Although Twain is considered racist by some critics, he truly just reflects the time period including racism, education, and freedom, as evident through various themes and character relationships. However, Houck raised to believe assist thoughts, was able to overcome society and his fathers beliefs, and strike out as his own man. From an early age Houck was brainwashed to conform to society beliefs by his father, Pap Finn. Pap Finn was extremely racist and stubborn minded towards change.
Pap Finn refused his right to vote just because there was a state in the country that would let “naggers” vote. “Thinks l, what is the country a’ coming to? It was ‘election day, and was just about to go and vote myself if I warrant too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a state in this country where they’d let that Niger vote, I drawer out” (Twain 26). Houck, unlike his father, did not adapt to society beliefs, but created his own thoughts and opinions (Themes- Education).
However, Houck was not the only one to overthrow society’s thoughts. At the end of the novel, The Doctor separated from society ideas by supporting Jim saying that he was a good Niger and did not deserve to be treated harshly (Twain 271 “Don’t be no rougher on him then you’re obliged to, because he anti a bad Niger’ (Twain 271 ). At this point the Doctor saw that no race was superior to any other (Rasmussen 203). The Widow Douglas adopted Houck and tried to civilize him to be a proper young ay of society (Twain 1). The widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would civilize 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 couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out” (Twain 1). Houck resisted all of society’s teachings to show that he was a free spirit who did not want to be contained by Pap, the Widow Douglas, or society (Twain 279). Throughout the novel, Houck is developed by the education he receives along the way. Houck, towards the end, knows what he wants and completely departs from society Houghton and beliefs (Themes- Education).
Sally Phelps was another influence that was going to try to civilize Houck. The Phelps family was the only family Houck encountered that was functional. Houck found this discomforting since every family he had been with was defective, including his own (Themes- Civilized Society). The Mississippi river was a symbol of freedom to Houck and Jim; it was an escape from the society they ran from (Grade Saver- Mississippi River). Houck used the river to run away from his abusive alcoholic father, and from his teachings. Jim used the river to escape slavery from Mrs…
Watson and to keep from being separated from his family (Twain 41). “Well, one night I creeps to De do’ poorly late, en De do’ warrant quite sheet, en I hear old missus tell De wider she Gwynne to sell me down to Orleans, but she din’ want to, but she could get eight hunted dollars for me, en it lug sick a big stack o’ money she could’ rises’. De wider she try to sit her to say she wouldn’t do it, but never waited to hear De rest’. I lit out mighty quick, tell you” (Twain 42). This quote portrayed Jims thought process towards society.
Jim knew that if he was sold to a slave collector then he would never see his family gain, but if he escaped he would at least have a chance. Money was also the equivalent to freedom. Unlike Jim, Houck possessed a relaxed attitude towards wealth, and because he had a plethora of it, viewed money as a luxury (Grade Saver- Themes- Money). The Duke and the King were complete opposites of Houck, which in turn made them greedy and selfish (Grade Saver- Themes- Money). Jim viewed money as his and his family’s ticket to freedom (Grade Saver- Themes- Money). Houck constantly rebelled society and all that it stood for.
Houck defied racism by befriending a Niger named Jim, and issuing him from being sold (Yahoo Themes). Although, Houck could see past the racism, society treated Jim poorly and put him in difficult and degrading situations that no human being should have to be put through (Rasmussen 208). “Potty soon I’ll be a-shout’s’ for joy, en I’ll say, it’s all on accounts o’ Houck; Xi’s a free man, en I couldn’t ever Ben free if it had’ Ben for Houck; Houck done it. Jim won’t ever forgot you, Buck, yoga’s De Bess’ free’ Jims ever had; en yoga’s De only free’ old Jims got now” (Twain 85).
