Huck Finn Essay Research Paper Mark Twains

Huck 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 was Mark Twain^?s greatest book, and a delighted world named it his masterpiece. To nations

knowing it well – Huck riding his raft in every language men could print – it was America?s 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 initially condemned as inappropriate material for young readers, it soon became prized for its

recreation of the Antebellum South, its insights into slavery, and its depiction of adolescent life. The novel resumes

Huck?s tale from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which ended with Huck^?s adoption by Widow Douglas. But it is so

much more. Into this book the world called his masterpiece, Mark Twain put his prime purpose, one that branched in

all his writing: a plea for humanity, for the end of caste, and of its cruelties (Allen 260).

Twain, whose real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was born in Florida, Missouri, in 1835. During his childhood

he lived in Hannibal, Missouri, a Mississippi river 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 Twain?s writing. 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 a number of people attempt to influence him. Huck^?s feelings grow through the novel. Especially

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 character rests. 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 the beginning of the book Huck is

living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson. Both women are fairly old and are incapable of raising a

rebellious boy like Huck Finn. However, they attempt to make Huck into what the y believe will be a better boy. The

Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it rough 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, teaching him various religious facts, and making him act in a way that the women find

socially acceptable.

In this first chapter, Twain gives us the first direct example of communicating his feelings through Huck Finn: ^?After

supper, the Widow Douglas got out her book and 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 his feelings 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 to conceal satirical meanings within humorous lines. Huck, who has never had to follow many rules in his

life, finds the demands the 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 though he becomes somewhat

comfortable with his new life as the months go by, Huck never really enjoys the life of manners, religion, and

education that the Widow and her sister impose upon him. 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. Huck is

eager to join Tom Sawyer?s Gang because he feels that doing so will allow him to escape 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 and ransoming people, kidnapping beautiful women, but none of this comes to pass. Huck

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 adventures Tom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he resigns from

the gang. Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap, Hucks father. Some of Huck?s most

memorable lines were in reference to Pap. Twain uses humor and innocence to depict a generalization of society:

Pap always said, take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you don^?t want him yourself you can easy find

somebody that does, and a good deed ain?t never forgot.

I never see Pap when he didn?t want the chicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway (Twain 16). These

types of 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 time, he taned me so much, I reckoned I

was scared now too (Twain 18). Pap demands that 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 with the Widow

and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the woods. Here, Huck enjoys, once again, the freedom that he had prior to

the beginning of the book. He can smoke, laze around, swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do. However, as

he did with the Widow and with Tom, Huck begins to become dissatisfied with this life. Pap beats Huck 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 important 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 and telling Huck?s fortune. Huck finds Jim on Jackson^?s Island because the slave has run away when

he overheard a conversation that he will soon be sold to someone in New Orleans. When 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 being rather than a faithful dog. Huck begins to realize that Jim has more talents and

intelligence than Huck has been aware of. Jim knows all kinds of things about the future, people?s 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 vigor and freshness to many passages, and especially in the sections involving

conversations between Jim and Huck. As Huck and Jim lie on their backs at night looking up at the stars, while the

raft slips silently down the river, they argue about whether the stars was made or only just happened: Jim said the

moon could laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable…because I?ve seen a frog lay most as many (Twain 120).

Huck feels more 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 security, but Jim is not as confining as the

Widow. Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligent but his intelligence is not as intimidating or as imaginary as is Tom?s.

Unlike Pap, Jim allows 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 long time. Through it all, Huck triumphed over society and followed his heart, and Jim helped Huck 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 his association with Jim and his increasing respect for the black man.

Huck and Jim start their long journey down the Mississippi to Cairo where Jim will find his freedom. It is on this

journey where Huck slowly develops a respectful friendship 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 Jim.

Jim 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 got separated on the river he realizes what he has done and

feels bad; however, Huck is slow to 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 didnt do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn?t have

done that one if I?d a knowed it would make him feel that way? (Twain 86). That incident probably changed the whole

way Huck looks at Jim and other Negroes. He realizes that they are people with feelings not just a household item.

Part of the power of the book lies in Mark Twain^?s drawing of the character of Nigger Jim. Mark Twain shows

Jim^?s slow, purposeful reasoning. But in other moods 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 free

States^?-in other words freedom. If The Enchanted Village might serve as a subtitle for Tom Sawyer, so The Road to

Freedom might serve the same purpose for Huckleberry Finn (Bellamy 342).

A while later fate decides to test Huck and they come across some slave hunters. 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 went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had

done wrong^? (Twain 91). At one of the towns that Huck and Jim stop at they pick up two men who claim to 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 too far 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. Huck

presents himself as Tom Sawyer. When Tom actually arrives, he cooperates with Huck and presents himself as

another fellow, Sid. Huck enlists Tom^?s aid in the scheme to rescue Jim. Tom, however, develops an unnecessarily

complicated plot. When they help 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 learn that 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 them as 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. It is through his precise trusting

eyes that the reader sees the world of the novel. Because Huck is so literal, the reader gains an understanding of

the work Mark Twain created, the reader is able to catch Twain^?s jokes and hear his skepticism. The

Grangerford^?s furniture, much admired by Huck, is actually comically tacky. You can almost hear Mark Twain

laughing over the parrot-flanked clock and the curtains with cows and castles painted on them even as Huck oohs

and ahhs. Through the character of Huck, that disreputable, illiterate little boy, Mark Twain 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 attempting to 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 self-identification with Huck, the dominant strategy he

employed. This identification breathed life into Huck^?s character and into his experience, which encompasses the

dramatic role of sharply individualized characters.


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