AnnonymousMark Twain^s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about a young boy^scoming of age in the Missouri of the mid-1800^s. It is the story of Huck^sstruggle to winfreedom for himself and Jim, a Negro slave. ^Adventures of Huckleberry Finnwas MarkTwain^s greatest book, and a delighted world named it his masterpiece. Tonationsknowing it well – Huck riding his raft in every language men could print – itwas America^smasterpiece^ (Allen 259). It is considered one of the greatest novelsbecause it concealsso well Twain^s opinions within what is seemingly a child^s book.
Thoughinitiallycondemned as inappropriate material for young readers, it soon became prizedfor itsrecreation of the Antebellum South, its insights into slavery, and itsdepiction ofadolescent life. The novel resumes Huck^s tale from the Adventures of TomSawyer,which ended with Huck^s adoption by Widow Douglas. But it is so much more.
^Intothis book the world called his masterpiece, Mark Twain put his prime purpose,one thatbranched in all his writing: a plea for humanity, for the end of caste, andof its cruelties^(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, aMississippi riverport that was to become a large influence on his future writing. It wasTwain^s nature towrite about where he lived, and his nature to criticize it if he felt itnecessary. As far hisstructure, Kaplan said,^In 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 theauthor^s fatigue or surfeit. His wayward techniques came close to freeassociation. This method served him best after he had conjured upcharacters from long ago, who on coming to life wrote the narrative forhim, passing from incident to incident with a grace their creator couldnever achieve in manipulating an artificial plot^ (Kaplan 16).
His best friend of forty years William D. Howells, has this to say aboutTwain^s writing.
^So far as I know, Mr. Clemens is the first writer to use in extendedwriting the fashion we all use in thinking, and to set down the thing thatcomes into his mind without fear or favor of the thing that went before orthe thing that may be about to follow^ (Howells 186).
The main character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floatingdown the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Beforehe does so,however, Huck spends some time in the fictional town of St. Petersburg wherea numberof people attempt to influence him. Huck^s feelings grow through the novel.
Especiallyin his feelings toward his friends, family, blacks, and society. Throughoutthe book, Huckusually looks into his own heart for guidance. Moral intuition is the basison which hischaracter rests.
Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolute freedom. Hisdrunken and often missing father has never paid much attention to him; hismother is deadand so, when the novel begins, Huck is not used to following any rules. Inthe beginningof the book Huck is living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, MissWatson. Bothwomen are fairly old and are incapable of raising a rebellious boy like HuckFinn.
However, they attempt to make Huck into what they believe will be a betterboy. ^TheWidow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; butit roughliving in the house all the time considering how dismal regular and decentthe widow wasin all her ways^ (Twain 11). This process includes making Huck go to school,teachinghim various religious facts, and making him act in a way that the women findsociallyacceptable. In this first chapter, Twain gives us the first direct exampleof communicatinghis feelings through Huck Finn: ^After supper, the Widow Douglas got out herbook andlearned me about Moses…By and bye she let it out that Moses had been dead aconsiderable long time; so then I didn^t care no more about him, because Idon^t take nostock in dead people^ (Twain 12). In a letter written by Twain, he had thisto say: ^As tothe past, there is but one good thing about it, and that is, that it is thepast — we don^thave to see it again…I have no tears for my pile, no respect, no reverence,no pleasure intaking a rag-picker^s hood and exploring it^ (Bellamy 156). Twain expresseshis feelingsin the above paragraph by using the ^I don^t take no stock in deadpeople^(Twain 12) linein the novel. In this way he can fashion a child^s narrative to convey hisviews of the past.
This is one example of the process Twain will continue to use in this novelto concealsatirical meanings within humorous lines.
Huck, who has never had to follow many rules in his life, finds the demandsthewomen place upon him constraining and the life with them lonely. As aresult, soon afterhe first moves in with them, he runs away. He soon comes back, but, eventhough hebecomes somewhat comfortable with his new life as the months go by, Hucknever reallyenjoys the life of manners, religion, and education that the Widow and hersister imposeupon him.
Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer. Tom is a boy ofHuck^s age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life of adventure.
Huck iseager to join Tom Sawyer^s Gang because he feels that doing so will allow himto escapethe boring life he leads with the Widow Douglas. Unfortunately, such anescape does notoccur. Tom Sawyer promises the gang they will be robbing stages, murderingandransoming people, kidnapping beautiful women, but none of this comes to pass.
