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Mark Twain? s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about a young boys coming of age in Missouri of the mid- 1800 s. The main character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Before he does so, however, Huck spends some time in the fictional town of St.
Petersburg where a number of people attempt to influence him. Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolute freedom. His drunken and often missing father has never paid much attention to him; his mother is dead and so, when the novel begins, Huck is not used to following any rules. The book? s opening finds Huck living with the Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson.
Both women are fairly old and are really somewhat incapable of raising a rebellious boy like Huck Finn. Nevertheless, they attempt to make Huck into what they believe will be a better boy. Specifically, they attempt, as Huck says, to civilize him. This process includes making Huck go to school, teaching him various religious facts, and making him act in a way that the women find socially acceptable.
Huck, who has never had to follow many rules in his life, finds the demands the women place upon him constraining and the life with them lonely. As a result, soon after he first moves in with them, he runs away. He soon comes back, but, even though he becomes somewhat comfortable with his new life as the months go by, Huck never really enjoys the life of manners, religion, and education that the Widow and her sister impose upon him. Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer. Tom is a boy of Huck?
s age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life of adventure. Huck is eager to join Tom Sawyers Gang because he feels that doing so will allow him to escape the somewhat boring life he leads with the Widow Douglas. Unfortunately, such an escape does not occur. Tom Sawyer promises much but none of his promises comes to pass. Huck finds out too late that Toms adventures are imaginary, that raiding a caravan of A-rab's really means terrorizing young children on a Sunday school picnic, that stolen jolly is nothing more than turnips or rocks. Huck is disappointed that the adventures Tom promises are not real and so, along with the other members, he resigns from the gang.
Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap, Huck? s father. Pap is one of the most astonishing figures in all of American literature. He is completely antisocial and wishes to undo all of the civilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson have attempted to instill in Huck. Pap is a mess: he is unshaven; his hair is uncut and hangs like vines in front of his face; his skin, Huck says, ?
Is white like a fish? s belly or like a tree toads. ? Pap? s savage appearance reflects his feelings as he demands that Huck quit school, stop reading, and avoid church. Huck is able to stay away from Pap for a while, but Pap kidnaps Huck three or four months after Huck starts to live with the Widow and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in the Missouri woods. Here, Huck enjoys, once again, the freedom that he had prior to the beginning of the book.
He can smoke, ? laze around, swear, and, in general, do what he wants to do. However, as he did with the Widow and with Tom, Huck begins to become dissatisfied with this life. Pap is too handy with the hickory and Huck soon realizes that he will have to escape from the cabin if he wishes to remain alive.
As a result of his concern, Huck makes it appear as if he is killed in the cabin while Pap is away, and leaves to go to Jackson Island a remote island in the Mississippi River. It is after he leaves his father? s cabin that Huck joins yet another important influence in his life: Miss Watson? s slave, Jim. Prior to Huck? s leaving, Jim has been a minor character in the novel he has been shown being fooled by Tom Sawyer and telling Huck?
s fortune. Huck finds Jim on Jackson? s Island because the slave has run away. He has overheard a conversation that he will soon be sold to a slave owner New Orleans. Soon, after joining Jim on Jackson? s Island, Huck begins to realize that Jim has more talents and intelligence than Huck has been aware of.
Jim knows all kinds of signs about the future, people? s personalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of information necessary as he and Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft. Huck feels a comfort with Jim that he has not felt with the other major characters in the novel.
With Jim, Huck can enjoy the best aspects of his earlier influences. As does the Widow, Jim allows Huck security, but Jim is not as confining as the Widow. Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligent but his intelligence is not as intimidating or as imaginary as is Toms. Similar to Pap, Jim allows Huck freedom, but he does it in a loving, rather than an uncaring, fashion. Thus, early, in their relationship on Jackson?
s Island, Huck says to Jim, This is nice. I wouldn? t want to be nowhere else but here. This feeling is in marked contrast with Huck? s feelings concerning other people in the early part of the novel where he always is uncomfortable and wishes to leave them. At the conclusion of chapter 11 in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim are forced to leave Jackson?
s Island because Huck discovers that people are looking for the runaway slave. Prior to leaving, Huck tells Jim, They? re after us. Clearly, the people are after Jim, but Huck has already identified with Jim and has begun to care for him. This stated empathy shows that the two outcasts will have a successful and rewarding friendship as they drift down the river as the novel continues. (Twain, Mark) Mark Twain and racism almost always appear together in critics articles yet is racism really the problem? There is a major argument among literary critics whether Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is or is not a racist novel.
The question boils down to the depiction of Jim, the black slave, and the way Huck and other characters treat him. The use of the word nigger is also a point raised by some critics, who feel that Twain uses the word too much and too loosely. Mark Twain never presents Jim in a negative light. He does not show Jim as a drunkard, as a mean person, or as a cheat. This is in contrast to the way Huck? s (white) father is depicted, whom Twain describes using all of the above characterizations and more.
