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Identity in Huckleberry Finn



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    Husk’s creation of aliases and lies about his personality, his failure to establish a life in one place, and constant internal debate are hindrances in his ability to form his self image. These rejections Of society overshadow Husk’s progress towards developing his own sense of self, as by the end of the novel he fails to fully establish his own individuality. Huckleberry Finn struggles to find his identity because he spends much of his time assuming identities of others and does not allow for time to develop himself. He is Huckleberry Finn, dead, alive, Sarah Williams, George Peters,

    George Saxon, from England, not from England, and Tom Sawyer; he becomes a boy of multiple personalities and spends the majority of the novel assuming one of these identities. While some of these foils are necessary in situations where it is imperative for Houck to conceal his identity, Houck also lies unnecessarily and it is this pointless lying that shows his discomfort with who his true identity. While on his adventures with the king and the duke, Houck is in territory where it is not necessary to conceal his identity as Huckleberry Finn, but instead he chooses to create an alias.

    He assumes the roles of people who he is not because he does not know who he is or who he wants to be. Husks failure to tell the truth, also seen as compulsive lying, is a clear indicator that he struggles to understand who he is as a person. The complexity of the layers of his lies is evident when Mrs… Judith Loft’s says goodbye to Houck: “Now trot along to your uncle, Sarah May Williams George Alexander Peters” (Twain 96). Houck is more comfortable and confident assuming other persons than when he is himself; when left alone to be Houck, he is consumed with contradictions and confusion.

    Husk’s unstable home and failure to establish his life in one place adds to he difficulty of finding an identity. Husk’s life is characterized by life on the move; right from the start of the novel, he does not seem comfortable with settling in a permanent residence. His initial move from the widow Douglas and Miss Watson is to escape the “civilized” societal identity that the women are trying to force onto him; Houck avoids even this sense of identity that he does not have to create on his own, but that is given to him by society.

    Houck moves from living with the widow and Miss Watson, to his father, the Island with Jim, the raft, the Aggressions, traveling with the king and duke, living tit the Wills family, and finally the Phelps farm. This “poor lost lamb” mentality acknowledged by Widow Douglas correctly encompasses the frame of mind with which Houck constantly changes location (Twain 2). When Houck reaches a place where he can settle down, he chooses to keep moving and does not know what to do with himself as he says, “All I wanted was to go somewhere; all I wanted was a change” (Twain 3).

    Husk’s struggle to establish an identity is also evident in his constant debate within his conscience about what is right and wrong. The primary element prohibiting Houck from finding his own identity is his guilt and development of conscience. Houck initially does not have his own conscience, but depends on the opinion of others to decipher what is right and wrong. He relies on what the widow, Pap, or Tom Sawyer would do.

    Following the shipwreck scene, Houck tells Jim about the excitement that happened while he was on the wreck stating, ‘these kinds of things was adventures” as Tom would have thought, but in reality what he did was dangerous, and he risked both his life and Jims life (Twain 1 19). The presence of different opinions in his head causes Houck to be confused and to form “corrupt” Opinions that become older into his identity. The center of conflict for Houck is dealing with society ideas about racism and having to simultaneously combat them with ideas of his own.

    Houck struggles to decide whether he will continue to allow others to dictate his life or establish his own individuality and decide that slavery is wrong. It is this internal debate that follows Houck throughout the entirety of the novel and leads him to develop a moral code of his own. Houck overcomes his lying, refusal to settle down, and inability to make definite decisions by becoming clearer in his own opinions. Although he does to fully develop his own identity by the end of the novel, Houck does become more definite and less conflicted.

    He begins to develop his own definition of the “civilized” life that he wants to lead which is different from the morally wrong society in which he was raised. His development of faith, his friendship with Jim, and his own decision to reject slavery help to shape this new decisiveness. His conscience, Houck decides, is more of a presence of society, and he rejects this conscience deciding it “anti no good, now’ (Twain 357). Houck has established what he does not want to be a part of his identity, but e still lacks the ability to decide what he does want to be a part of his identity.

    Identity in Huckleberry Finn. (2018, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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