Role of Women in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Satisfactory Essays
Huckleberry Finn – Role of Women

Throughout history women have been subject to sexual discrimination based on being the physically weaker gender and thus leading to society's negative view of women, there is no exception to the stigma cast on women in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. During the novel every character portraying a woman shows society's view on the role on women. The issue of sexism was never questioned by Mark Twain, which leads to another question--- how can such a powerful novel dealing with such a heated topic like racial prejudices remain totally neutral and bypass altogether sexual inequality?

One reason Twain may have overlooked the sexism of the time was because he too gave into society's connotation of women's roles. Olivia Clemens, his wife, was very much like Sally Phelps. She was dependent on her husband and served with no other true purpose in life than to run a house and bear children. But, did Twain look over sexism or support it? He may have had issues with women due to his own marriage. His wife never produced a healthy son, and she was always sickly. The dependent Olivia was even thought to hinder his ability as a writer. So were the roles of women purposely placed in the novel to support his own opinions of women in the home?

Miss Watson plays into society's rules and regulations. "Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now, with a spelling book. She worked on me middling hard for about an hour, then the wido made her ease up. I couldn't stood her much longer." (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain, page 2) The word spinster came into common use during the early 19th century when the thankless task of spinning cloth had been pushed off to unmarried women as a way to earn their keep in the home (O'Brien, 1973). Miss Watson is the image of everything an old maid stands for. Contemporary use of the word conjures up a mental image of a childless, frumpy, middle-aged woman who is somewhat depressed, and is longing to be like other "normal" women.
Get Access