We see Jim as a good friend, a man devoted to his family and loyal to his companions. He is, however, very naive and superstitious. Some critics say that Twain is implying that all blacks have these qualities. When Jim turns to his magic hairball for answers about the future, we see that he does believe in some foolish things. But all the same, both blacks and whites visit Jim to use the hairballs powers.
This type of naivet? was abundant at the time and found among all races as the result of a lack of proper education. So the depiction of Jim is not negative in the sense that Jim uneducated and in this aspect of the story clearly there is no racism intended. It is next necessary to analyze the way white characters treat Jim throughout the book. Note that what the author felt is not the way most characters act around Jim, and his feelings are probably only shown through Huck. (Concord Library) In the South during that period, black people were treated as less than humans, and Twain needed to portray this. The examples of the way Jim is denigrated: by being locked up, having to hide his face in the daytime and how he is generally derided are necessary for historical accuracy.
Therefore, Mark Twain had to display Jim? s treatment in this manner, even if it is not the way he felt. Huck, however, does not treat Jim as most whites do. Huck looks at Jim as a friend, and by the end of their journey, disagrees with society? s notion that blacks are inferior. There are two main examples of this in the story.
The first one is where Huck is disgusted by Jims plans to steal his own children, who are someone else? s property. While Huck is still racist here, Twain has written the scene in a way that ridicules the notion that someone? s children can actually be the property of a stranger because the father is black. The second example is where Huck doesn? t tell Jims whereabouts, which would return Jim to slavery, and instead chooses to?
go to Hell for his decision. This is again Twain making a mockery of Southern values, that it is a sin to be kind to black people. Another reason that is given to say this novel is racist is the use of the word nigger. This is not a good reason because this is how blacks were referred to then. To use the word Negro or African-American would have taken away from the story? s impact.
If Twain wanted to write a historically accurate book, as he did, then the inclusion of this word is necessary. (Salwen, Peter) These claims that Huckleberry Finn is racist are not simply attempts to damage the image of a great novel. They come from people who are hurt by racism and don? t like seeing it in any context. However, they must realize that this novel and its author are not racist, and the purpose of the story is to prove black equality. (Concord Library) In recent years, there has been increasing discussion of the seemingly racist ideas expressed by Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn. In some extreme cases the novel has even been banned by public school systems and censored by public libraries. The basis for these censorship campaigns has been the depiction of one of the main characters in Huckleberry Finn, Jim, a black slave.
Jim, is a typical black slave who runs away from his owner Miss Watson. At several points in the novel, Jims character is described to the reader, and some people have looked upon the characterization as racist. However, before one begins to censor a novel, it is important to separate the ideas of the author from the ideas of his characters. It is also important not to take a novel at face value and to read between the lines in order to capture the underlying themes of a novel. If one were to do this in relation to Huckleberry Finn, one would, without a doubt, realize that it is not racist and is even anti-slavery. (Ed. Scott, Arthur Lincoln) On a superficial level Huckleberry Finn might appear to be racist.
The first time the reader meets Jim he is given a very negative description of him. The reader is told that Jim is illiterate, childlike, not very bright and extremely superstitious. However, it is important not to lose sight of who is giving this description and of whom it is being given. Although Huck is not a racist child, he has been raised by extremely racist individuals who have, even if only subconsciously, ingrained some feelings of bigotry into his mind.
It is also important to remember that this description, although it is quite saddening, was probably accurate. Jim and the millions of other slaves in the South were not permitted any formal education, were never allowed any independent thought and were constantly maltreated and abused. Twain is merely portraying by way of Jim, a very realistic slave raised in the South during that time period. To say that Twain is racist because of his desire for historical accuracy is absurd. Despite the few incidences in which Jims description might be misconstrued as racist, there are many points in the novel where Twain through Huck, voices his extreme opposition to the slave trade and racism. (Ed. Scott, Arthur Lincoln) In chapter six, Huck's father fervently objects to the governments granting of suffrage to an educated black professor.
Twain wants the reader to see the absurdity in this statement. Huck's father believes that he is superior to this black professor simply because of the color of his skin. In Chapter 15 the reader is told of an incident, which contradicts the original childlike? description of Jim. In chapter 15 the reader is presented with a very caring and father-like Jim who becomes very worried when he loses his best friend Huck in a deep fog. Twain is pointing out the connection, which has been made between Huck and Jim.
A connection, which does not exist between a man and his property. When Huck first meets Jim on the Island he makes a monumental decision, not to turn Jim in. He is confronted by two opposing forces, the force of society and the force of friendship. (Ed. Kesterson, David B) Many times throughout the novel Huck comes very close to rationalizing Jim? s slavery. However, he is never able to see a reason why this man who has become one of his only friends, should be a slave.
Through this internal struggle, Twain expresses his opinions of the absurdity of slavery and the importance of following ones personal conscience before the laws of society. (Kaplan, Justin) By the end of the novel, Huck and the reader have come to understand that Jim is not someones property and an inferior man, but an equal. Throughout the novel society's voice is heard through Huck. The racist and hateful contempt, which existed at the time, is at many times present. But, it is vital for the reader to recognize these ideas as society's and to recognize that Twain throughout the novel disputes these ideas. Twain brings out into the open the ugliness of society and causes the reader to challenge the original description of Jim. In his subtle manner, he creates not an apology for slavery but a challenge to it. (Salwen, Peter) The entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on intolerance between different social groups.
