The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Analysis

Academic, Literary Analysis

Dunlap High School

Instructor: Chris Friedman

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Analysis

            The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an outstanding book written by Mark Twain and has some unique characters with the main one being Huckleberry Finn.  Though he changes significantly by the end of the story, his actions and behaviors are not exactly wonderful.  He searches for the easiest way out if possible and does not care about what others think, as long as he himself is happy.  Huckleberry, however, goes incredibly far in his adventures because he uses his own judgments wisely.

Huckleberry Finn is a character who has good judgment in the sense that he takes every matter and request seriously and considers it until he have come to a conclusion of whether or not the matter or request is important enough for him to take in hand.  The story being written in first person, the author goes to describe Huckleberry Finn (the narrator) by having the narrator briefly describing himself in the beginning of the story.  The author explains the characteristics of Huckleberry first by explaining how he judges about what “everyone” said is right but does not make sense to him.  Twain wrote this paragraph as one of the first to describe the Judgments of Huckleberry:  “After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find all about him; but by and by she let out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care about him, because I don’t take no stock in dead people.”  This reasoning would be typical for a struggling boy who can be considered an “orphan” for not having a mother and having a drunk and brutal father who could not care much less about his son.  Huckleberry is always told that it is always right to do good, but never experienced it himself before; that is, he never experienced the results of his own actions and therefore did not understand what benefits of doing what “they” considere what is right had over doing what “they” considere to be wrong when clearly doing wrong is much less boring.  The narrator later mentions that he is told that praying and then asking whatever he wants will surely grant him his wish.  Huckleberry not having his wish granted by his prayers, asks for an explanation for this.  Huckleberry dismisses the thought of prayers after he is told that prayers give one “spiritual gifts” and that one must use the advantages of prayers to help others and not just think about oneself.  Huckleberry says, “I…turned it over in my mind a long time, but couldn’t see no advantage about it—except for the other people; so at last I reckoned I wouldn’t worry about it any more, but jest let it go.”  These judgments that the author highlights about the character in the beginning of the story reconfirms to the reader that Huckleberry does not take in mind about whether or not others say something is right unless he believe it is right.  This information about his judgments is important since this judgment of his leads to some of his most important decisions.  As Huckleberry helps Jim, a runway black slave, escape and be free, he realizes that if he does right and turns in Jim to the white folks, he will not feel any better than he will by freeing him, but freeing him would me much less troublesome.  As Huckleberry begins to love Jim more and more, he is ready to make an absolute decision.  He will free Jim even though he knows it is terribly wrong because he learns from Sunday school earlier that setting a black slave free is wrong and one will go to hell for it.  Why does he do it then?  Huckleberry knows what he is doing is wrong but inside him, it is right; Huckleberry says, “‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’…I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again.”  The intelligent judgment of Huckleberry Finn that Mark Twain described is what reflects the character the most.

Huckleberry Finn is a type of character who, in the beginning, has many doubts about what is right and what is wrong.  But as he travels with his companion, Jim, he learns to become a man with knowledge of his destiny and with the ability to help will make a difference in someone’s life.  In the end, he uses his judgments and knowledge to, without a doubt, not listen to what others say, but what his heart say.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a story with many plots, many characters, and many events.  However, the general plot in the story is to free Jim, a slave who ran away in fear of being sold to south for slavery.  Because Huckleberry had to face, along with many minor duties, the biggest duty of all in the story, the duty to free Jim, the theme of the story is duty.

Along with Huckleberry’s adventures, he usually faces some sort of duty whether it is to make a decision, take an action or even both.  The theme developed while Huckleberry and Jim, the runway slave, were on the raft traveling down the Mississippi river.  That is where the setting for the biggest portion of the story took place.  While traveling down the river, Huckleberry learns a lot and begins to understand the real world and soon knows his duties.  The author characterizes Jim as a loving and kind character which makes it pretty hard for one to betray.  Even for Huckleberry himself. After being quite confident about telling on Jim,  Huckleberry fails to do so upon hearing Jim’s words: “I’s a free man…couldn’t ever ben free ef it hadn’t been for Huck,” (Huck is short for Huckleberry) “Jim won’t ever forgit…Huck…de bes’ fren’… de only fren’ ole Jim’s got.”  Huckleberry knows that it is his duty to not break the promise that he keeps earlier about not telling on Jim, and also knows that he will never feel better if he turned him in after giving him the hope of being free.  As Huckleberry Finn continues his travels, he meets and learns more about other people.  These meetings teach Huckleberry about thinking about others, their needs, desires and feelings, which Huckleberry clearly fails to do earlier in the stroy.  As he learns, he again finds himself with a duty to protect a family of orphan girls in danger of being fooled by two frauds.  Huckleberry says in the story, “and this is a girl that I’m letting that old reptile rob her of her money!” these girls made “me feel at home and I know I was amongst friends.  I felt so ornery and low down and meant that I says to myself, my mind’s made up; I’ll have that money for them or bust.”  And even though it is difficult, Huckleberry is in a way successful.  As the knowledge of Huckleberry Finn builds up, he gets ready to face the toughest decision of all, the decision of whether or not turn in Jim.  Huckleberry either has to choose to risk of getting caught for breaking a major law that is accepted socially but allowing a chance for Jim to be saved or turn in Jim and be free of troubles but for the rest of his life feel guilty of what he has done to his needy friend.  However, Huckleberry has become great friends with Jim and now he feels that a duty to save Jim is coming from his heart, no matter how much he tries to convince himself not to.  Huckleberry finally decide to do what he believes is right even though everyone believes that it is terribly wrong.  Huckleberry risks everything he has been working for (that is, he is trying to risk getting caught and not be able to escape) just so he can save Jim.  All these and other events in the story suggest that what the author is trying to imply.  He is implying that regardless of the situation, one’s duty is one’s own, if it one puts his/her mind to it, it can be made possible.

