Throughout the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the overarching theme has been civilization vs. individualism. Does a person’s life belong to him, and does he have an inalienable right to live it as he sees fit, or must he sacrifice his values for the group’s “greater good”? Huck Finn, the protagonist, often finds himself clashing with his own morals and the expectations of society. He has thought of turning in his companion and only friend, Jim, because he feel ashamed of what society might think of him if they ever found out that he had, in fact, grown close to a runaway black man. The conflict comes to a climax in Chapter 31 where Huck must decide, once and for all, to take his morals into action or to rest on the laurels that he was taught as he decides whether or not to save Jim. Though doing nothing would be the easiest for Huck and the socially acceptable thing to do, Huck completes his transformation and decides to save Jim, knowing the consequences, because he wants to help his friend. By doing this, Huck is putting Jim’s needs in front of his own and putting his morals in front of society’s expectations. By the end of the novel, Huck disregards the values thrust upon him by society and ultimately finds a stronger sense of integrity by transcending his past environment.
Huck learns stronger empathy and becomes less self-serving in the process. After Huck reunites with Tom, the pair lay in bed together when they hear a ruckus outside. They see the Duke and the Daphuin being run out of town on rails covered in feathers. Huck reflects, “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 ...
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...he story with his philosophical insights and deep introspection. Though these perceptions are sometimes hindered by the opinions of those around him, it is possible for Huck to become “a great man” by Emerson’s definition. Huck wishes he could be the person that he is when he’s on the raft all the time, especially regarding his interactions with people in society. In the beginning, it is harder for Huck to let go of the preconceived moral code of society but by the end, he is closer to that person who thinks for himself without feeling the pressure of those around him. Huck is on his way to becoming “a great man”, but needs to solidify his own beliefs and ideas before reentering civilization so he does not conform back into the boy he once was.
Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2003.
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