Without prejudice and intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of the antagonism or intercourse that makes the recital interesting. The prejudice and intolerance found in the book are the characteristics that make The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn great. (Wagennacht, Edward C. ) The author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who is more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He was born in 1835 with the passing of Haley? s comet, and died in 1910 with the passing of Haley?
s comet. Clemens often used prejudice as a building block for the plots of his stories. Clemens even said, ? The very ink in which history is written is merely fluid prejudice. ?
There are many other instances in which Clemens uses prejudice as a foundation for the entertainment of his writings such as this quote he said about foreigners in The Innocents Abroad, ? They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vichy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce. ? Even in the opening paragraph of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Clemens states, ? Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. ? (Twain, Mark) (Kaplan, Justin) (The World Book) There were many groups that Clemens contrasted in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The interaction of these different social groups is what makes up the main plot of the novel. For the objective of discussion they have been broken down into five main sets of antithetic parties: people with high levels of society and people with low levels of society, rednecks and scholarly, children and adults, men and women, and finally, the Sheperdson? s and the Grangerford? s. Whites and African Americans are the main two groups contrasted in the novel. Throughout the novel Clemens portrays Caucasians as a more educated group that is higher in society compared to the African Americans portrayed in the novel.
The cardinal way that Clemens portrays African Americans as obsequious is through the colloquy that he assigns them. Their dialogue is composed of nothing but broken English. One example in the novel is this excerpt from the conversation between Jim the fugitive slave, and Huckleberry about why Jim ran away, where Jim declares, ? Well you see, it uz dis way. Ole missus-dats Miss Watson-she pecks on me all de time, en treats me post rough, but she awful said she would sell me down to Orleans. ? Although this is the phonetic spelling of how some African Americans from the boondocks used to talk, Clemens only applied the argot to Blacks and not to Whites throughout the novel.
There is not one sentence in the treatise spoken by an African American that is not comprised of broken English. But in spite of that, the broken English does add an entraining piece of culture to the milieu. (Blair, Walter) The second way Clemens differentiates people in the novel of different skin color. Blacks in the book are portrayed as stupid and uneducated. The most blatant example is where the African American character Jim is kept prisoner for weeks while he is a dupe in a childish game that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn play with him. Clemens spends the last three chapters in the novel to tell the tale of how Tom Sawyer maliciously lets Jim, who known only unto Tom is really a free man, be kept prisoner in a shack while Tom torments Jim with musings about freedom and infests his living space with rats, snakes, and spiders. At the end of this chapter Tom even admits, ?
Why, I wanted the adventure of it? ? The next two groups Clemens contrasts are the rednecks and the scholarly. In the novel Clemens uses interaction between backwoods and more highly educated people as a vital part of the plot. The main usage of this mixing of two social groups is seen in the development of the two very entertaining characters simply called the duke and the king. These two characters are rednecks that pretend to be of a more scholarly background in order to cheat people along the banks of the Mississippi.
In one instance the king and the duke fail miserably in trying to act more studiously when they perform a? Shakespearean Revival. ? The duke totally slaughters the lines of Hamlet saying, ? To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin. That it makes calamity of so long life.
For who farmer bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunshire, but that fear of something after death. ? (Blair, Walter) Thirdly Clemens contrasts adults and children. Clemens portrays adults as the conventional group in society, and children as the unconventional. In the story adults are not portrayed with much bias, but children are portrayed as more imaginative. The two main examples of this are when Huckleberry fakes his death, and when Tom and Huck?
help? Jim escape from captivity. This extra imaginative aspect Clemens gives to the children of the story adds a lot of humor to the plot. Fourthly in the novel Clemens contrasts women and men.
Women in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are portrayed as frail, while men are portrayed as more outgoing. The foremost example of a frail woman character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Tom Sawyer? s Aunt Sally. One example was when Tom and Huck were collecting wildlife to live in the shack that Jim is being held prisoner in they accidentally let loose some snakes in Aunt Sally? s house and Aunt Sally, ? ? would just lay that work down, and light out. ?
The main reason that Clemens portrays women as less outgoing is because there are really only four minor women characters in the novel, while all major characters are men. Lastly Clemens contrasts two families engaged in a feud. The names of the two families are the Sheperdson? s and the Grangerford?
s. The ironic thing is that, other than their names, the two factions are totally similar and even attend the same church. (Blair, Walter) This intolerance augments a major part to the plot because it serves as the basis for one of the escapades Huck and Jim get involved in on their trip down the Mississippi. In conclusion the entire plot of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is rooted on intolerance between different social groups. Without prejudice and intolerance The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would not have any of the antagonism and intercourse that makes the novel interesting. Therefore making it not a racist novel, but historically accurate tail of life at that time. Mark Twain is innocent of all wrongdoing.
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