Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Length: 1574 words (4.5 double-spaced pages)
There may never be another novel written quite like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. It combines adventure, suspense and comedy to create a most accurate account of the times. Huckleberry Finn warms the heart of the reader by placing an ignorant white boy by the name of Huckleberry Finn in some strange situations, having him tell his remarkable story the way it streams into his own eyes. Huckleberry Finn is nearly always confused on account of so many different kinds of people having such different impressions upon him; he turns to his own heart and intelligence for guidance. Huckleberry Finn has a heart of gold, and grows as a person throughout the story.
Huckleberry Finn's setting jumps around to a number of different places. The beginning takes place in St. Petersburg, Missouri in around the 1840s, before the Civil War. Huckleberry lived in a very "sivilized" household; a rather prosperous one as well, with the Widow Douglas. It was a time of slavery, though throughout the entire novel there was very little said to put down African Americans. The characters in the book, as many as there were, were all created by Twain to respect and acknowledge the decency in their slaves.
There are two main characters in Huckleberry Finn: Huckleberry Finn, and Jim, a runaway slave. Huckleberry Finn finds himself torn between his own judgement of helping Jim escape, and the people around him who support slavery in it's entirety. He is in a bad and dangerous situation while with Jim, because anyone might possibly think Jim a runaway "nigger" and turn him back in for the reward of cash, as well as clout for being honest. But Huck is a very bright and creative young man, and uses his intelligence to both his and Jim's advantages in order to save their lives, on more than one occasion. He is quite brilliant under pressure, as when encountered by two men looking for runaway "niggers". The men inquired about who else was with Huck. The men threatened to come closer and see, and Huck replied, "I wish you would, because it's pap that's there, and maybe you'd help me tow the raft ashore...He's sick..." and Huck let on that he needed the men's help, and that his "pap" was awful ill, and soon enough the men hollered, "Keep away, boy. Confound it, I just expected the wind has blown it to us.
Your pap's got the smallpox, and you know it precious well." Huck makes great use of his mind and ponders every possible obstacle that comes his way. In most cases, that is what saves him from making the wrong decision, even if the wrong decision would be the easiest one to carry out.
There is always some sort of conflict in Huckleberry Finn, but Twain basically wanted to create only one or two at a time. The main goal that Huck and Jim were striving for was freedom, and after Huck faked his own death, and Jim ran away from Mrs. Watson, they thought they were home free. Not so, because within the time span between setting off and achieving freedom, they had been "run through the mill", so to speak. Huck and Jim had been separated at least three times, and two of those by life-threatening situations. They had lost, then recovered their raft. They had on many occasions come close to being discovered by robbers. Huck even lived with a strange family who was nice enough to take him in when he was separated from Jim and the raft. And when things just started to get better, and freedom was on the tip of Huck and Jim's tongues, the raft became inhabited with two con men. One of which claims to be a duke, the other a dauphin. And for the last half of the journey, these false heirs of royalty continue to use Huck and Jim's travels to callously go from town to town, playing the townspeople like chess pieces.
Huckleberry Finn has multiple climaxes. And that is what makes it such a great book. The first climax was when Huck and Jim were almost found out by two men who were searching for five runaway slaves. Twain purposefully introduces a heart-stopper earlier in the novel as a road sign to indicate what's ahead. Another climax was when Huck, the duke, and dauphin pose as the deceased Peter Wilks' brothers, Huck being a servant. When Huck began to fancy one of the Wilks daughters, Mary Jane, it infuriates Huck to think of the two men taking advantage of her. "...this is a girl that I'm letting that old reptile rob her of her money." When Huck resolves to expose the two con men, and slips up and tells Mary Jane everything- that was the absolute climax. It made the reader want to read on, just to see justice come to the heartless frauds.
There are also many things in the story that stimulate further thinking on the part of the reader without much effort from Twain's writing. He includes tangible symbols that would be seen by a good reader, such as the river. The river, along with the sometimes horrible weather that came along with it, symbolized the gate, or pathway, to freedom, and the obstacles that make a good thing worth while. And after losing and recovering their raft, and even after it was plowed through clear in half by a huge boat, it was none-the-less repaired by old Jim, as good as new. The raft symbolizes the relationship between Huck and Jim, as well as their unforgettable journey together.
Mark Twain uses a sense of style in his writing of Huckleberry Finn that appeals to many types of readers. He includes adventure, mystery, suspense, comedy and integrity into a book that is cover-to-cover fantastic. Although many schools ban his book, it offers an insight into American history that is hard to beat by any history book; it personifies and gives depth into those times of drunkenness and slavery. Although slaves were given a label as dumb, Twain saw that it was because of the white race that slaves were ignorant. And since he couldn't change the fact that his character, Jim, would no doubt be ignorant and uneducated, he knew that he could make up for it by giving Jim a sense of goodness, and an instinct to play father and guardian to Huck while in eachother's presence. Twain even turns the tables by creating a lesson to be learned by Huck from Jim. After Huck had played a mean trick on Jim, Jim said in return:
"What do dey stan' for? I's gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no' mo' what become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up e fine you back ag'in, all safe en soun', de tears come, en I could 'a' got down on my knees en kiss yo' foot, I's so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is trash; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em shamed."
This shows that, although Jim is clearly uneducated, he is still wise.
As the story progresses, an insight is given through the thoughts of Huck, as he is the narrator. He becomes aware of his own heart, and whether or not he likes it, he begins to realize that he is actually doing the right thing by helping Jim to freedom. On many occasions he had compared himself to his best friend Tom, and there was a time when he thought it easier to "just do bad". And he wasn't quite sure if he had done the right thing by helping Jim at first. "Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped to fun away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would steal his children- children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't even done me no harm."
There is no wonder why Huckleberry Finn is one of the all-American stories, which have proved themselves to stay with the times, no matter how the times work. Huck and Jim went through enough adventures to last a lifetime, and it stays upon the reader more than just a regular science-fictional novel because it sets the tone of what things were really like. By the time of the books ending, Jim, Huck and Tom all learned a lot about humanity. Jim was willing to sacrifice his freedom to get Tom back to Aunt Sally's house to get medical attention for Tom's wounded leg. In times of desperate measures, Jim proved to be a great man. And that proved Huck's decision that he had done the right thing. In the end, when Jim achieves his freedom and Huck proclaims he is heading out west, I would like to think that Mark Twain did not mention Huck's gold back in St. Petersburg, because in the big scheme of things, money doesn't matter all that much.