Huckfinds out too late that Tom^s adventures are imaginary: that raiding acaravan of ^A-rabs^really means terrorizing young children on a Sunday School picnic, thatstolen ^joolry^ isnothing more than turnips or rocks (Twain 22). Huck is disappointed that theadventuresTom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he resignsfrom thegang.
Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap, Huck^sfather.
Some of Huck^s most memorable lines were in reference to Pap. Twain useshumor andinnocence to depict a generalization of society: ^Pap always said, take achicken whenyou get a chance, because if you don^t want him yourself you can easy findsomebody thatdoes, and a good deed ain^t never forgot. I never see Pap when he didn^twant thechicken himself, but that is what he used to say, anyway^ (Twain 16). Thesetypes ofparagraphs are used for three things simultaneously: to add a note ofsatire, to add to thestoryline, and to continue to emphasize the child^s point of view (Branch214). Pap is oneof the most interesting figures in the novel. He is completely antisocialand wishes toundo all of the civilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson haveattempted to instillin Huck. Pap is unshaven and dirty. Huck is afraid of his father because heis an abusivedrunk who only wants Huck for his money. ^I used to be scared of him all thetime, hetaned me so much, I reckoned I was scared now too^ (Twain 18). Pap demandsthatHuck quit school, stop reading, and avoid church. Huck is able to stay awayfrom Pap fora while, but Pap kidnaps Huck three or four months after Huck starts to livewith theWidow and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the woods. Here, Huck enjoys,onceagain, the freedom that he had prior to the beginning of the book. He cansmoke, lazearound, swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do. However, as he didwith theWidow and with Tom, Huck begins to become dissatisfied with this life. Papbeats Huckoften and he soon realizes that he will have to escape from the cabin if hewishes to remainalive. Huck makes it appear as if he is killed in the cabin while Pap isaway, and leaves togo to a remote island in the Mississippi River, Jackson^s Island.
It is after he leaves his father^s cabin that Huck joins yet anotherimportantinfluence in his life, Miss Watson^s slave, Jim. Prior to Huck^s leaving,Jim has been aminor character in the novel — he has been shown being fooled by Tom Sawyerand tellingHuck^s fortune. Huck finds Jim on Jackson^s Island because the slave has runaway whenhe overheard a conversation that he will soon be sold to someone in NewOrleans. Whenhe first finds Jim on the island, he is glad simply because he wantscompanionship; but asthe two share the peace of the place, Huck comes to regard Jim as a humanbeingrather than a faithful dog. Huck begins to realize that Jim has more talentsand intelligencethan Huck has been aware of. Jim knows all kinds of things about the future,people^spersonalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of informationnecessary as heand Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft. Mark Twain^s imagination lendsvigor andfreshness to many passages, and especially in the sections involvingconversations betweenJim and Huck. As Huck and Jim lie on their backs at night looking up at thestars, whilethe raft slips silently down the river, they argue about whether the stars^was made or onlyjust happened^: ^Jim said the moon could ^a^ laid them; well, that lookedkind ofreasonable…because I^ve seen a frog lay most as many^ (Twain 120). Huckfeels morecomfortable with Jim than he feels with the other major characters in thenovel. With Jim,Huck can enjoy the best aspects of his earlier influences. Jim allows Hucksecurity, butJim is not as confining as the Widow. Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligentbut hisintelligence is not as intimidating or as imaginary as is Tom^s. Unlike Pap,Jim allowsHuck freedom, but he does it in a loving, rather than an uncaring, fashion.
Thus, early, intheir relationship on Jackson^s Island, Huck says to Jim, ^This is nice. Iwouldn^t want tobe nowhere else but here^(Twain 55). Although their friendship took plentyof time todevelop and had many bumps in the road, it is a strong one that will last along time.
Through it all, Huck triumphed over society and followed his heart, and Jimhelped Huckto mature and became free. Their journey to friendship is one to remember.
Huck is adeveloping character throughout the novel. Much of his development is due tohisassociation with Jim and his increasing respect for the black man.
