Importance of the River in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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Importance of the River in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn


      In the novel The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn the setting has a large

influence on Huck's character.  The period of time that Huck lived in was a

distinct era.  The country was changing rapidly.  During this period steam

engines enabled rivers to be used as mass transportation, an idea that had never

been explored until now.  Waterways were the first way in which large amounts of

goods could be transported efficiently.  This drastically changed much of the

nation's economy.  Huge factories were built in the north and southern

plantations tripled their production by using machines.  There were many traits

of this era that can be seen by looking at the components of Huck's character,

his language, actions and thoughts.  Some of these traits are sutle and can be

easily missed but others are very obvious and powerful.  This period of change

was the setting of Huck's childhood.


      One trait that is indicative of the era is the social class of Huck and

Huck's language.  It is greatly affected by his social class and setting.  The

broken English is a sign of Huck's low social class.  In addition it also shows

that he is from a southern river town.  This can be seen from his expressions

and accent.  The language of the novel also assists the reader to get into the

laid back, southern mood of the book.  By doing so the story is brought to life.

It seems as if someone were to bring you back to the time when the novel and the

events in it occurred.


     Because of the rules of the time that Huck's character is governed upon,

Huck was never educated.  During the early 1800s there was no law that required

children to go to school, therefore his low intellect has a strong impact on

Huck's character.  It gives him a "plain and simple" outlook on life,  this

trait can been seen throughout the book in Huck's character.  One specific area

it affects is Huck's plans for his future.  Huck only thought about what he was

going to do for present.  Huck had an incapable father.  He was thought of as

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"Importance of the River in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn." 24 Mar 2018
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the town drunk, and would often come home intoxicated and abuse Huck.    At one

point his father locked Huck up in a small room without food or water for days.

The setting is important here because if Huck's father were to treat his son in

an abusive manner today, he would lose custody of his child.  A good example of

Huck's unloving relationship was Huck's reaction to his father's death.     When

notified of his death he was relieved and felt safe!  This detail can be used to

illustrate the abuse that Huck went through in the beginning of the book, while

living with his father.  Because of Huck's father's irresponsible actions,  Huck

ran away at a young age in the hope that someday he would find freedom from his

father and society.    By running away Huck saved himself from abuse and being

taken advantage of.  One of the things Huck saved himself from was having 6,000

dollars, that Huck was awarded for the capture of two criminals in Tom Sawyer,

being stolen from him by his father.


      Huck's separation from his father is also the reason for his free

thinking, responsibility and innocence.  These times of hardship formed him into

a mature person and helped contribute to his independent personality.  Without

the influence of the setting Huck would have never been able to achieve the

freedom that he had by being independent.


      When Huck ran away he joined up with Jim, who was also running away, but

from something different.  Jim was fleeing from slavery, a common practice of

the time. Huck's relationship with Jim contributed to Huck's non-prejudice

thinking.  Another factor that gave Huck a understanding of how the slaves must

have felt was the prejudice that he experienced  himself , being part of the

lower class.  Huck was infuriated when people looked down upon him for something

that was no fault of his, he was born into the class because of his father's

social status.  For these reasons Huck always treated Jim as an equal, making

Huck ahead of his time.  Jim knew that Huck respected him, as a result Jim

risked his own life to save Huck.


     Huck's  independence and lack of education resulted in a mind that was

never influenced by adult's beliefs.  This allowed Huck to have thoughts based

on what he believed in, not traditions that are simply carried on by messengers

of the past's beliefs.  Although traditions are often good they prevent new

ideas from entering people's minds.   This made Huck original, this

individuality  could be seen with his relationship with Jim.  During this period

of American history slaves were looked down upon, but Huck, being  an

independent thinker, looked up to Jim for who he was, not for the color of his

skin.  This was made obvious by their moon lit conversations on the raft.  On

the raft Huck and Jim talked about their past and future, friends and how they

planned to avoid trouble that could result from their next adventure.  From the

raft conversations the reader was able to see how Jim longed for freedom and had

feelings just like everyone else, especially Huck.


     As the novel progressed Huck's relationship with Jim grew stronger.  In

the beginning of the book Huck often called Jim "Nigger Jim."  This was not

because of any hatred that Huck had towards Jim.  It was only a term commonly

used to refer to blacks.  But by the end of the book Huck would only call Jim by

his name.  This change in dialogue clearly illustrates how the relationship grew

stronger during their adventures.  By the end of the novel Huck risked his own

life to free Jim in the final escape attempt.  This happened when Huck and Tom

freed Jim from a holding cell.  They were spotted, chased and then shot at by

the men who had captured Jim.  If the story were to take place in another time,

where slavery did not exist, it could have hid Huck's individuality that slavery

shed light on.


      During the river adventures that Huck and Jim shared Huck realized that

because of his economic status he was dependent on the river to survive. This

can clearly be seen by looking at the origin of his name "Huckleberry". He was

given this name  because at a young age he had been eating huckleberries. His

dependence made him loyal to the Mississippi River.  The personification of the

river  that Huck uses clearly shows his feelings and thankfulness to the river.

The personification also helped show how important the river was to not only

Huck but to all of the river towns.



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