Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is one the most popular novels in the English language. It is entertaining and has long been a favorite of children. It has been made into movies half a dozen times.

The story has village truant Huckleberry "Huck" Finn (friend of the hero of Tom Sawyer) run away to avoid beatings by his drunken father.

Huck teams up with Jim, a slave who runs away to avoid being sold South. The two head down river on a raft and have several adventures. Perhaps the most poignant is the storm scene in which Huck changes his view of Jim as "just a slave" to "a human being".

  • Over the course of their adventure, Huck learns that Jim is a human being and not property. This realization leads Huck to choose to assist Jim in his escape from captivity, and risk eternal damnation according to his religious beliefs. Huck’s decision is driven by the friendship that develops between him and his fellow fugitive on their adventure. Jim’s kindness and stewardship also provide a stark contrast to the treachery of the characters on the banks of the river. Twain thus crafts a message that slavery and race discrimination are wrong without taking the tone of an abolitionist, combining an amusing children’s story with a profound social message.[1]

Huck's decision to regard Jim as fully human and to ignore his "conscience" so as to risk "going to hell" to save him is the radical anti-slavery core of the book. It is significant that the story was written by a southerner from Hannibal, Missouri just two decades after the end of slavery.

Instead of having Huck realize that slavery is wrong, Twain wrote his book as a satire of slavery, to show the negative effects of slavery on society.

  • Twain sent the message that slavery was bad without sounding like an abolitionist, something that could have had disastrous consequences for a best-selling author twenty years after the Civil War.[1]

In Huck Finn, Twain:

  • ... progressed from calling slavery an abomination to actually showing through the friendship between Huck and Jim that the reason slavery was wrong was that slaves were real human beings who felt everything that whites did. Even though the message was veiled, the length, depth and reach of the work gives it major status as social criticism, and qualifies it as the peak of Twain’s confrontational stance against slavery.[1]

Contents

Plot

Huckleberry Finn is a story about the friendship between two outcasts, one a 13-year-old streetwise (white) urchin, the other a mature (black) runaway slave. While Jim is running away from the prospect of losing his cushy house-servant position for the drudgery of a deep south plantation, Huck is also running away from a slavelike existence as prisoner of his own drunken father. Both are relieved upon their meeting on Jackson Island, with Jim just as happy to find that Huck is not a ghost as Huck is to find that Jim is not someone who will return him to Pap. Each then takes a considerable risk in trusting the other, with Jim confessing his secret plan to run away (he'd be punished terribly if other whites found this out) and Huck choosing to aid a runaway slave (risk at least being called an "abolitionist" but also exposing himself to other, more severe penalties).

An anti-slavery work

Poet T.S. Eliot called the story, "a far more convincing indictment of slavery than the sensationalist propaganda of Uncle Tom's Cabin.[1]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Master's Thesis


Links

Full text available at Project Gutenberg

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