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Essay/Term paper: Huckleberry finn

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Mark Twain^Òs Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about a young boy^Òs
coming of age in the Missouri of the mid-1800^Òs. It is the story of Huck^Òs
struggle to win
freedom for himself and Jim, a Negro slave. ^ÓAdventures of Huckleberry Finn
was Mark
Twain^Òs greatest book, and a delighted world named it his masterpiece. To
knowing it well - Huck riding his raft in every language men could print - it
was America^Òs
masterpiece^Ô (Allen 259). It is considered one of the greatest novels
because it conceals
so well Twain^Òs opinions within what is seemingly a child^Òs book. Though
condemned as inappropriate material for young readers, it soon became prized
for its
recreation of the Antebellum South, its insights into slavery, and its
depiction of
adolescent life. The novel resumes Huck^Òs tale from the Adventures of Tom
which ended with Huck^Òs adoption by Widow Douglas. But it is so much more.
this book the world called his masterpiece, Mark Twain put his prime purpose,
one that
branched in all his writing: a plea for humanity, for the end of caste, and
of its cruelties^Ô
(Allen 260).
Twain, whose real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was born in Florida,
Missouri, in 1835. During his childhood he lived in Hannibal, Missouri, a
Mississippi river
port that was to become a large influence on his future writing. It was
Twain^Òs nature to
write about where he lived, and his nature to criticize it if he felt it
necessary. As far his
structure, Kaplan said,
^ÓIn plotting a book his structural sense was weak; intoxicated by a hunch,
he seldom saw far ahead, and too many of his stories peter out from the
author^Òs fatigue or surfeit. His wayward techniques came close to free
association. This method served him best after he had conjured up
characters from long ago, who on coming to life wrote the narrative for
him, passing from incident to incident with a grace their creator could
never achieve in manipulating an artificial plot^Ô (Kaplan 16).

His best friend of forty years William D. Howells, has this to say about
Twain^Òs writing.
^ÓSo far as I know, Mr. Clemens is the first writer to use in extended
writing the fashion we all use in thinking, and to set down the thing that
comes into his mind without fear or favor of the thing that went before or
the thing that may be about to follow^Ô (Howells 186).

The main character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating
down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Before
he does so,
however, Huck spends some time in the fictional town of St. Petersburg where
a number
of people attempt to influence him. Huck^Òs feelings grow through the novel.
in his feelings toward his friends, family, blacks, and society. Throughout
the book, Huck
usually looks into his own heart for guidance. Moral intuition is the basis
on which his
character rests.
Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolute freedom. His
drunken and often missing father has never paid much attention to him; his
mother is dead
and so, when the novel begins, Huck is not used to following any rules. In
the beginning
of the book Huck is living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss
Watson. Both
women are fairly old and are incapable of raising a rebellious boy like Huck
However, they attempt to make Huck into what they believe will be a better
boy. ^ÓThe
Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but
it rough
living in the house all the time considering how dismal regular and decent
the widow was
in all her ways^Ô (Twain 11). This process includes making Huck go to school,
him various religious facts, and making him act in a way that the women find
acceptable. In this first chapter, Twain gives us the first direct example
of communicating
his feelings through Huck Finn: ^ÓAfter supper, the Widow Douglas got out her
book and
learned me about Moses...By and bye she let it out that Moses had been dead a

considerable long time; so then I didn^Òt care no more about him, because I
don^Òt take no
stock in dead people^Ô (Twain 12). In a letter written by Twain, he had this
to say: ^ÓAs to
the past, there is but one good thing about it, and that is, that it is the
past -- we don^Òt
have to see it again...I have no tears for my pile, no respect, no reverence,
no pleasure in
taking a rag-picker^Òs hood and exploring it^Ô (Bellamy 156). Twain expresses
his feelings
in the above paragraph by using the ^ÓI don^Òt take no stock in dead
people^Ô(Twain 12) line
in the novel. In this way he can fashion a child^Òs narrative to convey his
views of the past.
This is one example of the process Twain will continue to use in this novel
to conceal
satirical meanings within humorous lines.
Huck, who has never had to follow many rules in his life, finds the demands
women place upon him constraining and the life with them lonely. As a
result, soon after
he first moves in with them, he runs away. He soon comes back, but, even
though he
becomes somewhat comfortable with his new life as the months go by, Huck
never really
enjoys the life of manners, religion, and education that the Widow and her
sister impose
upon him.
Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer. Tom is a boy of
Huck^Òs age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life of adventure.
Huck is
eager to join Tom Sawyer^Òs Gang because he feels that doing so will allow him
to escape
the boring life he leads with the Widow Douglas. Unfortunately, such an
escape does not
occur. Tom Sawyer promises the gang they will be robbing stages, murdering
ransoming people, kidnapping beautiful women, but none of this comes to pass.
finds out too late that Tom^Òs adventures are imaginary: that raiding a
caravan of ^ÓA-rabs^Ô
really means terrorizing young children on a Sunday School picnic, that
stolen ^Ójoolry^Ô is
nothing more than turnips or rocks (Twain 22). Huck is disappointed that the
Tom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he resigns
from the

Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap, Huck^Òs
Some of Huck^Òs most memorable lines were in reference to Pap. Twain uses
humor and
innocence to depict a generalization of society: ^ÓPap always said, take a
chicken when
you get a chance, because if you don^Òt want him yourself you can easy find
somebody that
does, and a good deed ain^Òt never forgot. I never see Pap when he didn^Òt
want the
chicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway^Ô (Twain 16). These
types of
paragraphs are used for three things simultaneously: to add a note of
satire, to add to the
storyline, and to continue to emphasize the child^Òs point of view (Branch
214). Pap is one
of the most interesting figures in the novel. He is completely antisocial
and wishes to
undo all of the civilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson have
attempted to instill
in Huck. Pap is unshaven and dirty. Huck is afraid of his father because he
is an abusive
drunk who only wants Huck for his money. ^ÓI used to be scared of him all the
time, he
taned me so much, I reckoned I was scared now too^Ô (Twain 18). Pap demands
Huck quit school, stop reading, and avoid church. Huck is able to stay away
from Pap for
a while, but Pap kidnaps Huck three or four months after Huck starts to live
with the
Widow and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the woods. Here, Huck enjoys,
again, the freedom that he had prior to the beginning of the book. He can
smoke, laze
around, swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do. However, as he did
with the
Widow and with Tom, Huck begins to become dissatisfied with this life. Pap
beats Huck
often and he soon realizes that he will have to escape from the cabin if he
wishes to remain
alive. Huck makes it appear as if he is killed in the cabin while Pap is
away, and leaves to
go to a remote island in the Mississippi River, Jackson^Òs Island.
It is after he leaves his father^Òs cabin that Huck joins yet another
influence in his life, Miss Watson^Òs slave, Jim. Prior to Huck^Òs leaving,
Jim has been a
minor character in the novel -- he has been shown being fooled by Tom Sawyer
and telling
Huck^Òs fortune. Huck finds Jim on Jackson^Òs Island because the slave has run
away when

he overheard a conversation that he will soon be sold to someone in New
Orleans. When
he first finds Jim on the island, he is glad simply because he wants
companionship; but as
the two share the peace of the place, Huck comes to regard Jim as a human
rather than a faithful dog. Huck begins to realize that Jim has more talents
and intelligence
than Huck has been aware of. Jim knows all kinds of things about the future,
personalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of information
necessary as he
and Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft. Mark Twain^Òs imagination lends
vigor and
freshness to many passages, and especially in the sections involving
conversations between
Jim and Huck. As Huck and Jim lie on their backs at night looking up at the
stars, while
the raft slips silently down the river, they argue about whether the stars
^Ówas made or only
just happened^Ô: ^ÓJim said the moon could ^Ña^Ò laid them; well, that looked
kind of
reasonable...because I^Òve seen a frog lay most as many^Ô (Twain 120). Huck
feels more
comfortable with Jim than he feels with the other major characters in the
novel. With Jim,
Huck can enjoy the best aspects of his earlier influences. Jim allows Huck
security, but
Jim is not as confining as the Widow. Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligent
but his
intelligence is not as intimidating or as imaginary as is Tom^Òs. Unlike Pap,
Jim allows
Huck freedom, but he does it in a loving, rather than an uncaring, fashion.
Thus, early, in
their relationship on Jackson^Òs Island, Huck says to Jim, ^ÓThis is nice. I
wouldn^Òt want to
be nowhere else but here^Ô(Twain 55). Although their friendship took plenty
of time to
develop and had many bumps in the road, it is a strong one that will last a
long time.
Through it all, Huck triumphed over society and followed his heart, and Jim
helped Huck
to mature and became free. Their journey to friendship is one to remember.
Huck is a
developing character throughout the novel. Much of his development is due to
association with Jim and his increasing respect for the black man.
Huck and Jim start their long journey down the Mississippi to Cairo where
Jim will
find his freedom. It is on this journey where Huck slowly develops a
respectful friendship

