Finn Essay, Research Paper
ENG 2AE ? 01
Monday April 3, 2000
The Quest for Parental Figures in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Throughout Huck?s journey on the river in pursuit of ?freedom,? he may have been indirectly searching for a proper home among the characters whom he encounters. In Mark Twain?s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the characters that represent a parental figure in different aspects of Huck?s development include Mr. Grangerford, the Widow Douglas, and Jim. A parental figure can be distinguished as an idol, a teacher, and a friend. With this in mind, it is easy to say that the characters mentioned above personify a parental figure to Huck. Mr. Grangerford, whom Huck admires and perceives as a gentleman, accepts him as part of the family. The Widow Douglas, who loves Huck dearly, attempts to convert him from his old, delinquent self to a gentleman, unlike his father, Pap. Jim, the man who Huck helps escape to freedom, represents a parental figure who puts others needs before his, and teaches lessons in which Huck cherishes.
Mr. Grangerford, in Huck?s eyes a gentleman (Twain 104), represents a parental figure that Huck looks up to and acknowledges in a positive manner. ?[He] enjoys living with the Grangerfords [and feels accepted], especially because they have good food and ?just bushels of it too!?? (Coles 28). Huck also admires the close-knit family environment and ?to him the Grangerfords are a wholly admirable family? (Coles 30). Huck?s description of Mr. Grangerford shows a well-rounded, strong and stable man whom he admires due to the lack of male influences he has had in the past. Huck also may have accepted Mr. Grangerford because he is the first white male on his journey that cares for his family and their well being. The times Huck spends with the family contrasts greatly from his stay with Pap, and to Huck ?[Mr. Grangerford is] as kind as he [can] be? (Twain 105). Indeed Huck perceives Mr. Grangerford as a well-set, wealthy, family man that takes him in with no objection.
The Widow Douglas is a prominent figure in Huck?s development, despite his constant objections when living with her. She cares deeply for him and his well being, and attempts to reform his radical lifestyle. ?Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and I asked the Widow to let me. But she wouldn?t? (Twain 2). For Huck?s own good, the widow forbids crude practices such as smoking and playing hooky, and is consistent with her attempts to ?sivilize? him because of her unconditional love. Though Huck despises living with the Widow, ?[he] genuinely likes the Widow Douglas and tries to please her, for her recognizes her sincerity? (Coles 55). The Widow Douglas? contributions to Huck?s development are recognizable through the comments he makes about her throughout the book. For example, after Huck and Jim escape from the Walter Scott, Huck sends back a boat to save the men left behind, thinking that is what the Widow would want:
I wished the Widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead-beats is the kind the widow and good people takes the most interest in (Twain 75).
Thus it is clear that the lessons and restrictions that the Widow Douglas provide aid Huck in making right decisions, and open up new possibilities in his life.
The third character, Jim, although perceived as a friend to Huck, may also be seen as a parental figure due to contributions he made to Huck?s state of mind. Even though Jim has no formal education whatsoever, he is considered the most intelligent black man among the other slaves (Twain 6). Throughout the journey down the river Jim teaches Huck many life lessons to follow, such as equal rights of all persons, and also passes on his knowledge of superstition to ensure that no bad luck crosses their path (Twain 50). The trust between Huck and Jim is surprisingly strong despite racial issues from these times. ?Huck?[was] moved by Jim?s personal [tragedies]?.[and] his sense of humanity triumphs over society?s teachings? (Coles 35). Though Huck has doubts and contemplates whether to turn Jim in on several occasions, he never has the heart to do so due to the father-son relationship they have built. Jim is willing to sacrifice his life and freedom for Huck?s well being, and is devastated during times when he thinks Huck is dead, much like a parent would for their child:
When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin? for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos? broke bekase you wuz los? en I didn? k?yer no? mo? what become er me en de raf? (Twain 86).
For these reasons Jim may be distinguished as a parental figure to Huck as compared to a close friend, due to the unique aspects of their relationship which only a father and son may experience.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain created many characters whom portray parental figures that help Huck to develop into a mature, young man. Mr. Grangerford personifies a strong, supportive father that takes good care of his family, and also makes Huck a part of it. The widow Douglas, a stern but compassionate woman, represents a mother that puts up barriers for the well being of Huck so he can grow up with good moral values. Jim depicts a father that assists in making the right decisions without the barriers and beliefs of the times, and contributes most to Huck?s emerging state of mind. Thus it is clear that these three characters, Mr. Grangerford, the widow Douglas, and Jim, are prominent parental figures in Huck?s life and aid him during troubled times. It is with their influences that Huck is able to transform from a boy who followed society?s morals and restrictions, to a boy who follows his heart and own mind.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. USA: Perma-Bound Classics, 1985.
Huckleberry Finn Notes. Toronto: Coles Publishing Company, 1989.