Adventures Of Huck Finn Theme Essay Research

Adventures Of Huck Finn Theme Essay, Research Paper

In Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, the values of Huck and Jim traveling down the

Mississippi River are contrasted against those of the people residing in the

southern United States. Twain satirically portrays organized religion and

society’s morals throughout the novel. The freedom and tranquillity of the river

gives way to the deceit, greed and prejudice of the towns lying on the shore of

the river, causing them to disguise themselves and keep their identities hidden.

These two runaways – one a slave, the other a beaten boy – attempt to build a

sanctuary from civilization upon their raft, but the influence of the shore

values continue to find their way into the thoughts, actions and feelings of

both Huck and Jim, which becomes the major theme of this novel. While traveling

down the Mississippi upon the raft, Huck and Jim’s sense of freedom subordinated

all others. Jim was a "runaway nigger" (Mark Twain, pg. 89) running

from the law, yet he was free, while on the raft, to live and think as any white

man. According to the rest of society, Huck was dead, murdered and thrown into

the Mississippi; but on the raft he was alive. Both lived an idyllic life on the

raft and as Huck put it, "…it’s lovely to live on a raft" (Ibid.,

pg. 115). Later, when the Duke and Dauphin came aboard and they agreed to all be

friends, Huck was relieved and felt that everybody should "…feel right

and kind towards the others…" (Ibid., pg. 121) while living on a raft.

Throughout their travels on the raft, honesty, kindness and equality prevailed,

but whenever they touched shore, they encountered the deceit, greed, and cruelty

of rural Southern United States. The idyllic life on the raft was contrasted

with the hatred, cruelty, and distrust felt amongst the inhabitants of the

shores of the Mississippi. Two feuding families, the Grangerfords and the

Sheperdsons, are a satirized look at the lives of Southerners and of organized

religion. The two families had been fighting for thirty years and no one knew

the reason. When Huck asked if it was caused by land, Buck Grangerford responded

"I reckon maybe – I don’t know" (Ibid., pg. 105). Both families very

hypocritically took guns to church and discussed with a fervor the sermon

reported by Huck to be "all about brotherly love" (Ibid., pg. 106).

Twain portrayed Mississippi River society to be a greedy, distrustful

civilization in which the values were all twisted and where the church was more

of a form of entertainment than a religion. Huck and Jim’s ‘Eden’ upon the raft

was breached when two frauds found their way onto it. The Duke and Dauphin were

continuously lying, deceiving and taking advantage of others. The influence of

these two was the cause of many unwanted encounters with the towns and people

along the Mississippi. Huck immediately realized they were "…just

low-down humbugs and frauds" (Ibid., pg. 121). When Huck was able to slip

away from the Duke and Dauphin and resume his journey with Jim, he revealed his

relief when he said it’s "…so good to be free again" (Ibid., pg.

197). When the Duke and Dauphin returned, Huck "…wilted right down onto

the planks … and [gave] up…" (Ibid., pg. 198), exposing his dislike of

the values which they brought onto the raft. The Duke and Dauphin provide an

insight into the lives and values of the shore, and a deep contrast between Jim

and Huck and the rest of society. Mark Twain contrasted the values of the shore

and the river in a way which positively portrayed the river values and the lives

of Huck and Jim, and negatively and often satirically, portrayed the values of

rural Southern United States. Twain gave freedom to Huck and Jim and showed that

all races of humans share like feelings and should all be treated as equals.

Throughout the book Huck contends with the influence of society’s values and in

the end makes a decision to embrace that of equality.


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