Critical Analysis Of Huckleberry Finn Essay, Research Paper
Critical Analysis of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain describes the
journey of a young boy and a runaway slave, Jim, up the Mississippi
River. One of the most important themes of the book is that society is
cruel. The book’s tone also changes. Sometimes its serious, other
times its funny, even silly. The book is classic because the tone
surprises and intrigues the reader while the themes teach the reader
While Huck is on his journey he realizes that society is cruel. An
example of this would be when Buck tells Huck, “A man has a quarrel
with another man, and kills him; then that other man’s brother kills
him; then the other brothers on both sides goes for one another… and
by and by everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud”(Twain
109). Pap, Huck’s father, was very mean to everyone, but especially
Huck. Pap cannot read and does not want his son to be better than
himself. Pap doesn’t like the fact that Widow Douglas is trying to
“civilize” him. Pap comes home every night and physically abuses
Huck. During the day Pap would lock Huck in the cabin until he
returned in order to keep Huck from escaping. Nothing can harm a
child more than neglect and abuse.
The two ladies that take Huck in off the streets are Mrs. Watson
and the Widow Douglas. Mrs. Watson has several slaves, one of
whom was Jim. It gets to the point where she had no more use for
Jim, so she decides to sell him to New Orleans. Her actions are going
to separate and destroy a family. Jim decides that he would rather run
away than be torn from his family. This is another example of society
being cruel. Mrs. Watson doesn’t have any use for Jim anymore so
she decides to sell him like he is a piece of property.
During the journey, Huck and Jim run into the King and the Duke.
The King and the Duke aren’t anything but two “rapscallions” who
claim to be royalty so that they can get special treatment. One day
they come upon a religious camp meeting, and the King and the Duke
make up a story about being reformed pirates. He tells the
congregation that every time he reforms a pirate he says to them,
“Don’t you thank me, don’t you give me no credit; it all belongs to them
dear people in Pokeville camp meeting, natural brothers and
benefactors of the race, and that dear preacher up there, the truest
friend a pirate ever had”(Twain 133). Then he explodes into tears and
the people of the camp meeting do, too. The King uses people’s
feelings in order to gain wealth.
They go through towns and put on such plays as the Royal
Nonesuch, Richard III, and some others. Usually they are booed off
the stage and warned never to return again. The King, Duke, Huck,
and Jim come upon a town where a wealthy man has just passed
away. The King and the Duke see an opportunity to steal people blind
so they take it. They claim to be Peter Wilkes’s English brothers so
that they can acquire his inheritance. While the imposters are still in
town, the real brothers show up, and catch them red-handed. Further
on down the river they stop at another small town where the King sells
Jim to Silas Phelps for forty dollars. The people that Jim are sold to
just happen to be Tom Sawyer’s aunt and uncle. Huck tells them that
he is Tom so that he can stay there to help Jim escape. Mark Twain is
attempting to show that society is cruel in several aspects. Those
being child abuse, prejudice, and slavery.
Tone is also important in this literary work. It changes from
beginning to end in order to surprise and intrigue the reader.
Sometimes the tone is serious, at other times its fun and exciting.
While Huck and Jim are having adventures on the river, that tone is
exciting. While Huck is staying with the Grangerfords, he and Buck
have some adventures of their own. The tone quickly changes when
Buck is fatally shot in the feud. It becomes more serious. An example
is, “I cried a little when I was covering up Buck’s face, for he was
mighty good to me”(Twain 117).
Jim tells Huck about his deaf and dumb daughter after a fun-filled
day on the river. He explains that after his four-year-old daughter had
the scarlet fever, he told her to shut the door and she didn’t. He
knocked her to the ground and she didn’t say a word. She just smiled
at him. Then suddenly the door slammed and she didn’t flinch. Then
Jim went behind her and screamed. After this he realized that his
daughter had lost her hearing and that he was sorry he had hit her.
This is another example of how tone changes.
When Huck meets up with Tom Sawyer towards the end of the
book, the tone becomes silly. They are trying to rescue Jim. Tom
wants to do it the hard way and Huck wants to do it the easy way, but
he never says anything about Tom’s plan, except to himself. Huck
says, “I never said nothing, because I warn’t expecting nothing
different; but I knowed mighty well that whenever he got his plan ready
it wouldn’t have none of them objections to it”(Twain 225). Tom just
wants excitement and he wants everything they do to resemble the
books that he has read. Huck thinks that Tom is educated and knows
best, so he goes along with it.
In conclusion, the timeless themes and the different tones make
this book still very popular today. Mark Twain is trying to confirm that
society is wicked. He uses tone changes to keep the reader interested
and for suspense purposes. In my opinion the novel is a great child’s
book and a great book for older people to fashion their lives after.