Mark Twain, by this work of his, explains the power of performing the duties of doing what is right.  One neither needs to think about the race of people, nor the difficulty of the situation to decide whether or not a duty should be performed.  By the story, the author shows that if one believes and take risks and do what is right, happiness will most likely come.  However, if one seeks happiness by trying to get around of doing what is right, that person will never emotionally be at peace.

Mark Twain has done a good job in adding symbolism in his story The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn.  Even though on a literal basis the story is pretty interesting, when one looks deep into the story, many events—some which are not even related to the story plot—symbolize many items including feelings.  Two of such symbolisms include the raft and the two frauds, in which they represent home and love respectively.

The raft on which Huckleberry Finn and the runaway slave Jim travel symbolizes home.  In the beginning of the story, Huckleberry lives with the widow where he hates to live for all the strict rules that apply.  He also hates to live with his father for his father is a brutal man.  Huckleberry therefore escapes to find freedom.  After encountering Jim, Huckleberry helps Jim escapes with him.  “One night” they catch “a little section of a lumber raft—nice pine planks…twelve foot wide and about fifteen or sixteen foot long” with “a solid, level floor.”  As they travel with the raft, Huckleberry and Jim become good friends and they have a “general good time.”  During his travel, Huckleberry Finn stops by in many islands and villages where he sometimes stays for a while.  However, no matter where he stays or how long he stays there, he misses the comfort of his home in the raft.  Huckleberry states this when he escapes back to the raft from the village where he stays with the Grangerfords:  “…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.”  Huckleberry therefore does not find a place as peaceful and homelike as the raft.

The two frauds in the story symbolize the love of family.  Huckleberry meets the two frauds who claims that one is a duke and one is a king and thus deserves special respect.  Even though Huckleberry realizes this, he keeps quiet since “it’s the best way; then” there are “no quarrels, and…into no trouble.  If they wanted” Huckleberry and Jim “to call them kings and dukes,” he “hadn’t no objections, ‘long as it would keep peace in the family”  These frauds tricks many evil ways including the time when they earn “four hundred and sixty-five dollars” by fooling people into watching a horribly short play.  They also try rob “six thousand dollars” from three orphan sisters, but the sisters are soon saved with the help of Huckleberry.  All the horrible things that the “king” and the “duke” did eventually caught up to them when they are captured in one night while trying to fool people with that short play again:  “everybody went to the show looking very innocent; and laid low and kept dark till the poor old king was in the middle of his cavortings on the stage; then somebody gave a signal, and the house rose up and went for them.”  The frauds are tortured after being captured and though Huckleberry thinks earlier in the story that he hated them and wanted to get rid of them, he now feels pretty upset upon seeing them get punished.  Huckleberry says in the story:  “here comes a raging rush of people with torches, and an awful whooping and yelling, and banging tin pans and blowing horns;…they had the king and the duke astraddle of a rail—that is, I knowed it was the king and the duke, though they was all over tar and feathers, and…looked like a couple of monstrous…Well, it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed like I couldn’t ever feel any hardness against them any more in the world.  It was a dreadful thing to see.  Humans beings can be awful cruel to one another.”  After living with the frauds for a while on the raft, Huckleberry unexpectedly begins to love them like a family like one who loves his/her family members regardless of their character.

The symbolism in this story enhance the effects of the plot.  The representations of the raft and the frauds are good examples of this symbolism since it could not have affected the plot on a literally level if these were not included but would reduce the quality of the story.  Mark Twain uses many other symbolisms to make his story more appealing and enjoyable to read.


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