Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Journey of Pre-War Racism & Dysfunction - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1993 Words
Date:  2023-08-16


Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” juxtaposes a groundbreaking story in the American literature that sequels the story "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The book chronicles the story's protagonist Huckleberry Finn, who is also the narrator and leaves his dysfunctional family and hometown in Missouri, trekking to the South down Mississippi River. The story delves into the realms of an uncensored 13-year-old boy’s depiction of prewar society where Huck underscores racist sentiments ingrained in his fabric life (Twain,1884). The characters in the novel, coupled with the novel's plot, underlie archetypal in its emergence in American literature. Additionally, the story mirrors the ultimate message of acceptance, friendship, independence, and hope that reflects the protagonist's struggles in the period in a civilized society that encompasses a clash of values. The big question is, what then are the roles of civilization in Huck’s life? Also, what conflict of values exists in the protagonist’s visionary life in the realms civilized generated life standards? Finally, what traditional American values of freedom, equality, and individualism are depicted in the novel? The novel, therefore, chronicles the conflicts between civilization and natural life emblemed in Huck's life, which represents natural life through his adventurous freedom spirit, uncivilized ways, and his desire to escape from civilization.

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Discussion of the Novel

The novel’s author Mark Twain, a pen name for Samuel Clemens, born in Mississippi, was considered a great philosopher and author during his lifetime. The author’s fame lasted even after his death as a well-known novelist, humorist, satirist and essayist. Although there existed controversies on whether his novel was Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer, both books were still considered iconic. The story i8s one of the greatest masterpieces that are in conjunction with both startlingly mature materials and raw humor. The author’s perspective on the novel was to directly attack the vast Southern traditions that the region had held during the novel’s publication. Through the protagonist, Huckleberry Finn, the readers can see and judge the Southern traditions' faults and redemptions.

The Conflict Between Civilization and Natural Life

The conflict between civilization and natural life permeates as a primary theme underscored in the novel. Huck is a representation of the natural life owing to his spirit of freedom and his uncivilized ways, owing to his desire to escape from civilization. That was after having being raised in a society devoid of rules and discipline that subsequently informed his resistance to anything that would “sivilize” him (Studyboss,2019). The clash between Huck’s visionary life and the living standards generated by a civilized society is mirrored in the first chapter through Widow Douglas’ efforts to compel Huck into wearing new clothes., learning the bible and giving up smoking. Huck’s uncivilized way of life is also depicted through his direct means of describing events and people devoid of commentary existence. Even, Huck does not laugh at humorous sentiments and situations owing to his literary approach that does not depict such stances as funny, making him fail to see the irony in the witty sentiments.

Besides, Huck fails to depict the nuances of conceptualizations, religion, social aspects, and culture as sanitization following his illiteracy in them. For instance, when Miss Watson tells him that she was going to live to go the excellent place, heaven, Huck’s application about what he knew about Miss Watson and her lifestyle that informed her happiness responded that he never saw any advantage of going where Miss Watson was going. Huck’s comment, albeit disrespectful and sarcastic, did not intend it to be to him. It was just a mere sentimental fact indicative of both his practical application in life and illustrative approach that he exhibited in the entire novel (Studyboss, 2019). It is worth noting that throughout the story, the author juxtaposes the uncivilized way of life that mirrors the society’s moral superiority and more desirability. Perhaps Twain draws his ideas from Jean Jacques Rousseau that civilization corrupts rather than improving human beings.

Plot Overview and Summary of the Book

The novel begins by Huck Fin, who introduces himself as someone familiar with the readers from the past, and Huck becomes abundant with his previous adventure with Tom Sawyer. Huck has been taken home by Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson to civilize him by teaching hi8m religion and good manners. However, Huck sneaks out of the house during the night to join the gang of Tom Sawyer in the pretext of being pirates and robbers. Huck’s discovery of his father's return Pap Finn to town, provokes a big disappointment to him owing to his father's history of drunkenness and violence. Huck’s main worry delves on Pap’s ill intentions, particularly on Huck's invested money. Pap’s confrontations on Huck to drop school and to stop his attempts on bettering himself falls on deaf ears as Huck continues to go to school to annoy Pap. It is after Huck’s kidnap by his father Pap that his fears are realized as Pap takes him across Mississippi River to a small cabin in the shores of Illinois.

Despite Huck becoming free from the civilized life encompassing religion and school that he so much hated at Widow Douglas’ house, Pap’s severe beatings outweigh his detested civilization. Perhaps it was for Pap's brutality and drunkenness that informs his escape down the Mississippi by faking his death. He lands a few miles down Jackson island where he stumbles upon Jim, Miss Watson's slave, who had run away for fear of being sold down the river. Soon after finding out that men are coming to search the island of Jackson, the two fugitives, Hunk and Jim escape down the river via a raft where Jim is planning on reaching the Illinois town and take Ohio river to free states. Although the plan is risky, Huck stays with Jim throughout his travel as the protagonist struggles with the slavery concept and the freedom of Jim throughout the novel.

