Huck Finn Esay Essay, Research Paper
“Not a day’s work in all my life. What I have done, I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn’t have done it…When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world.” -Mark Twain
As this quote shows, games were a very important part of life to Mark Twain. This would help explain why games are such an important part in most of his works, one of which is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He uses these games to symbolize many different things from maturity to the quest for knowledge, opening new views to what could have been a simple novel. This importance of games reflects that of our lives, when we must play the game of life as we learn, lose, and win. This is the reason that Mark Twain uses the various games such as tricks, disguises, superstitions, and fantasies to parallel Huckleberry Finn’s maturation and his education in life in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The novel is broken up into three main stages exemplifying Huck’s maturation through the games he encounters. In the first stage, the novel parallels childhood and recklessness with games. Most obviously, Huck plays “games” with the people of his own town that he comes in contact with. From the very beginning of the novel, Huck terrorizes Ms. Waterson, his keeper with various tricks and antics. He plays his games on her because he is immature and only a child. Ms. Waterson tries desperately to conform Huck to the rules of her “game” by making him civilized and not allowing him to just be a child. Huck rebels against this and plays childish pranks on her, never meaning any harm and only for his own amusement. Another example of Huck’s childish tricks is when he and Tom play a trick on Ms. Waterson’s slave, Jim, while he is asleep. Although Jim could retaliate, the boys are only children and they are regarded as harmless.
Another example of Huck’s child-like games is he and Tom’s “gang of robbers” whom they and the other boys form for fun. This gang plans to kill, kidnap, and rob anyone who they can find, although none of them really have any intention of doing these things. They have an elaborate fantasy in which they are all pirates and robbers, living adventurous lives of crime, but it is all just make-believe. Going as far as taking an oath, they swear into the pretend gang, taking on the disguise of feared criminals. We see their clildhood and innocence bleed through when none of them know what a “ransom” or a “stick-up” are. Although Huck is in favor of the pretending game, he becomes bored with this aimless pretending.
The last point of the childhood section is Huck’s staging of his own death and his escape. Huck makes something as serious as his own murder into a game, planting clues for the others to find in his house, almost getting a sense of joy from the whole ordeal. It seems that this death fantasy reaches the point of the robber gang game, but Huck does not fully realize that this game has consequences because he is too young to understand. While escaping to Jackson Island, Huck finds a game-like enjoyment in hiding from his friends and neighbors after they discover his murder scene. When the town sends a boat down the river to find his corpse, he evades it, as if in a game of tag. All of these points together come to a conclusion that Huck is only a child and that these games represent the carefree nature of childhood.
The second section of the novel parallels Huck’s education and coming to terms with reality with games he encounters after his escape and along the river. The first of these games is that which occurs when Huck finds Jim on Jackson Island. The boy and the slave attempt to disguise themselves to each other, fighting the true feelings they have. Huck, who has been taught that Negroes are not human, wears a disguise of superiority to Jim, who in turn assumes the disguise of an inferior animal he is meant to be. Soon the two see past these disguises of society and begin a relationship, one in which they care and look after each other, becoming friends. It is imperative that they learn to accept one another and do not play that game because they need each other to survive. Huck and Jim must also assume numerous “disguises” to protect them from society. Each disguise they assume gives them the liberty to use behavior that they would not be able to, if they revealed themselves. This game of willful disguise must be learned and employed if the two wish to remain safe on their journey down the Mississippi.
The reader can see Huck’s maturation and learning through his treatment of Jim as well. When he and Jim are separated one night on the river, Jim is heartbroken and scared at Huck’s disappearance. When Huck returns, he trys one of his childish tricks on Jim, telling him the separation was all a dream, but Jim exposes his feelings and his love for Huck as his friend. Huck proceeds to tease and ridicule the slave about his feelings and love, causing Jim to become angry and he calls Huck trash. “Trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er day fren’s en makes ‘em ashamed.” From this incident Huck learns that his games have consequences and that he must learn the difference between brutal jokes that ridicule a man’s humanity and meaningless teasing. When Huck places Jim’s hat on a limb causing Jim to believe witches have ridden it, Huck sees the idea as ridiculous and as a game. To Jim, however, these superstitions are real, and Huck learns he must respect Jim’s beliefs because he is Jim’s friend and should not hurt the slave.
Another game along the journey is the feuding of the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. After the raft crashes, Huck swims ashore and his liberty is once again threatened by the behavior of men. This game the adults play for a reason none of them remember threatens the lives of all who are involved. When Huck sees the dead body of Buck Grangerford, he realizes the horror of this deadly game the adults play. He is sickened by the situation and remarks that he wishes he had never come ashore to see such things. This is an important lesson he must learn about the foolishness of adult games and how sometimes these games are not always fun, but in fact have dire consequences. He learns that although killing is fun to dream about, the reality of it is horrible. Another show of these crooked adult games is that of the Duke and Dauphin. The two scoundrels come aboard the raft to Huck and Jim’s dismay, and begin to play crooked games with the two innocent souls. From the beginning, Huck and Jim sense that the men are liars and are skeptical about their story of being a Duke and a King. In one of the port towns, they put on a circus for the townspeople. This circus is nothing like the one before it and is actually a total fruad. The Duke names the show “The Royal Nonesuch” and adds, “Ladies and Children Not Admitted” to stir public interest. Once the audience comes to the show, they are chaeted with the pitiful show the two put on, but not allowed a refund. The people, angered, decide to tell others to come to the show to be cheated as well. Soon, the Duke and Dauphin have swindled the whole town and they have collected their cash, only to be chased out of town. Huck sees the Duke’s and the townpeople’s dishonesty and learns from this game of cheating, that not everyone plays by the same rules as he does and that he must watch out or be cheated himself.
The Duke and Dauphin also play other tricks on innocent people. They also swindle the Wilks girls into giving them their brother’s inheritance, posing as his benefiting brothers in the will. Huck, fed up with this dishonesty, sabatages the heist and soon the Duke and Dauphin are caught red-handed by the real Wilks brothers. From this event, Huck is further educated in dishonesty and the “cheating” that goes on in life. He learns just how dangerous and crooked humans can be.
In another game related lesson on the river, Tom becomes the cheater in the game of his journey.