Summary: Death and Rebirth of Huck Finn

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“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain narrates the adventures Huckleberry Finn undertakes as he lives the life provided by society and one of his free will. In the novel, Huck experiences a death of his old self, one that was influenced by society, and a rebirth of his new self, which provided him with new morals and intellect. He undergoes this experience through his escape from his father, Pap, as well as his encounter with the runaway slave, Jim, as he embarks on a journey to freedom. 

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Throughout Huck’s adventures, Huck’s rebirth was largely influenced by his ‘deformed conscience’, death and rebirth on the river, and humanization of Jim. Since the beginning of the novel, Huck has had a “deformed” conscience. Unlike the other white people in Huck’s hometown such as Miss Watson, Tom Sawyer, and the Widow Douglass, whom Huck was closest to, Huck grew up in a barrel and lived most of his life inferior to other white people in manners and morality. His earnings of 6,000 pieces of gold in the novel allowed him an opportunity to start life in society anew, evidently revealing Huck’s struggles to adapt to a civilized life with his “deformed” conscience. He struggled to understand Widow Douglas as he stated, “They get down on a thing they don’t understand nothing about… a bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her”  to emphasize his failed attempt to understand why smoking is not a clean nor moral practice in a civilized life. His “deformed” conscience is also shown when he wanted to escape from his father, Pap. He faked his death by murdering a pig and a bag of rocks, leaving a trail to the river, where he uses a raft to escape to freedom. Huck’s fake death not only signified his escape from Pap, but also his leave from his old self, a person influenced by civilization. Huck’s rebirth would not have happened without his “deformed” conscience. Throughout Huck’s escape, the river served as a means of not only Huck’s path to freedom, but also rebirth. Huck’s fake death represents the transition between two states of existence.

 The sharp contrast between the serenity of the river and the cruelty of Huck’s previous life underscores the idea of Huck’s new life on the river, which is quiet and free, similar to the tranquility of death. He makes it appear as if he was violently murdered which Huck described, “I took the ax and smashed in the door. I beat it and hacked it…I fetched the pig…hacked into his throat with the an ax,” . He travels away during the night by river because it is the safest way to travel undetected, and offers a stable supply of food and shelter. Huck goes through the process of faking his own death, and goes from a life of abuse and cruelty by his father to a life that he has control over. It is this new life that enabled Huck to find Jim, Miss Watson’s runaway slave. Huck’s encounter with Jim plays a crucial role in changing Huck’s past mindset of slavery and morality. Huck’s old life restrained by his father was marked by cruelty, similar to Jim’s life under the control of Miss Watson was under the threat of being sold off. In addition to restrained lives, Jim and Huck were both inferior in society and at times, helpless.

 Through their similarities, they form a trusting and accepting friendship regardless of the law, as well as a father-son dynamic. Jim becomes the father figure that Huck never had, and Huck becomes the true friend Jim never had. Huck had even stated, “there warn't no home like a raft…Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but…You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft”, revealing the comfort he feels from their refuge in the river with Jim. Jim’s affection for Huck is sparked by a true personal connection throughout the journey, which enables Huck to make rational decisions for himself at times when society would condemn his actions. For instance Huck’s decision to help Jim become a free slave, despite it being an immoral act to society, is an act sparked by their close bond and Huck’s humanization of Jim.       

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