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Huckleberry Finn Essay, Research Paper
Mark Twain^?s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about a young boy^?s
coming of age in the Missouri of the mid-1800^?s. It is the story of Huck^?s
struggle to win
freedom for himself and Jim, a Negro slave. ^?Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Twain^?s greatest book, and a delighted world named it his masterpiece. To
knowing it well – Huck riding his raft in every language men could print – it
masterpiece^? (Allen 259). It is considered one of the greatest novels
because it conceals
so well Twain^?s opinions within what is seemingly a child^?s book. Though
condemned as inappropriate material for young readers, it soon became prized
recreation of the Antebellum South, its insights into slavery, and its
adolescent life. The novel resumes Huck^?s tale from the Adventures of Tom
which ended with Huck^?s adoption by Widow Douglas. But it is so much more.
this book the world called his masterpiece, Mark Twain put his prime purpose,
branched in all his writing: a plea for humanity, for the end of caste, and
of its cruelties^?
Twain, whose real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was born in Florida,
Missouri, in 1835. During his childhood he lived in Hannibal, Missouri, a
port that was to become a large influence on his future writing. It was
Twain^?s nature to
write about where he lived, and his nature to criticize it if he felt it
necessary. As far his
structure, Kaplan said,
^?In plotting a book his structural sense was weak; intoxicated by a hunch,
he seldom saw far ahead, and too many of his stories peter out from the
author^?s fatigue or surfeit. His wayward techniques came close to free
association. This method served him best after he had conjured up
characters from long ago, who on coming to life wrote the narrative for
him, passing from incident to incident with a grace their creator could
never achieve in manipulating an artificial plot^? (Kaplan 16).
His best friend of forty years William D. Howells, has this to say about
^?So far as I know, Mr. Clemens is the first writer to use in extended
writing the fashion we all use in thinking, and to set down the thing that
comes into his mind without fear or favor of the thing that went before or
the thing that may be about to follow^? (Howells 186).
The main character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating
down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Before
he does so,
however, Huck spends some time in the fictional town of St. Petersburg where
of people attempt to influence him. Huck^?s feelings grow through the novel.
in his feelings toward his friends, family, blacks, and society. Throughout
the book, Huck
usually looks into his own heart for guidance. Moral intuition is the basis
on which his
Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolute freedom. His
drunken and often missing father has never paid much attention to him; his
mother is dead
and so, when the novel begins, Huck is not used to following any rules. In
of the book Huck is living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss
women are fairly old and are incapable of raising a rebellious boy like Huck
However, they attempt to make Huck into what they believe will be a better
Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but
living in the house all the time considering how dismal regular and decent
the widow was
in all her ways^? (Twain 11). This process includes making Huck go to school,
him various religious facts, and making him act in a way that the women find
acceptable. In this first chapter, Twain gives us the first direct example
his feelings through Huck Finn: ^?After supper, the Widow Douglas got out her
learned me about Moses…By and bye she let it out that Moses had been dead a
considerable long time; so then I didn^?t care no more about him, because I
don^?t take no
stock in dead people^? (Twain 12). In a letter written by Twain, he had this
to say: ^?As to
the past, there is but one good thing about it, and that is, that it is the
past — we don^?t
have to see it again…I have no tears for my pile, no respect, no reverence,
no pleasure in
taking a rag-picker^?s hood and exploring it^? (Bellamy 156). Twain expresses
in the above paragraph by using the ^?I don^?t take no stock in dead
people^?(Twain 12) line
in the novel. In this way he can fashion a child^?s narrative to convey his
views of the past.
This is one example of the process Twain will continue to use in this novel
satirical meanings within humorous lines.
