Huckleberry Finn: a Struggle for Freedom Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn so innocently reveals the potential nobility of human nature in its well-loved main characters that it could never successfully support anything so malicious as slavery. Huckleberry Finn and traveling companion Jim, a runaway slave, are unknowing champions for humility, mercy, and selflessness. “Twain used realistic language in the novel, making Huck’s speech sound like actual conversation and imitating a variety of dialects to bring the other characters to life. ” The adventurous ature of the story and its noble characters celebrates freedom from social and economic restraint, and it is apparent from the beginning through his satiric portrayal of human characteristics that Twain believes that all people deserve their own freedom.
When Huck is unable to take the restrictions of life any longer, whether they be emotional or physical, he simply releases himself and goes back to what he feels is right and what makes him happy. Hence, one of the most prominent and important themes of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is freedom. Freedom not only from Huck’s internal aradoxical struggle in defining right and wrong, but also freedom from Huck’s personal relationships with the Widow Douglas and his father, as well as freedom from the societal institutions of government, religion, and prejudices. “The plot is a deceptively simple story about two runaways: Huck, a white boy fleeing civilization, and Jim, a black man running away from slavery. “ Throughout the story Huck is plagued with an internal moral dilemma of what he feels is right and what he is taught is right. Huck is possibly the only character in the story that operates solely on his own moral convictions.
This produces significant conflict when the accepted rules of society, often corrupt in nature, are imposed upon him. The best example of this internal conflict is Huck’s brief experiences with organized religion. The teachings by the Widow Douglas of the pathways to heaven are in constant conflict with Huck’s own beliefs. Because of this, Huck readily rejects the teachings of organized religion, and therefore must often grapple with the undue guilt that this hypocritical heresy places on him. Such is the case when Huck must decide on whether to protect the whereabouts of
Jim or to do the “Christian” thing and return Miss Watson her “property”. Although Huck ultimately does what he feels is right, the reader is left with a sense that the issue is not completely eradicated from Huck’s conscience. “When his true self triumphs over his false conscience the emotional climax of the book is reached. ” The fact that Huck gives a valid attempt at conformity signifies that he has somewhat of an interest in becoming what is considered “normal”, and thereby pleasing the Widow Douglas. There is a sense that Huck has a genuine gratitude towards the
Widow Douglas for taking an interest in his well being, especially since she appears to be the only one that does so. However, given that his attempts are short-lived, it can be assumed that Huck’s desire to adhere to his personal virtues overpowers his desire to become civilized or to please the Widow Douglas. In contrast, Huck appears to have no desire to have a relationship with his father. At one point in the story Huck does not even know if his father is alive or not, and apparently does not care to know. Because of his father’s alcoholism and unpredictable behavior, emotional freedom from him is easily chieved by Huck. However, it is the physical freedom from his father that Huck must accomplish in the story.
Because of his jealously of Huck, Huck’s father adopts the belief that Huck is attempting to make a fool of him. Consequently, Huck’s father uses this belief as justification to imprison Huck and use him for his own personal gain. For a boy like Huck, physical constriction is undoubtedly the most miserable condition he could be put in. At this point in the story freedom is not only a desire of Huck – it is a necessity. While Twain’s story does have the outward appearance of a boyhood adventure ale, it is impossible to overlook the symbolic nature in the two “runaways'” desires for such an adventure. Both Huck and Jim are running away from the social constraints of their worlds. Huck feels confined by his new civilized life, and Jim by his slave status. In the Widow Douglas’ household, Huck is not allowed to indulge himself in his former delights of boyhood. He feels trapped by the various social rules and expectations the two widows try to enforce upon him. Jim is confined by the bonds of slavery into an uncomfortable and immobile spot in society- one that restricts him from being with his wn family. Thus the two “prisoners” begin their escape for freedom.
