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Main Issues Of The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Summary

Throughout the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, an immature boy named Huckleberry Finn recounts his adventures as he develops into a young adult. Huck launches into his autobiography by explaining the important events that have occurred in another of Twain’s books, so as to establish the setting. During the previous escapade, Huck and his friend Tom discovered treasure, which caused them to become rich. Soon after, the Widow Douglas and her sister, named Miss Watson, began to house Huck because his father had disappeared, though Huck had become so frustrated that he had ran away. Later on, he agreed to return to the Widow Douglas, because he would then be able to join Tom’s gang.

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Now in the present day, Huck at first resents the Widow Douglas’s attempts to civilize him, but eventually accustomates to his new life. During this period, Tom’s gang is considered a disaster by its members, because their plans of murder and burglary have failed to occur. One day, Huck discovers a devil symbol in the snow and superstitiously sells his fortune to his friend, Judge Thatcher, for a dollar. That night, his drunken father appears in his room and demands Huck’s wealth. The father is outraged by his son’s new clothes and literacy, but eventually absconds. A custody battle soon ensues between the Widow Douglas and Huck’s father, where it is decided that Huck should not be separated from his papa. Soon afterwards, the father resolves to take him to a secluded cabin in the woods, where he beats his son harshly. Because of this mistreatment, Huck begins to plan his escape by gathering supplies and hiding an abandoned canoe that he had previously discovered. Soon afterwards, he enacts this plan by staging a murder scene and then floating away on the boat to a nearby island.

While investigating the area, he encounters his friend Jim, one of Miss Watson’s slaves that had recently escaped. The companions decide to create a single campsite, and succeed in doing so just before a huge storm materializes. When mass flooding causes an abandoned house to float down the river, the comrades investigate it and discover a corpse. After this, very little occurs until Huck disguises himself as a woman so as to gain information from the townsmen. While there, he learns that a lady had sent her husband to search the island for Jim, who is one of the main suspects in Huck’s murder. Huck races back to the island, where the friends continue their journey on the river in the canoe, along with a raft that they had found during the storm.

As the days pass, the friends go through many ordeals, such as when they are briefly separated by fog. While the pair continues to float to the free states, Huck begins to feel guilty for aiding in the escape one of Miss Watson’s slaves. After a huge mental debate, he ultimately resolves to value Jim’s friendship over her right to property. Later on, a ship rams into the raft and separates the two comrades, which forces Huck to swim to the shore. While there, the Grangerford family provides him with clothing and food. During the time that he spends with the household, he is briefly united with Jim after a slave leads Huck to his location. Huck’s time with the Grangerfords ultimately comes to an end, after most of the family is obliterated while fighting a rival clan. Huck and Jim become so horrified by the violence that they resolve to continue their adventure down the river.

Time once again flies by, until two con artists, demanding to be called the Duke and the Dauphin, join them on their journey south. Jim and Huck can only watch as the men commit one sinful act after another, such as putting on a two minute play called The Royal Nonesuch. Huck becomes shocked when the con artists attempt to steal a dead man’s inheritance, by pretending to be his brothers. After Huck’s guilt almost tears him apart, he steals the money back and tells the location of the wealth to the deceased man’s daughters. Later on, Huck, the Duke, and the Dauphin’s true identities are discovered, and they all eventually escape to the boat. The crew continues their voyage down the river, until Huck escapes the Duke and the Dauphin as they are arguing at a tavern.

When he returns to the raft, he discovers that the Dauphin had sold Jim off to make a profit, and Huck decides to rescue him. He finds out the location of Jim’s captor after finding the Duke, and then sets off in that direction. Huck walks to the farm where Jim is being held, which just so happens to be Tom Sawyer’s Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally’s house. The couple has been anticipating Tom’s arrival on a steamboat, and Huck decides to impersonate Tom until he can free Jim. Just as Huck hears a steamboat, he runs to meet Tom so that he can explain his predicament. As soon as the friends return, Tom impersonates his half-brother Sid and uses several clues to determine Jim’s location. Tom then creates an adventure out of liberating Jim and wastes a large amount of time in the process, further endangering himself as well as his friends. Eventually, Uncle Silas resolves to insert a note in the newspaper to notify Jim’s owner of his capture, and Tom writes fake letters to the family in response. These messages warn the family of a thief’s plan to steal Jim. That night, a group of farmers gather around the shed in response. As the boys are attempting to escape, the farmers mistake them for criminals, wounding Tom by shooting him in the leg. After they collect their raft and canoe, Huck sends a doctor to treat Tom. Uncle Silas finds Huck the next day and brings him back to his home.

Over the next several days Huck fails to find Tom, until he is carried into Aunt Sally’s house, along with Jim. The crowd throws Jim back into the shed, even though he is still tied up in chains. Tom eventually wakes up from his semiconscious state to tell of their adventure, and that Jim, who is freed in Miss Watson’s will, is no longer a slave. Immediately after hearing this news, Tom’s Aunt Polly arrives at Aunt Sally’s farm. She is confused as to why Aunt Sally claims to have Sid, who is actually at her house. After the details are sorted out, Jim is relieved of his chains, given food, and provided with forty dollars for his troubles. Soon after, Jim reveals to Huck that the corpse that they had seen during the beginning of their journey was his father. On this note, Huck claims that this is the end of his tale. Despite this statement, he admits that he is contemplating the idea of running away from Aunt Sally, who is constantly attempting to civilize him.