Huck, who has never had to follow many rules in his life, finds the demands
women place upon him constraining and the life with them lonely. As a
result, soon after
he first moves in with them, he runs away. He soon comes back, but, even
becomes somewhat comfortable with his new life as the months go by, Huck
enjoys the life of manners, religion, and education that the Widow and her
Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer. Tom is a boy of
Huck^?s age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life of adventure.
eager to join Tom Sawyer^?s Gang because he feels that doing so will allow him
the boring life he leads with the Widow Douglas. Unfortunately, such an
escape does not
occur. Tom Sawyer promises the gang they will be robbing stages, murdering
ransoming people, kidnapping beautiful women, but none of this comes to pass.
finds out too late that Tom^?s adventures are imaginary: that raiding a
caravan of ^?A-rabs^?
really means terrorizing young children on a Sunday School picnic, that
stolen ^?joolry^? is
nothing more than turnips or rocks (Twain 22). Huck is disappointed that the
Tom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he resigns
Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap, Huck^?s
Some of Huck^?s most memorable lines were in reference to Pap. Twain uses
innocence to depict a generalization of society: ^?Pap always said, take a
you get a chance, because if you don^?t want him yourself you can easy find
does, and a good deed ain^?t never forgot. I never see Pap when he didn^?t
chicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway^? (Twain 16). These
paragraphs are used for three things simultaneously: to add a note of
satire, to add to the
storyline, and to continue to emphasize the child^?s point of view (Branch
214). Pap is one
of the most interesting figures in the novel. He is completely antisocial
and wishes to
undo all of the civilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson have
attempted to instill
in Huck. Pap is unshaven and dirty. Huck is afraid of his father because he
is an abusive
drunk who only wants Huck for his money. ^?I used to be scared of him all the
taned me so much, I reckoned I was scared now too^? (Twain 18). Pap demands
Huck quit school, stop reading, and avoid church. Huck is able to stay away
from Pap for
a while, but Pap kidnaps Huck three or four months after Huck starts to live
Widow and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the woods. Here, Huck enjoys,
again, the freedom that he had prior to the beginning of the book. He can
around, swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do. However, as he did
Widow and with Tom, Huck begins to become dissatisfied with this life. Pap
often and he soon realizes that he will have to escape from the cabin if he
wishes to remain
alive. Huck makes it appear as if he is killed in the cabin while Pap is
away, and leaves to
go to a remote island in the Mississippi River, Jackson^?s Island.
It is after he leaves his father^?s cabin that Huck joins yet another
influence in his life, Miss Watson^?s slave, Jim. Prior to Huck^?s leaving,
Jim has been a
minor character in the novel — he has been shown being fooled by Tom Sawyer
Huck^?s fortune. Huck finds Jim on Jackson^?s Island because the slave has run
he overheard a conversation that he will soon be sold to someone in New
he first finds Jim on the island, he is glad simply because he wants
companionship; but as
the two share the peace of the place, Huck comes to regard Jim as a human
rather than a faithful dog. Huck begins to realize that Jim has more talents
than Huck has been aware of. Jim knows all kinds of things about the future,
personalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of information
necessary as he
and Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft. Mark Twain^?s imagination lends
freshness to many passages, and especially in the sections involving
Jim and Huck. As Huck and Jim lie on their backs at night looking up at the
the raft slips silently down the river, they argue about whether the stars
^?was made or only
just happened^?: ^?Jim said the moon could ^?a^? laid them; well, that looked
reasonable…because I^?ve seen a frog lay most as many^? (Twain 120). Huck
comfortable with Jim than he feels with the other major characters in the
novel. With Jim,
Huck can enjoy the best aspects of his earlier influences. Jim allows Huck
Jim is not as confining as the Widow. Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligent
intelligence is not as intimidating or as imaginary as is Tom^?s. Unlike Pap,
Huck freedom, but he does it in a loving, rather than an uncaring, fashion.
Thus, early, in
their relationship on Jackson^?s Island, Huck says to Jim, ^?This is nice. I
wouldn^?t want to
be nowhere else but here^?(Twain 55). Although their friendship took plenty
of time to
develop and had many bumps in the road, it is a strong one that will last a
Through it all, Huck triumphed over society and followed his heart, and Jim
to mature and became free. Their journey to friendship is one to remember.
Huck is a
developing character throughout the novel. Much of his development is due to
association with Jim and his increasing respect for the black man.