“Huck Finn includes events and settings reminiscent of Twain’s boyhood in Hannibal, MO. , a town on the Mississippi River. ” And, while it is natural that Twain placed the story on the wide and powerful Mississippi River where he spent part of his life, there is also a symbolic gesture in the setting. While Huck and Jim travel down the flowing river, they feel a distance from stagnant society on the river’s banks. On the natural river, they are free from the shortcomings and evils of human nature that exist in the man-made towns hey have known. On the raft, there is no practical need for racism or greed. The boy and slave are simply two travelers bound for bigger and better waters. Twain is largely successful in illustrating his support of the deserved freedom of the human condition through his main characters. Huck is an innocent young boy who relies only on his surprisingly sharp criticism of human nature and a goodness and gentle- heartedness that he is not even aware of. Huck’s youthful ignorance and lack of education allow for the innocence that makes him such a believable and effective protagonist.
Despite his age, however, he is still able to discern the often hypocritical actions of the adults around him. For example, he cannot understand why the fine people of the Grangerford family would be involved in something so horrible and ridiculous as a feud. When Jim become a part of the journey, Huck, much to the argument of his misguided conscience, shows mercy and, eventually, respect towards Jim. Bestowing respect upon a slave would have taken a lot of humility for a white boy, and Huck certainly possessed humility. He had no desire for material possessions, or even a very strong desire for money.
Jim’s good nature and kindness is indisputable in the novel. He commits himself to watching over Huck during their journey, and often does so at his own expense. “Jim’s willingness to sacrifice himself for others and take on Huck’s duties as they float down the river causes Huck to see Jim’s basic worth. ” The reader cannot help but to admire Jim’s love for his family and kind, selfless nature. All of these characteristics innocence, mercy, humility, kindness are not elements that support the institution of slavery. Perhaps Twain is suggesting that the potential goodness of human nature that exists in his haracters could exist in a world without slavery. Twain has mastered the use of situational and verbal irony and satire, and uses this to reveal truths about human nature.
Twain places some instances of dialogue that are so blatantly racist that one cannot help but wonder if the author went to extremes to simply make his point. For example, Aunt Sally asks Huck if anyone was hurt on the steamboat and he replies that it only “killed a nigger,” to which Aunt Sally replies, “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. ” This one statement is so obviously wrong that it eems Twain is not advocating prejudice, but simply displaying it’s wrongfulness. This use of irony is implemented throughout the dialogue in the novel, and, while anti-slavery supporters could misinterpret Twain’s ambition, the other elements in the novel help support the author’s true intentions. It is apparent that he believes that, if put into simple words, one could easily see that such racist views are very hypocritical of the good qualities of human nature that Twain so highly values. Furthermore, the most racist people and advocators of slavery in the novel are always depicted in a negative light.
For instance, Twain gives little respect to the King and the Duke who split up the slave family at the Wilks household, or the mob of angry farmers at the Phelps who want to kill Jim. Twain’s open critique of slavery and its supporters and racial prejudice, therefore, do indeed mark him as an advocate for human freedom. In conclusion, Twain uses the qualities of his main characters and the freedom they seek, as well as criticism of the racial views of the society that Huck and Jim occupy, to illustrate his belief that all humans possess the right to be free, if they so desire it.
While it is doubtful that Twain would give himself the title of “abolitionist,” he certainly states in Huckleberry Finn that he does not believe that imposing an institution such as slavery on any person cannot be deemed any other than a blatant violation against morality. Slavery is indeed an immense evil of society, and Twain uses the contrasting goodness of people like Huck and Jim to battle against it. It is also apparent that Twain does not admire the constraints of society, and, like Huck, would rather be free from it and its hypocrisy. Civilization constricted Mark Twain as badly as it did Huck, and the river liberated him equally.
” Therefore it is doubtful that he could support an institution like slavery that had such aristocratic roots. Twain’s characters are too noble, his views of white society too critical, for him to be blamed as a supporter of slavery; he is instead a motivator of the human desire to be free. Twain’s implied lesson expressed within this theme is that true freedom is essential to happiness. Twain ends the novel with a frustrated Huck stating; “Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t tand it.