Huckleberry Finn Essay, Research Paper
The esteemed, American author, Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835 and passed away on April 21, 1910. In 1864 Samuel Clemens adopted the pen name “Mark Twain,” which is a river pilot’s phrase that means two fathoms deep. When Mark was younger he loved to travel, indulging an irrepressible spirit of adventure. Plumbing his exciting life experiences, Mark Twain created the characters and plots of books which have become classic American Novels.
The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain tells the story of an adolescent boy travelling down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave. Huck has staged his death in order to escape his abusive, drunken father and hooks up with his foster mother’s escaped slave. During the adventurous journey Huck discovers many problems with society and civilization as he encounters a variety of individuals, each of whom represent a different problem with the current social order. The pair gets caught up in various ordeals involving the people they encounter. The running theme throughout the book is Huck Finn’s continuing struggle with his conscience concerning his relationship with the runaway slave, Jim, who has grown to be his friend and parent figure.
The plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn involves the adventures of Huck and Jim who are on the run. Huck is escaping his drunkard father and Jim is avoiding his proposed sale. Together they are rafting down the Mississippi River, away from civilization and society. Huck has just recently come under the care of his Christian foster mother, the Widow Douglas, who is working to undo his sinful ways and train him in a religious lifestyle. Now, as Huck grows in friendship with the black slave Jim, and they become mutual companions and guardians, he is faced with a moral dilemma. Should he betray Jim’s trust by turning him in to his rightful and legal owner or must he follow his gut feeling that he must help Jim to achieve his personal goal to acquire his freedom, even if this illegal cooperation and stealing of people’s property sentences Huck to an eternity in Hell. Huck thinks to himself, “I begun to get it through my head that he was most free and who was to blame for it? Why me. …. What had poor Miss Watson done to you… that you could treat her so mean?” Huck is filled with guilt and loses sleep over worrying about what he has done. Huck has an opportunity in Chapter XVI to turn Jim in to a bounty hunter but he cannot go through with it and rather saves Jim by lying to the man to keep him at bay. Later, in chapter XXXI, Huck decides to write a letter to Miss Watson, divulging the whereabouts of her slave and even informing her that he, Huck, is not really dead. Although the process of writing the letter makes Huck feels cleansed of sin, he realizes that Jim, being a good person and a true friend, deserves Huck’s loyalty. The moral decision is to help Jim to freedom, even if it means committing sin. “ I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ ” . From here on, Huck settles his struggle with his conscience.
The narrator and protagonist of the novel is Huckleberry Finn. It is evident that during the course of the book Huck matures greatly. At the start of the book he is a juvenile delinquent who likes to hang out with his fellow mischievous friends, especially Tom Sawyer. He is wild and carefree, playing jokes on people and believing all his pranks to be hilarious. Huck has recently moved in with his foster mother, the Widow Douglas, who is instrumental in his partial reformation. Under her care Huck is learning good manners and Christian teachings. Formal schooling is making Huck literate. Although Huck is growing accustomed to his new environment, he still strains against its restrictions. When Huck’s drunken father returns to kidnap Huck and plot to steal his money, Huck is forced to abandon his new family and society by staging his own death and escaping to Jackson’s Island and eventually down river. When his adventures grow to involve moral questions never before raised, he is forced to confront his feelings and contemplate his thoughts in order to formulate personally held views of right and wrong. Huck grows to reject the values that society has tried to instil in him. Throughout the course of the novel Huck matures as he meets a variety of people and lives a variety of adventures. He learns how to deal with people and situations and comes to his own understandings. The person who most helps Huck to mature is Jim. At the opening of the book Huck sees Jim as only a lowly slave who possesses no sense or intelligence. However, Huck only thinks this way because this is what society believes and what it teaches its adherents. As Huck gets to know Jim better, he realizes that Jim is more than the stereotypical slave and feelings of friendship and loyalty grow. Huck feels that it is his civil and Christian duty to return Jim to his owner. Concurrently he realizes that Jim is an equal, a friend, and a decent human being. In the end, Huck’s personal values overrule those of larger society. Huck accepts that, living within the parameters of Christian society, he will be punished in the after-life for helping Jim to freedom. Nevertheless, it is a price he is ready to pay in order to do what is, to his understanding, the right thing. Even though Huck still plays jokes on people, he feels guilty about playing with their minds. For example, when Huck gets separated from Jim in the fog, Huck tells Jim he dreamt the whole horrible incident, and that Huck was there beside him the whole time. Once the truth comes out, Jim responds by saying, “ En all you wuz thinkin’ ‘bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat ruck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren’s en makes ‘em ashamed.” Huck feels so ashamed that he humbles himself and apologizes to Jim, an unheard of behaviour towards a black slave. Still Huck says, “But I done it, and I warn’t ever sorry for it afterwards, neither.” Jim helps Huck to learn decent values and human trust. The Duke and the King make Huck realize that a life of thievery and con-artistry hurts other people. At the beginning of the novel, Huck is excited at the prospect of stealing money from people, although these antics are wholly in the imagination of Tom Sawyer. However, when the Duke and the King try to steal the inheritance from the Wilk girls, Huck feels so guilty that he helps the girls to keep their money. From Huck’s short stay at the Grangefords’, he learns the strong emotions of hate, love, and sorrow. He also learns through the death of Buck, a boy his own age, that life is fragile and feuds and vengeance are terrible things. All the people and adventures that Huck encounters, help him to become the mature and responsible young man he is at the end of the book.
In conclusion, the people and events that Huck contends with on his life journey, change his life and the ways he understands life. At the beginning of the book, Huck is a rowdy, young, southern boy who has very little respect for slaves or discipline, and thinks with the “immortality of youth.” By the end of the book, Huck respects humanity, black and white, because of his friendship with Jim; he upholds human life because of his brushes with death; he has an internalized set of moral values because he has seen the results of moral and immoral lifestyles; and he feels responsible for his behaviour whether or not it meshes with the mores of his milieu. He has matured significantly from the beginning to the end of the novel.
Reading The Adventures of Hucklebery Finn has been a worthwhile experience. It introduced me to a more mature and complex writing style. Huck’s adventures and the diversity of the people he meets make for a captivating plot. However, the societal attitudes toward black slaves and the stereotyping of blacks as gullible, simple, and superstitious is bothersome. The book also plays up the stupidity and narrow-mindedness of the ‘civilized’ white people. Mark Twain’s humour is witty and intelligent.
Overall I think the process was very effective. Surprisingly, I had some difficulty finding information on my book, but overall I found sufficient content. There was adequate time to complete the ISP. The class work periods were useful for accomplishing serious work. Overall I worked 28 hours and 10 minutes and my ISP contains 1310 words.
1.Beaver, Harold Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, 1987
2. Bloom, Harold, Mark Twain, Chelsea House Publishers, Broomwall, Pa, 2000
3. Claro, Joseph, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Barons Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, New York, 1984
4. Egan, Michael, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Chatto & Windus Ltd., London, 1977
5. Simpson, Claude M., Twentieth Century Interpretations of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1968
6. Clemens, Samuel Langhorne, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn An Annotated Text Backrounds and Sources Essays in Criticism, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, New York, 1961