Huck and Jim start their long journey down the Mississippi to Cairo where
find his freedom. It is on this journey where Huck slowly develops a
with Jim. However, this is slow to develop because Huck plays some very
nasty tricks on
Jim. The tricks would not have been so mean if Huck did not mean so much to
really needs Huck^?s help if he is going to make it safely. It is also later
revealed that Huck
is the only friend that Jim ever had. After Huck plays the trick where they
on the river he realizes what he has done and feels bad; however, Huck is
apologize. ^?It was fifteen minutes before I could go and humble myself to a
nigger; but I
done it and I warn^?t ever sorry for it afterward, neither. I didn^?t do him
no more mean
tricks, and I wouldn^?t have done that one if I^?d a^?knowed it would make him
way^? (Twain 86). That incident probably changed the whole way Huck looks at
other Negroes. He realizes that they are people with feelings not just a
Part of the power of the book lies in Mark Twain^?s drawing of the character
Nigger Jim. Mark Twain shows Jim^?s slow, purposeful reasoning. But in other
Jim^?s spirit opens out to a wider horizon. Like Huck, he senses the beauty
of the river. In
his interpretation of a dream, Jim lets ^?the big, clear river^? symbolize ^?the
other words freedom. If The Enchanted Village might serve as a subtitle for
Sawyer, so The Road to Freedom might serve the same purpose for Huckleberry
A while later fate decides to test Huck and they come across some slave
Huck is still a little confused between right and wrong and decides to turn
Jim in, but at
the last second Huck starts lying and saves Jim from being discovered. ^?They
and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I
wrong^? (Twain 91).
At one of the towns that Huck and Jim stop at they pick up two men who claim
be royalty but are really con-artists. Huck quickly realizes this but does
not say anything
just to keep the peace on the raft. Huck does not really like these two,
King and Duke,
because they do mean things to innocent people to make their living. They go
when they find three sisters who just lost their father and they pretend to
be their British
uncles. They plan to rob the sisters for all their worth but Huck foils
their plan. This
passage illustrates Huck^?s kindness to total strangers. Huck especially did
not care for
King and Duke after King sells Jim for forty dollars. Huck is determined to
free Jim and
finds out that Jim is being kept at the farm of Tom Sawyer^?s aunt and uncle.
presents himself as Tom Sawyer. When Tom actually arrives, he cooperates
and presents himself as another fellow, Sid. Huck enlists Tom^?s aid in the
rescue Jim. Tom, however, develops an unnecessarily complicated plot. When
Jim escape, a chase ensues. Tom is shot in the leg and Jim is recaptured.
But then the
boys learn that Jim^?s owner has died, bequeathing him his freedom. They also
Huck^?s father, too, has died. Tom^?s Aunt Sally then offers to adopt Huck,
but he realizes
that the process of becoming civilized is not an enjoyable one.
Throughout the course of the novel Huck changed from a boy who shared the
narrow-minded opinion which looked down on Negroes to one where he viewed
equals. I would say that would be his biggest emotional growth in the novel.
Huck is a very personable narrator. He tells his story in plain language.
through his precise trusting eyes that the reader sees the world of the
Huck is so literal, the reader gains an understanding of the work Mark Twain
reader is able to catch Twain^?s jokes and hear his skepticism. The
furniture, much admired by Huck, is actually comically tacky. You can almost
Twain laughing over the parrot-flanked clock and the curtains with cows and
painted on them even as Huck oohs and ahhs.
Through the character of Huck, that disreputable, illiterate little boy,
was licensed to let himself go…That Mark Twain was almost, if not quite
conscious of his
opportunity we can see from his introductory note to the book: ^?Persons
find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to
find a moral in it
will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot^?
(Branch 216). The
emotional tie-in with the past found expression in Mark Twain^?s
Huck, the dominant strategy he employed. This identification breathed life
character and into his experience, which encompasses the dramatic role of
Allen, Jerry. The Adventures of Mark Twain. Boston: Little, 1954.
Bellamy, Gladys Carmen. Mark Twain: As A Literary Artist. Norman: UP of
Branch, Edgar Marquess. The Literary Apprenticeship Of Mark Twain. New York:
Howells, W. D. My Mark Twain: Reminiscences and Criticisms. New York: Harper,
Kaplan, Justin, ed. Mark Twain: A Profile. New York: Hill, 1967.
Twain, Mark. Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Penguin, 1959.
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