck was more responsive towards Jim then any other adult because Jim didn’t try to civilize him like the Widow or take advantage of him like Pap has done.

Furthermore, as Huck was maturing and learning from Jim on the raft, and Jim not being very intelligent with politics and stuff of that nature began to learn from Huck as well. Both Huck and Jim were learning from each other, one example would be the debate they had in the fourteenth chapter about King Solomon and the French language.

The wigwam on the raft kept Jim from being caught and returned back to slavery. This would be one of the reason’s why they traveled for so long and far and were able to deceive other’s passing on the river.

In conclusion I think the river journey symbolizes a metaphorical descent into the underworld, where Huck learns about himself and his relationship to Jim, and emerges change. On the river is when Huck is most fully alive and begins to mature. On the raft Huck begins to understand what the meaning of love is, and how it feels to care for another person even though he is a of a different race/color.


Sources Used — Mark Twains Huckleberry Finn

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