with Jim. However, this is slow to develop because Huck plays some very
nasty tricks on
Jim. The tricks would not have been so mean if Huck did not mean so much to
Jim. Jim
really needs Huck^Òs help if he is going to make it safely. It is also later
revealed that Huck
is the only friend that Jim ever had. After Huck plays the trick where they
got separated
on the river he realizes what he has done and feels bad; however, Huck is
slow to
apologize. ^ÓIt was fifteen minutes before I could go and humble myself to a
nigger; but I
done it and I warn^Òt ever sorry for it afterward, neither. I didn^Òt do him
no more mean
tricks, and I wouldn^Òt have done that one if I^Òd a^Òknowed it would make him
feel that
way^Ô (Twain 86). That incident probably changed the whole way Huck looks at
Jim and
other Negroes. He realizes that they are people with feelings not just a
household item.
Part of the power of the book lies in Mark Twain^Òs drawing of the character
Nigger Jim. Mark Twain shows Jim^Òs slow, purposeful reasoning. But in other
Jim^Òs spirit opens out to a wider horizon. Like Huck, he senses the beauty
of the river. In
his interpretation of a dream, Jim lets ^Óthe big, clear river^Ô symbolize ^Óthe
free States^Ô-in
other words freedom. If The Enchanted Village might serve as a subtitle for
Sawyer, so The Road to Freedom might serve the same purpose for Huckleberry
(Bellamy 342).

A while later fate decides to test Huck and they come across some slave
Huck is still a little confused between right and wrong and decides to turn
Jim in, but at
the last second Huck starts lying and saves Jim from being discovered. ^ÓThey
went off
and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I
had done
wrong^Ô (Twain 91).
At one of the towns that Huck and Jim stop at they pick up two men who claim
be royalty but are really con-artists. Huck quickly realizes this but does
not say anything
just to keep the peace on the raft. Huck does not really like these two,
King and Duke,
because they do mean things to innocent people to make their living. They go
too far

when they find three sisters who just lost their father and they pretend to
be their British
uncles. They plan to rob the sisters for all their worth but Huck foils
their plan. This
passage illustrates Huck^Òs kindness to total strangers. Huck especially did
not care for
King and Duke after King sells Jim for forty dollars. Huck is determined to
free Jim and
finds out that Jim is being kept at the farm of Tom Sawyer^Òs aunt and uncle.
presents himself as Tom Sawyer. When Tom actually arrives, he cooperates
with Huck
and presents himself as another fellow, Sid. Huck enlists Tom^Òs aid in the
scheme to
rescue Jim. Tom, however, develops an unnecessarily complicated plot. When
they help
Jim escape, a chase ensues. Tom is shot in the leg and Jim is recaptured.
But then the
boys learn that Jim^Òs owner has died, bequeathing him his freedom. They also
learn that
Huck^Òs father, too, has died. Tom^Òs Aunt Sally then offers to adopt Huck,
but he realizes
that the process of becoming civilized is not an enjoyable one.
Throughout the course of the novel Huck changed from a boy who shared the
narrow-minded opinion which looked down on Negroes to one where he viewed
them as
equals. I would say that would be his biggest emotional growth in the novel.
Huck is a very personable narrator. He tells his story in plain language.
It is
through his precise trusting eyes that the reader sees the world of the
novel. Because
Huck is so literal, the reader gains an understanding of the work Mark Twain
created, the
reader is able to catch Twain^Òs jokes and hear his skepticism. The
furniture, much admired by Huck, is actually comically tacky. You can almost
hear Mark
Twain laughing over the parrot-flanked clock and the curtains with cows and
painted on them even as Huck oohs and ahhs.
Through the character of Huck, that disreputable, illiterate little boy,
Mark Twain
was licensed to let himself go...That Mark Twain was almost, if not quite
conscious of his
opportunity we can see from his introductory note to the book: ^ÓPersons
attempting to
find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to
find a moral in it
will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot^Ô
(Branch 216). The
emotional tie-in with the past found expression in Mark Twain^Òs
self-identification with
Huck, the dominant strategy he employed. This identification breathed life
into Huck^Òs
character and into his experience, which encompasses the dramatic role of
individualized characters.

Works Cited

Allen, Jerry. The Adventures of Mark Twain. Boston: Little, 1954.

Bellamy, Gladys Carmen. Mark Twain: As A Literary Artist. Norman: UP of

Oklahoma, 1950.

Branch, Edgar Marquess. The Literary Apprenticeship Of Mark Twain. New York:

Russell, 1966.

Howells, W. D. My Mark Twain: Reminiscences and Criticisms. New York: Harper,

Kaplan, Justin, ed. Mark Twain: A Profile. New York: Hill, 1967.

Twain, Mark. Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Penguin, 1959.

grade 98

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