Commentary on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

875 Words4 Pages
This passage comes from the first chapter of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Huckleberry is explaining how life is with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. He is describing one evening at his new home in their company. This section serves to characterize the two ladies, to foreshadow some events that will happen later in the novel, to create a mood of death, to reinforce the theme of death and rebirth, and to characterize Huckleberry.

At the beginning of the passage, Huck describes Miss Watson as a deeply religious person. She talks about the “good place” (3), as a reward for “sivilized” people. Twain satirizes religion when the widow says that all a body does in heaven is play the “harp and sing forever and ever” (3). Indeed, why would she want to sing endlessly once she is dead? But because of Huck’s pure heart, he “didn’t think much of it” (3). All he wants is to be with Tom Sawyer. So even at the beginning of the story, Huck is already rejecting society because he does not care about going to heaven. In addition, Miss Watson is mean toward Huck. She keeps “pecking” (3) at him. The word “pecking” is very important in this passage because it compares Miss Watson as a bird that strikes with its beak. This comparison suggests that Miss Watson is a nag and that her constant criticism is painful to Huck. With the help of Huck’s description, the reader can infer that the two ladies are civilized and educated, but surprisingly, when it comes to slaves, they lose all of their humanity and just “fetched the niggers in and had prayers” (3). They treat them no better than they would treat animals. Their behavior toward slaves demonstrates how superficial and hypocritical they are.

In addition, Mark Twain foreshadows death, which will happen later in the book. For example, when Huck goes up to his room, he feels “lonesome” (3), he wishes he were dead. In this passage, Twain emphasizes the theme of Huck’s quest for freedom. Huck has a need for liberty. Since he is stuck in a house he feels “tiresome” (3), and locked in. The author also uses many morbid words to foreshadow death, such as “mournful”, “dead”, “crying”, “die”, “shivers”, “ghosts”, “grave” and “grieving” (3). As a result, the death imagery and diction creates a dreadful mood.
Open Document