The two fugitives encounter a vast character in their struggles, including families involved in feuds and a band of robbers in a steamboat that is wrecked, and the only time that the two feel free is when they are abroad in the raft. However, that freedom and tranquility is shattered following the arrival of a new duke and the king who compel Jim and Huck to perform scans on various river towns. The duke and king later pose as English brothers in the quest of stealing the inheritance of a family and the real brothers later arrive, sparking a confusion. It is during that confusion that Hunk and Jim manage to escape and are then joined by the duke and the king who, following their disappointment betray Huck and Jim and sells Jim to slavery, and when Huck goes to find him he finds out that Sally and Silas Phelps are holding Jim. At the end of the novel, Jim is free, and Huck thinks of his new adventure away from civilization.

Civilization in Huck’s Life

The novel juxtaposes the conflict between freedom and civilization, as exemplified in Huck’s life. From the beginning of the book, Huck hates the growth in the home of Widow Douglas following her attempts in forcing him to civilize It is only after Huck escapes the river and particularly in his raft that Huck feels free. Consequently, throughout the novel, anytime Huck and his fellow fugitive Jim are at the onset of civilization, something terrible has to happen (Perles,2009). That is emblemed in their embroilment in a feud, their vulnerabilities of almost being caught, being joined by tricksters, among others. Those are evident scenarios explain that civilization neither brings happiness to Jim and Huck, nor freedom. As a matter of fact, in most instances, the author underscores the hierocracy in the society that is depicted as more civilized than the two fugitives, an element that makes Huck reject civilization even more (Perles,2009).

Huck does not want to be civilized in the quest of conforming with the societal conventions, whose uses he fails to see. Perhaps it is for that reason that Huck is forced to pursue freedom, and more so, he is provoked by the societal denial of personal freedom as exemplified by Jim is continuously forced to seek freedom from slavery. To them, Huck and Jim, Mississippi river represents freedoms as it allows them to travel act emblems the primary symbol of freedom in the novel. Huck and the escaped slave Jim amid their odyssey down the Mississippi River, encounters vast conflicts with the grater society in their quests for seeking freedom. This freedom sharply contrasts with the existing civilization in the great river.

Clash of Values Between Huck’s Visions and the Civilized Society Standards

Huck exemplifies the apparent clash between his morals and the societal moral standards developed by civilization. That is evidenced in his struggles in making vital decisions, coupled with comprehending things around him. Miss Watson and Thatcher represent the civilized society through their strong relations to religion and the hell and heaven concept. They have a firm belief that civilization is the only way to heaven, and failure to that, one is destined to hell. Huck, albeit a child, rebel all aspects of culture, with a strong belief that that civili9zation is a loss of freedom (Disndale,2020). And it is fear of being lack everyone else, coupled with the desire for his freedom that informs Huck’s resentment for civilization.

His resentment for civilization is also depicted through Huck’s struggles with the ideas of school, and contradicts with the notions of Judge Thatcher and the Widow that one had studied the bible and go to school as well. Huck’s rebel for school may also be informed by his father’s illiteracy, coupled with his father's emotional and physical abuse meted on him. Huck’s father, too, resents the idea of Huck going to school to learn and get an education. Moreover, Huck’s rebellious nature towards civilization is informed by his childhood nature. Most children tend to be rebellious against the rules, coupled with both the emotional and physical abuses that he receives from his father, Pap Finn (Dinsdale,2020). Such violations may be very confusing to a child, and maybe Hock might have been wondering ng why else he does need to be civilized. Yet, his father is not enlightened, and he might also be wondering why else does he need to go to school when he would get beaten for it by his father?

Although Huck resents his father, his father could be the primary reason for the clash of his visons and the standards of the civilized society. Therefore, Huck does not want to be like everyone else, owing to his depiction of civilization as hypocritical. It is of little wonder that Huck matures to find his culture through his adventures and odyssey, where he faced with vast choices that he is compelled to make (Disdale,20200. His freedom to learn his vales and visons is encompassed as he ventures Mississippi River, where he can make his own decisions vital to his visions and values.

Perspectives of Traditional American Values of Freedom, Individualism and Equality in the Novel

Perspectives of Traditional American Values of Freedom

Freedom takes a different perspective from each character in the novel both in the journey of Hock and through Jim, the runaway slave, and, fortunately, both acquire freedom at the end of the story. Jim’s thirst for freedom is in the quest to escape slavery, while Huck's desire for freedom is in the pursuit of getting away from the civilized world. One common reason for Jim and Huck's aspirations for democracy i...

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Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Journey of Pre-War Racism & Dysfunction - Essay Sample. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from

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