This quote portrayed the bond Houck and Jim had crafted along their journey down the Mississippi. Tom and Houck in the beginning of The Adventures of Hackberry Finn are best friends with each other. However, their friendship is ironic, because Tom symbolizes the society Houck ran from (Rasmussen 204). Tom is Husk’s foil throughout the novel; he is what Houck aspires to be (Rasmussen 204). However, Tom would not have bonded with Jim like Houck did (Rasmussen 203). Like society, Tom would have dominated Jim, or treated him as if he was less than human. At the end of the novel, Tom knows that Jim has been set free.
However, Tom continues in playing the game of helping Jim escape just for his own entertainment (Rasmussen 208). Jim is both the victim of Tom and of society. Tom, although he may not have realized it, was a huge part of society and not the outsider he portrayed himself to be (Rasmussen 203). At the end of the novel, Jim was sold by the King to a runaway slave collector; Houck was heartbroken and outraged which caused him to take action. Houck tricked the Duke, who the King left behind, and went to the Phelps farm to steal Jim back, even if he was going to go to hell for doing so.
Houck believed that saving Jim would be a sin in the making. Throughout the novel, Houck constantly struggles with his conscience and morals. Houck usually believes he is doing the wrong thing when in reality he is the only one doing the right thing (Rasmussen 201). Husk’s youth allows him to abandon society views and create his own, which in turn shaped the novel. Husk’s acceptance of Jim is a total defiance of the society he was raised in. Instead of going along with what he has been taught he chooses to “go to hell” (Twain 204).
Houck bases his decisions on his own experiences, his sense of logic, and what his conscience tells him. Not only did Houck overcome his conscience, Jim did also. To save Tom’s life, Jim stayed behind and assisted the doctor even when is own freedom was on the line (Rasmussen 203). ” So there I had to stick plumb until daylight this morning and I never see a Niger that was a better nuns or faithfully, and yet he was risking his freedom to do it, and was all tired out, too, and see plain enough he’d been worked main hard lately’ (Twain 271 This quote conveyed that like Houck the doctor could see past the racism.
The Doctor realized no race was superior to any other and that humanity has nothing to do with race (Rasmussen 203). The Doctor saw that Jim was a “good Niger “and deserved to be treated with the same kindness and respect white people would have received. The Duke and the King were regular rapscallions; a team of thieves. The Duke and the King scammed townspeople and many families along the way. The King was the lead mastermind of the schemes that he and the duke took part in. The King was extremely selfish and greedy, which allowed him to deceive many innocent people (Rasmussen 203).
The Duke was also selfish and greedy which caused him to partake in the many disturbing swindles with the King (Rasmussen 203). First, The Duke and the King scammed the townspeople by creating a play and instead of performing ran off with the people’s money. Instead of Ewing guilty like most people would be, they delighted in the townspeople’s ignorance. “Greenhorns, flathead! I knew the first house would keep mum and let the rest of the town get roped in; and knew they’d lay for us for the third night, and consider it was their turn now.
Well, it is their turn, and I’d give something to know how much they’d take for it. Would just like to know how they’re putting in their opportunity. They can turn it into a picnic if they want to- they brought plenty provisions” (Twain 145). Secondly, the Duke and the King try to scam an innocent grieving family of all the money they wend. However, unlike the other times, Houck, guided by his own moral compass, decides to go against his “friends” to help the Wills family. ‘Vowel, if ever struck anything like it, I’m a Niger.
It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race” (Twain 155). This quote exposes what Houck truly thought about the Duke and the King. Houck, from the beginning could see that the King and the Duke were frauds, that they were not dukes or kings but just common people wanting a new life. This quote was a turning point in Husk’s mind. Not only did the Duke and the King con other people, they also conned each other. Although they had been partners from the beginning, the King’s greed overcame their friendship and the King deserted the Duke without any money to his name. No! That old fool sold him, and never divided with me and the moneys gone” (Twain 206). This quote shows that a friendship built on thievery and greed is really no friendship at all. Therefore this approach to this literary work is important because it depicts what society was like in the time period, and how the characters were truly feeling. The background knowledge that Twain portrays puts the reader into the characters mind, and connects the reader to how his characters are lining. (Helium- Themes).