Huckelberry Finn Essay, Research Paper
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain contains symbolism associated with superstition. This is demonstrated by both the actions and beliefs of the characters and the events which occur in the story.
The way in which friendship supersedes superstition and popular beliefs plays a major role throughout. Huck in particular is forced to mature and forget superstition when he is faced with the internal dilemma of his best friend, Jim, being a runaway slave.
In Chapter one, Huck sees a spider crawling up his shoulder, so he flicks it into the flame of a candle, where it shrivles up before he could retrieve it. Huck realizes that it is a bad omen, which will bring bad luck. He becomes scared and shakes off his clothes, then proceeds to turn in his tracks three times. He then ties a lock of his hair with a thread to keep the witches away. “You do that when you’ve lost a horseshoe that you’ve found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I hadn’t ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep of bad luck when you’d killed a spider.”(Twain 5).
In chapter four, Huck sees Pap’s footprints in the snow. He then goes to Jim to ask him why Pap is here. Jim goes and gets a fist sized hairball, which was taken from an ox’s stomach. Jim asks the hairball, ?Why is Pap here?? But the hairball won’t answer. Jim says it needs money, so Huck gives Jim a counterfeit quarter that Huck had been bragging about earlier in the novel. Jim puts the quarter under the hairball. The hairball talks to Jim and Jim tells Huck that it says:
?Yo?ole father doan? know yit what he?s a-gwyne to do. Sometimes he spec he?ll go ?way, en den ag?in he spec he?ll stay. De bes? way is tores? easy en let de ole man take his own way. Dey?s two angles hoverin? roun? ?bout him. One uv?em is white en shiny, en t?other one is black. De white one gits him to go right a little while, den de black one sil in en gust it all up. A body can’t tell yit which one gwyne to fetch him at de las?. But you is all right. You gwyne to have considable trouble in yo? life, en considable joy. Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you?s gwyne to git well ag?in. Dey?s two gals flyin? ?bout yo? in yo? life. One uv ?em?s light en t?other one is dark. One is rich en t?other is po?. You?s gwyne to marry de po? one fust en de rich one by en by.
You wants to keep ?way fum de water as much as you kin, en don’t run no resk, ?kase it?s down in de bills dat you’s gwyne to git hung.? (Twain 19).
When Huck goes home and finds Pa there, it re-enforces his belief in the occult and also his trust in his friend Jim.
In Chapter ten, Huck and Jim run into some ?good luck and some bad luck?. The mere concept of ?good luck and bad luck? may be in itself considered superstition, but more interesting events begin to unfold. While snooping around in an overcoat, Huck and Jim find eight dollars in one of the pockets. Then, after they eat some dinner on the Friday, they are lying in the grass, when Huck runs out of tobacco. He decides to go to the cavern to get some, and finds a rattlesnake. In southern culture it is ?bad luck? to touch the skin of a rattlesnake, however Huck kills it anyway, and rolls it up to its original shape and puts it on the foot of Jim’s blanket as a decoration. Later, when night comes, Jim sits down on the blanket and the snake’s mate is there. It lunges out, and it bites Jim on the heel. Jim tells Huck to chop off the snake’s head, and to then skin the body of the snake. They then decide to cook part of it, and eat it. Huck decides that he will be nice to Jim, and try and make him feel better about the snakebite, so he takes the rattles off and ties them to Jim wrist as a bracelet. Jim said it would help him, and to this Huck narrates to the readers, ?I made up my mind I wouldn?t ever take a-holt of a snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what had come of it.? (Twain 52).
Throughout the novel we see Huck struggling to resolve his mixed feelings and emotions with regard to Jim and to the world in which he is growing up. On the one hand, he has become engrained with very primitive ideas or superstitions, which tend to persist even alongside the religious beliefs of the community around him. Also, although not directly mentioned in the book, Huck seems to constantly struggle with the issue of whether or not to return Jim to the widow. He seems to feel instinctively that slavery is wrong ? this is implied by the very fact of his running away with Jim. However, he constantly questions whether or not it would be better for both of them to return home ? home to normal life but not to end his friendship with Jim.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is filled with symbolism associated with the superstitious beliefs of the South at the time of slavery. The spider episode, the hairball, and the rattlesnake were given as justifiable examples of why the escapade was doomed to failure by bad luck ? all of this played out without a direct reference to the ?badness? or evil of slavery itself.