Huck and Jim start their long journey down the Mississippi to Cairo whereJim willfind his freedom. It is on this journey where Huck slowly develops arespectful friendshipwith Jim. However, this is slow to develop because Huck plays some verynasty tricks onJim. The tricks would not have been so mean if Huck did not mean so much toJim. Jimreally needs Huck^s help if he is going to make it safely. It is also laterrevealed that Huckis the only friend that Jim ever had. After Huck plays the trick where theygot separatedon the river he realizes what he has done and feels bad; however, Huck isslow toapologize. ^It was fifteen minutes before I could go and humble myself to anigger; but Idone it and I warn^t ever sorry for it afterward, neither. I didn^t do himno more meantricks, and I wouldn^t have done that one if I^d a^knowed it would make himfeel thatway^ (Twain 86). That incident probably changed the whole way Huck looks atJim andother Negroes. He realizes that they are people with feelings not just ahousehold item.
Part of the power of the book lies in Mark Twain^s drawing of the characterofNigger Jim. Mark Twain shows Jim^s slow, purposeful reasoning. But in othermoodsJim^s spirit opens out to a wider horizon. Like Huck, he senses the beautyof the river. Inhis interpretation of a dream, Jim lets ^the big, clear river^ symbolize ^thefree States^-inother words freedom. If The Enchanted Village might serve as a subtitle forTomSawyer, so The Road to Freedom might serve the same purpose for HuckleberryFinn(Bellamy 342).
A while later fate decides to test Huck and they come across some slavehunters.
Huck is still a little confused between right and wrong and decides to turnJim in, but atthe last second Huck starts lying and saves Jim from being discovered. ^Theywent offand I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well Ihad donewrong^ (Twain 91).
At one of the towns that Huck and Jim stop at they pick up two men who claimtobe royalty but are really con-artists. Huck quickly realizes this but doesnot say anythingjust 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 gotoo farwhen they find three sisters who just lost their father and they pretend tobe their Britishuncles. They plan to rob the sisters for all their worth but Huck foilstheir plan. Thispassage illustrates Huck^s kindness to total strangers. Huck especially didnot care forKing and Duke after King sells Jim for forty dollars. Huck is determined tofree Jim andfinds out that Jim is being kept at the farm of Tom Sawyer^s aunt and uncle.
Huckpresents himself as Tom Sawyer. When Tom actually arrives, he cooperateswith Huckand presents himself as another fellow, Sid. Huck enlists Tom^s aid in thescheme torescue Jim. Tom, however, develops an unnecessarily complicated plot. Whenthey helpJim escape, a chase ensues. Tom is shot in the leg and Jim is recaptured.
But then theboys learn that Jim^s owner has died, bequeathing him his freedom. They alsolearn thatHuck^s father, too, has died. Tom^s Aunt Sally then offers to adopt Huck,but he realizesthat the process of becoming civilized is not an enjoyable one.
Throughout the course of the novel Huck changed from a boy who shared thenarrow-minded opinion which looked down on Negroes to one where he viewedthem asequals. 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 isthrough his precise trusting eyes that the reader sees the world of thenovel. BecauseHuck is so literal, the reader gains an understanding of the work Mark Twaincreated, thereader is able to catch Twain^s jokes and hear his skepticism. TheGrangerford^sfurniture, much admired by Huck, is actually comically tacky. You can almosthear MarkTwain laughing over the parrot-flanked clock and the curtains with cows andcastlespainted on them even as Huck oohs and ahhs.
Through the character of Huck, that disreputable, illiterate little boy,Mark Twainwas licensed to let himself go…That Mark Twain was almost, if not quiteconscious of hisopportunity we can see from his introductory note to the book: ^Personsattempting tofind a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting tofind a moral in itwill be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot^(Branch 216). Theemotional tie-in with the past found expression in Mark Twain^sself-identification withHuck, the dominant strategy he employed. This identification breathed lifeinto Huck^scharacter and into his experience, which encompasses the dramatic role ofsharplyindividualized characters.
Works CitedAllen, Jerry. The Adventures of Mark Twain. Boston: Little, 1954.
Bellamy, Gladys Carmen. Mark Twain: As A Literary Artist. Norman: UP ofOklahoma, 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,1910.
Kaplan, Justin, ed. Mark Twain: A Profile. New York: Hill, 1967.
Twain, Mark. Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Penguin, 1959.
Cite this Little Women Book Report
Little Women Book Report. (2019, Jan 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/little-women-book-report/