Boy Essay, Research Paper
“The Widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out.” In the book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn I believe that the two main themes Mark Twain tried to get across were his view on freedom and religion. The above exert describes Huck’s philosophy when faced with ties that try and hold him down. When he is unable to take the restrictions of life any longer, whether they be emotional or physical, he simply releases himself and goes back to what he feels is right and what makes him happy. Therefore I think that the most obvious and important theme of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is freedom. Freedom is not only one of Huck’s internal struggles, defining right and wrong, but also freedom from Huck’s personal relationships with the Widow Douglas and his father, as well as freedom from what is considered socially acceptable and right. Throughout the story Huck is plagued with an internal moral dilemma of what he feels is right and what he is taught is right. Huck is one of the only characters in the story that acts on his own moral convictions. This produces a conflict when the accepted rules of society, that were somewhat corrupt in nature, are brought on him. The best example of this internal conflict is Huck’s brief experience with organized religion. The teachings by the Widow Douglas of the pathways to heaven are in constant conflict with Huck’s own beliefs. Because of this, Huck readily rejects the teachings of organized religion, and therefore must often grapple with the undue guilt that this hypocritical heresy places on him. Such is the case when Huck must decide on whether to protect the whereabouts of Jim or to do the “Christian” thing and return Miss Watson her “property”. Although Huck ultimately does what he feels is right, the reader is left with a sense that the issue is not completely eradicated from Huck’s conscience. Twain also criticizes and speaks about religious ideas when writing about Miss Watson and Widow Douglas, he shows the hypocrisy of the churchgoers when he places Huck Finn in the care of the Grangerfords, a well-to-do family involved in a thirty-year feud with the Shepherdsons. On Sunday, Huck attends mass with the Grangerfords. “The men took their guns along and kept them handy between their knees. The Shepherdsons did the same” (109). Twain further develops the hypocrisy of the families, particularly the Grangerfords. “It was pretty normal preaching about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon” (109). Twain’s use of irony displays the contrast of being a church member and being a church followerHuck struggles for freedom from the two unhealthy family ties he has. The first being the attempted civilization of Huck by the Widow Douglas, and the second is Huck trying to escape his abusive father. The Widow Douglas tries to better Huck as a person, and Huck’s father tries to drag Huck down to his level. Because these two are pulling Huck in opposing directions, Huck is forced to find freedom from each differently. The fact that Huck attempts to go with society signifies that he has somewhat of an interest in becoming what is considered “normal”, and thereby pleasing the Widow Douglas. There is a sense that Huck has a genuine gratitude towards the Widow Douglas for taking an interest in his well being, especially since she appears to be the only one that does so. Even though his attempts are short, it can be assumed that Huck’s desire to give in to his personal virtues overpowers his desire to please the Widow Douglas.
In contrast, Huck appears to have no desire to have a relationship with his father. At one point in the story Huck does not even know if his father is alive or not, and apparently does not care to know. Because of his father’s alcoholism and unpredictable behavior, emotional freedom from him is easily achieved by Huck. However, it is the physical freedom from his father that Huck has to find in the story. Huck’s father adopts the belief that Huck is attempting to make a fool of him. Huck’s father uses this belief as justification to imprison Huck and use him for his own personal gain. For Huck, physical constriction is the hardest place to be put in. At this point in the story freedom is not only a desire of Huck – it is a necessity. Lastly, and possibly most importantly of Huck’s search for freedom is the struggle for freedom from the deep-rooted and well-established societal institutions of prejudice at that time. Of all the societal lessons Huck has fought to learn, the most damaging has been that blacks are not people. This is showed in several ways throughout the novel. One way is through the constant referral of Jim, by others to Huck, as “property”. The second and most disturbing way is through the overheard conversation explaining the wreck of the steamboat into the raft, by which the question of whether or not anyone was hurt is answered with a “no, killed a nigger, that’s all”. It would be easier for Huck to accept these beliefs had he not gotten to know Jim as a person and as a friend. This is known because before Huck’s experiences with Jim, Huck held the same attitudes towards slaves as everyone else at that time. However, because of the friendship that developed with Jim, Huck once again is forced to find freedom, this time from racism. Huck’s desire to continue his forbidden friendship and his desire for freedom from society’s racism is probaly Huck’s most difficult challenge. He quickly finds that he cannot simply ignore it as he did with the rules and teachings of the Widow Douglas, and he cannot simply run away from it as he did with his father. Huck eventually learns the lesson of racism which I think Mark Twain tries to get across in most of his work. The problem of racism is not going to go away and you cannot single-handedly change it. All you can do is follow your heart and do what you know is the right thing to do. Throughout the novel Huck overcomes numerous challenges to reach both emotional and physical freedom, making freedom the major theme in this novel. Twain’s implied lesson expressed within this theme is that true freedom is essential to happiness. Twain ends the novel with a frustrated Huck stating; “Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” Although the novel ends leaving the reader with a sense that Huck is truly free, it also implies that the struggle for freedom is a never-ending one.