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The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn American Classic Or Just Another Book Essay, Research Paper

A classic novel is one that stands the test of time, a book that teaches lessons and morals that readers of all ages can appreciate and learn from. There are many American novels that are considered classics, but there is one that is thought of before all others. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has long been considered a classic piece of American literature, the book to which all other American work is compared to. It is revered to the point that it is a section of the curriculum for Literature classes all over the country. However, there are some that think that this book should not be taught in school, but rather something like Uncle Tom s Cabin, mostly because Huck Finn provides the reader with such low views of the African American. I think that Huck Finn should not be read for reasons such as Huck development as a character, the relationship between Huck and Jim, Jim s character, and the quality of the last twelve chapters.

Throughout the novel, the character of Huck Finn learns many lessons about life, and also becomes adept at being immoral when needed. This is one of the major criticisms of the book. For a book that is said to be a perfect example of American literature, the main character is not exactly the greatest role model. He starts out as a boy who just wants to have a good time with his friend Tom. He kind of idolizes Tom Sawyer, and often would ask himself what Tom would do when he got into a situation. He even went so far as to change his course of action because he thought it s not how Tom would have done it, like when they find the wrecked steamboat in Chapter 12. When he boards the boat and discovers the criminals talking to Jim Turner, he doesn t run because Tom Sawyer wouldn t back out now, and so I won t either; I m a-going to see what s going on here. In doing this he risks his life and Jim s, when he shouldn t even have gotten onto the boat in the first place. He doesn t even think about Jim, but instead focuses on having an adventure. This kind of attitude shows that Huck thought of Jim as nothing more than a sidekick. Later in the novel, when Huck and Jim meat up with the king and the duke, Huck is forced to participate in the scams the king and duke attempt to pull. Through these episodes Huck becomes even more skilled in the art of lying, and therefore becomes more and more an immoral character, though not really by his choosing. He gets to the point where he lies to Tom s Aunt Sally and tells her that he is Tom, and then makes Tom tell her he s Sid, Tom s step-brother. He does have some redeemable qualities though, like how he decides to rescue Jim, even though he knows he d probably be killed or jailed if someone found out. He also tells Mary Jane about the king and duke so that she doesn t get swindled. Another major problem with the book is Huck and Jim s relationship.

In the beginning of the book, Huck and Tom see Jim as nothing but another slave. They play tricks on him and pretty much have no respect for him as a human being. After Huck escapes and finds Jim on the island, they begin to become friends, but Huck still doesn t really treat him as an equal until much later in the book, and even then just barely recognizes him as a human being. Jim s ideas and thoughts are not treated with as much weight as Huck s are, and he is often treated like a subordinate and not a friend. For most of the book Huck treats him as a toy, or a source of amusement, like when he plays the trick on Jim with the rattlesnake skin, and Jim ends up being bitten by a live rattlesnake. When he finally apologizes to Jim, he treats it like it was this unachievable chore that no one would have ever done normally. He says It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn t ever sorry for it afterward, neither. Then, when the duke and king sell Jim for forty dollars, Huck aims right away to save him. The only problem is, he doesn t really save him on his own. He lets Tom Sawyer come up with a ridiculously unnecessary plan that ends in disaster. In these ways Huck treats Jim as a toy, as something off to the side that s there to amuse him and keep him entertained.

The way Jim is treated is nothing compared to the way Jim is portrayed in the novel. Many people have protested the manner in which he is portrayed, as an uneducated, superstitious, subservient runaway slave. There are others still that say that s what the African American was back then, because of the cruelties of slavery. While it s true that black men back then were often very much like Jim, it s obvious that Jim is there to be used by the rest of the characters in the book. First he s tricked by Tom and Huck into thinking a witch accosted him in his sleep. Then when he s with Huck, Huck puts a rattlesnake skin at his feet, which leads to Jim being nearly killed by the poisonous bite of the dead snake s partner. Then again Huck tricks him by saying that they never lost the raft in the fog, which hurts Jim s feelings very much. Later he s thrown off to the side by Twain as Huck has his escapades with the king and duke. When the king and duke sell him for forty dollars, Tom sees it as an opportunity for Huck and him to have an adventure in rescuing Jim. As it turns out, Jim didn t need to be saved because Miss Watson set him free in her will. This kind of mistreatment of Jim shows that the other characters in the book really didn t see him as an equal and didn t take his desire for freedom seriously. Probably the biggest example of this is that right away when Huck and Jim escaped, they could have just crossed the river into Illinois, a free state. Instead they travel farther and farther down the river until they end up in slave country. If Twain s motive in making Jim such an integral part of the story was to show the evils of slavery, he failed miserably and did nothing for the cause. Also, if this is the main reason the book is read in schools, then it should be removed from the curriculum and replaced with Uncle Tom s Cabin, as Jane Smiley suggests in her article. Towards the end of the article she states I would rather my children read Uncle Tom s Cabin, even though it is far more vivid in its depiction of cruelty than Huck Finn, and this is because Stowe s novel is clearly and unmistakably a tragedy.

While Jim s character is controversial in his depiction, the major source of criticism of the book is its conclusion. Even people who praise the book as great admit that the last twelve chapters are boring in their content and that most of the end is unnecessary. Jim is sold back into slavery, more specifically to Silas Phelps, and Huck decides to rescue him. It could have led to a great ending, but instead Tom Sawyer is reintroduced into the novel and comes up with a plan that puts all three in danger. The worst part is that neither Huck nor Jim protests the plan very much, and it results in Tom being shot in the leg and Jim being captured again. Then Tom reveals that Jim was set free in Miss Watson s will, and he never should have been captured in the first place. Then Twain goes on to tie up all the loose ends very tidily, and ends the book with Huck deciding to run away again. The book went from Huck learning what life is about to just another adventure for Tom Sawyer in the space of a few chapters. Had Twain ended the book with Huck overcoming the mass opinion of society and go to hell by rescuing Jim, there would probably be half as many criticisms of the book.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel that has its qualities, both good and bad. However, it probably shouldn t be read for the reason of showing the evils of slavery or life s lessons. That should be left to books like Uncle Tom s Cabin. Huck s development, Huck and Jim s relationship, Jim s character, and the conclusion of the novel all lead to the decision that Huck Finn is not the classic it has been hyped up as for decades.


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