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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay

August 17th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the novel the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, a thirteen-year-old boy named Huck Finn struggles with the reality of slavery and living in the south. Huck lacks education and civilization, but has good instincts and judgment. Although his guardian, Ms. Watson, tries to “civilize” him, he refuses her offer deciding that civilization with all its hypocrisy is not the proper path for him. Huck’s best friend is a boy named Tom, who comes from a wealthy family, but Tom also rejects the rules of civilization. During the novel, Huck travels down river with a runaway slave named Jim, and instead of turning him in, decides to free him. Throughout the trip, Huck believes that he will go to hell for breaking the laws in the South by helping a runaway slave to escape. The southern acceptance of slavery is instilled in his thoughts. Even though Huck believes that aiding Jim is “wrong”, he can clearly see that Jim is a good man after spending time with him, and his wrong in setting him free is actually a “right”. Huck realizes that Jim deserves to be reunited with his family and free. When Huck completes his adventures, he arrives at Tom’s Aunt Sally’s house to live and settle down. Although Huck is happy to join a family where he is cared for, he continues to resist the idea of civilization. Huck remarks, “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally, she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.” (279). Living in the uncivilized world of nature, Huck recognizes the evils of civilization causing him to reject them because of his growing love toward Jim and his ability to change his identity for the benefit of others like Moses the biblical prophet.

Huck loves living out in the open and on the raft. The air, the water, and nature are pure and free from the confinement of civilization. Nature, which symbolically is uncivilized, changes Huck and makes him more civilized, creating a sense of irony. Since Huck meets several different townspeople during his journey with Jim, he learns more about how humanity lives and its truths and falsehoods. At times Huck becomes so disgusted with his traveling experiences and observances of the way townspeople live and think that he proclaims, “Well, if I ever struck anything like it, I’m a nigger. It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.” (160). The “civilized” townspeople in the novel are obviously not so honest. Huck and Jim abandon the towns and both agree, “We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.” (117). For Huck, the raft seems like the only way out of the “civilized” world. During his journey through nature he receives a real education, which matures and civilizes him.

Throughout the novel, Huck gains both admiration and love toward Jim, a runaway plantation slave, from his travels with him in nature. Throughout Huck’s life, the values of the south and the institution of slavery are implanted in him. The idea of slaveholding is a natural way of life for southerners, and helping a slave runaway is a crime. At one point, Tom gets shot in the leg while the three attempt an escape into nature. Huck truly believes that slaves are inferior and meant to perform forced labor, but he can see the goodness of one slave, and he will eventually be able to see the same qualities in all slaves because of his experiences with Jim in the wild. When Huck begins to get to know Jim, he claims, “I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their’n.” (153). Although Huck does not understand that his opinion of slaves has changed; he becomes a more caring, tolerant person. He is able to relate the similarities between blacks and whites through family ties, and this is an important part of civilization. In addition, since Huck cannot find an explanation for Jim’s inner kindness and willingness to help Huck and Tom, he finally decides that Jim must be white inside. After contemplating, Huck decides, “ ‘All right then, I’ll go to hell’ … it was awful thoughts and awful words, but they were said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.” (207). Huck truly believes that he will go to hell for saving Jim. He truly loves Jim and is grateful for all of the favors Jim has done for him while he is away from home. The irony is that Huck is “wrong” is actually the right thing to do.
Huck’s changing identity in relation to biblical Moses in nature explains how his uncivilized life changes. During the novel, Huck takes on several different identities to hide from the person he really is inside. Huck’s first identity change is into Sarah Williams when he goes into town to inquire about the whereabouts of Jim and himself. His next change is into poor George Jackson, who feigns a story about falling off a steamboat and losing his brother and father in the accident. His next identity is as his own best friend Tom, whom he idolizes more than anyone else. His change into Tom illustrates the person Huck wants to be, but cannot, so pretending is second best. Huck changes his identity because he knows that in nature he can pretend to be anyone he wants. He can simply escape from his real life and create a new one. Nature provides the best escape, but when encountering townspeople and civilization, Huck must hide and make up a new identity. In addition to his changing identity, Huck also suggests a strong similarity to the story of the prophet Moses. Moses also uses nature as an outlet for problem solving and relating to his civilization much like Huck does. By changing his identity like Huck, Moses helps free his people from slavery after he becomes civilized. Moses also grows up much like Huck, without a real family. The uncivilized world Moses finds in nature allows him to change his identity and realize the evils of slavery through civilization.

Huck living in the uncivilized natural world reaffirms his rejection of a civilization filled with the acceptance of slavery, prejudice, and deceit. While his love for Jim, and his desire to free him, with his ability to change his identity relates him to Moses, a biblical prophet. Huck changes throughout the novel, yet he does not realize it. Huck’s new realization of civilization is a result of his interaction with the uncivilized principles of nature.
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