Huck Finn Analysis Essay, Research Paper
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
A Critical Analysis
SECTION I- Chapters 1 through 11
The book introduces Huck as the first person narrator which is important because it establishes clearly that this book is written from the point of view of a young, less than civilized character. His character emerges as a very literal and logical thinker who only believes what he can see with his own eyes. In this section Huck’s life with the Widow Douglas and her attempts to raise him as a civilized child sets up the main theme of this book which is the struggle or quest for freedom. Huck’s struggle for freedom from civilized society is paralleled by Jim’s struggle to escape from slavery. Irony as a key literary element in this novel is apparent in this chapter and is primarily expressed through Huck’s sarcasm. A major element of superstition is introduced and continues throughout the entire book. This superstition is used to give insight into Huck’s character, which is very naive and gullible, as well as foreshadow events. For example the killing of the spider in chapter 1 and, in a later chapter, the spilling of the salt does result in bad luck in the form of Pa coming home. Twain puts together an interesting juxtaposition of theft with honor when Tom Sawyer establishes his robber band with Huck and the other boys and they swear to their code of ethics. Interestingly, this is also paralleled at the end of the book when Tom is able to help steal Jim “honorably” because Jim is already a free man. Throughout this section, Huck’s character and personality is established. He is revealed as humble in that he constantly underplays his own intelligence. An example is when he plans his own death and then while indicating that Tom would have been proud, he minimizes this by saying that Tom would have, of course, done it better. The primary relationships of Huck with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson as well as Huck with Pap and Huck with Jim are established. Throughout the novel, Huck takes on different identities to further his attempts at freedom. In this section three of these identities are seen. One is Huck, the dead boy when he “kills” himself in order to cover his escape from Pap at his cabin and the other is Sarah Mary Williams whom he disguised himself as when he attempted to get information and later George Peters emerges when Sarah is discovered to be a boy.
SECTION II -Chapters 12 through 20
In this section, insight into the character of Jim is portrayed. Jim comes across as sincere and trustworthy. The loyalty of Jim and Huck to each other begins to be seen. An example of Jim’s loyalty is seen when Jim is overjoyed to find Huck is still alive after they are separated in the fog. During this section, it begins to be apparent that Jim would be willing to sacrifice to be sure that Huck is safe but Huck does not yet return those feelings. During this section, Huck’s moral dilemma about helping a slave escape begins to surface. The fact that the relationship is strengthening is revealed when Huck lies about having smallpox on their raft in order to prevent Jim from being caught as a slave. Huck again assumes several identities during this section, which reveal much about him. On the raft, Huck is very mature and responsible. He becomes the son of a family that is stranded on a sinking steamboat to get help and then he becomes the son of a man with smallpox in order to protect Jim. However, while with the Grangerfords in the role of George Jackson, he is much less sure of himself and more “kidlike” in his behavior and understanding.
SECTION III – Chapters 21 through 30
Huck’s emerging insight into Jim as a human being is seen. When he comments that he is surprised to find that Jim is almost as concerned about his family as a white person would be, he reveals his beginning awareness of Jim as a person. It is apparent that Huck is overcoming the prevailing attitude of society regarding the justification of breaking up slave families. He is also beginning to see that Jim is more concerned about his children than Pap was about him. Jim is becoming less “black” and more human and thus begins to reveal to Huck that there is not so much difference between black and white. Also in this section we see Huck taking a stand to help someone else when he tells the girls that the “Duke and King” are not their uncles and devises a plan for them to be exposed. During this section, Huck took on the identity of being a slave owner when he first met the Duke and King and then later took on the identity of being a servant when the Duke and King set out to fool Mary Jane, Susan, and Joanna and steal their inheritance.
SECTION IV – Chapters 31 through 35
These chapters deal with the very important and powerful issues that are alluded to early in the book. Huck is forced to decide between right and wrong concerning slavery when Jim is held by the Phelps. Deciding whether to help Jim or let him be returned to his rightful owner, Miss Watson, is a very powerful struggle with the morality of slavery. When Huck decides to help Jim even if it means going to hell, Huck has finally come to a decision. Huck assumes the identity of Tom Sawyer accidentally when he is mistaken for Tom by Aunt Sally and then together with Tom, who pretends to be Sid, the two of them plot Jim’s escape. The fact that Huck is willing to sacrifice his own soul for Jim’s sake shows the growth that Huck has undergone. This scene shows the change in the relationship between Huck and Jim from companion to friend to family. Huck makes his decision after remembering all the times that Jim protected and cared for him which not even his own family had done before. Once Tom is on the scene, Huck takes a backseat role. Huck is surprised that Tom is willing to steal a slave considering how long it took him to reach that decision. Later it is revealed that Tom already knew that Jim was actually freed so that his decision was not nearly as meaningful from a moral standpoint.
SECTION V – Chapters 36 through 43
Much of this section is a return to Tom’s humorous adventures and escapades as he contrives to free Jim in the most complicated manner. Huck reverts to his simple acceptance and minimization of his intelligence. The conclusion of the book is also the culmination of the struggle for freedom on two levels. Jim is revealed as a free man legally, having been freed by Miss Watson in her will. Jim’s struggles had not been necessary for him to be free but had been for the emotional growth of Huck and his freedom from society’s view of slavery. Huck is also revealed to be free from Pap as it is finally reported to him that his father was the dead person found on the river. The ending of the novel, however, finds Huck still in the same place of trying to escape civilization but Huck is no longer seen as the poor uneducated boy rather intelligent young man who does not want to be part of the middle class hypocrisy. The most profound change throughout the book is the view of Jim and thus of slavery. At first Jim is a background character as are all slaves, his importance as a human being surfaced throughout the book as well as the strength of his character. Through this change Twain sends a strong message about slavery to his reader.