Themes

While reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, societal hypocrisy appears to be one of the most evident themes present. Throughout the story, Huck becomes extremely confused by the decent people that he encounters and why such virtuous human beings regard African Americans so terribly. The Widow Douglas is a prime example of this, since she provides Huck with a loving home, yet also attempts to sell Jim for some extra cash. Later on, Tom’s Aunt Sally also treats Huck kindly, yet keeps Jim locked in a shed until his master can come and retrieve him. These people believe in kindness and religion, yet they treat African Americans as less than human. Moreover, when Huck encounters the Grangerford family, who are extraordinarily amiable towards him, he is shocked by the bloody and irrelevant feud that they participate in. This again illustrates the different hypocrisies people maintain, whether it be towards the black community or between different families.

Also, the conflicting themes of maturity and adolescence appears to be present throughout Huck’s adventure. In the beginning of the novel, Huck, as a member of Tom’s gang, participates in childish games. Furthermore, Huck fails to realize the implications of a runaway slave when he first meets Jim on the island. Instead of understanding that Miss Watson’s property has escaped, Huck only feels childish delight in seeing his friend. This illustrates the shallow thinking Huck originally shows during the introduction of the story. As time continues to elapse, Huck begins to comprehend that it is considered wrong, based on the views of society, to aid in Jim’s escape. Despite this fact, Huck concludes that no matter the standards set by civilization, he must protect his friend. These thoughts display commitment to an action and deep thought that only a responsible person can achieve. Later on in the novel, Huck reverts back to his old state when trying to liberate Jim from Aunt Sally’s shed. Here, Huck and Tom turn this dangerous act into a game, even asking Jim to keep snakes in his shed to make their rescue resemble the plots of different books. This again displays the different conflicting concepts of immaturity and deep thought that Huck is able to enact. By analyzing Twain’s book, one can see the different themes that are written about, such as societal hypocrisy, immaturity, and adulthood.

Characters

Huckleberry Finn- The major protagonist in the story, Huck begins his journey as a young rapscallion who is unsatisfied by the civilized life he is living. Huck is extremely intelligent, though he thinks of himself as dumb for being uneducated. Throughout his adventure, the young boy seems to identify the hypocrisy in society that others do not question, unless he is around his friend Tom. In this case, Huck behaves immaturely while following Tom’s lead, such as while helping Jim escape from Aunt Sally’s shed. Huck also attempts to treat others with kindness and sympathy, such as his decision to help Jim. Huck’s independent thinking may unintentionally clash with society, but he almost always struggles to take the morally acceptable course of action.

Jim- The runaway slave that ultimately becomes one of Huck’s best friends, Jim, is extremely uneducated but loyal to his friends and family. He appears to understand the natural world around him, like his calm reaction to a snake bite, though he is arguably passive. Jim agrees to serve the two con artists because he truly believes that they are royalty, which further shows Jim’s relatively unquestioning nature. Jim acts as a positive influence in Huck’s life, mainly by showing him that both blacks and whites can feel the same emotions.

Tom- One of Huck’s good friends, Tom has a serious mischievous streak and tends to influence Huck in a negative direction. Tom creates lots of rules for Huck to follow based on the books he has read, and often calls him dull for questioning them. One could argue that he is a bit selfish, for he does not tell Jim that he is a free man in the eyes of the law, just so he can create an adventure. Tom appears to act impulsively, though he can be extremely witty when he wants to be. In some aspects, he could be seen as the total opposite of Huck, since he displays shallow thinking and acceptance of rules without questioning them.

The Duke and The Dauphin- These two con artists first encounter Jim and Huck while running away from the consequences of their latest individual schemes. Though the men have never met each other before this, they quickly team up and carry out different ploys out of greed. These two men display the intelligence and dishonesty necessary to steal the inheritance from a dead man’s daughters. These two lowlifes are last seen after the Dauphin has sold Jim off to make a quick buck, which throws Huck into another dangerous situation. Overall, these two men are nothing but crooks, which try to take advantage of the young and dimwitted people that they encounter.

Structure

When examining the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, the most apparent structure used is possibly the distinctions in dialect. The characters’ speech is created so as to reflect their education and culture, while still influencing the events of the book. When Huck encounters an educated lawyer, the differences in their speaking styles are incredible. If one were to analyze Huck’s speaking patterns, they would find the grammar and dialect of an uneducated boy. “There warn’t nothing to do now but look out sharp for the town”, is just one sentence that reflects Huck’s lack of education. In comparison, the lawyer’s sentence, “Set down, my boy; I would not strain myself if I were you”, seems incredibly sophisticated and proper. Also, the structure of the plot seems to be chronological, except for the instances in which the characters reflect on events from the past. One example of this is Jim’s stories about his family, which displays his loving nature and constant thoughts about them. Huck also does this, often comparing mischievous acts to ones previously committed by Tom Sawyer and himself. This informs the reader of Huck’s most inner thoughts, that he does still think of his friends at home throughout the course of the book. Through the use of various dialects and mentions of past events, the reader is able to gain more information about the characters involved.

Opinion

After reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one can truly admire Mark Twain’s amazing skills as a novelist. He fully immerses himself into Huck’s character, and though the narration perfectly captures Huck’s poor writing capabilities, Twain also conveys his pure intelligence to the audience. Huck is able to identify the hypocrisies present in society, and has the intellectual capabilities to question racial discrimination, among other issues. Twain also makes the story captivating and suspenseful by adding twists to the plot, such as Tom’s knowledge of Jim’s freedom. Moreover, Twain understands the influence different characters have on each other’s decisions, such as Huck’s altered behavior around his friend Tom. Twain comprehends that a person does not always exhibit the same personality traits and decisions in different situations, and alters the characters’ reactions as a result. Though Huck appears to have developed as a person during his adventure, Twain alters Huck’s thoughtful persona once he encounters Tom. Instead of being a thoughtful, independent person, he once again acts as the childish follower in Tom’s plans to free Jim. Twain’s novel is well written and provocative, and should be read by all high school students.

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