The Importance of Realism in Huckleberry Finn

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The novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a complex and witty commentary on the social and moral injustices that existed during the time it was written. Although apparently intended for children, the novel introduces and explores problems like racism, sexuality, and the ability to face challenging moral dilemmas. Mark Twain tells the story of a young boy who aids an escaped slave down the Mississippi River and his moral development throughout and because of this journey. He tells the story in a realist fashion -- providing accurate southern and social dialects, a truthful vision of the society's attitude towards race and class, and even detailed descriptions of the landscape of the Mississippi River that he studied so fondly and meticulously throughout his life. He portrays Huckleberry Finn as an extremely serious but sympathetic child that rarely smiles and always chooses the path that makes the most sense to him, regardless of social concern. He is rooted in reality and thinks and acts in a logical manner. On the other hand, Tom Sawyer, utilized by Mark Twain as Huck's foil, is a character rooted in idealism and imagination. He is often relating things to stories and books he has read and often mistreats people because he is so concerned with recreating these romantic ideals. Twain's use of an extremely realist style coupled with the juxtaposition of Tom and Huck's behavior serve to expose the moral confusion pervading society and possibly to provide a model to making moral decisions.

One scene that helps to illustrate the realism that Twain wants to achieve occurs when Huck is mistaken for Tom by Tom's Aunt Sally. He is attempting to make up a story (for the practical purpose of freeing Jim instead of "fun" as Tom Sawyer ...

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...no hidden trick to dealing with moral decisions. Some people pretend problems are not real by writing stories with neat and happy endings and some people manipulate others into believing the problem does not exist at all because it is easy. It is through Huck, a boy that relies on his own belief and common sense reasoning that Twain provides a solution to this problem that is contained in the murky and mysterious waters of the Mississippi River. When Huck is caught between the dilemma of giving Jim up or lying, he does what he truly feels, saying he shall "always do whichever come handiest at the time" (127). Inner turmoil, the struggle between right and wrong, is a problem everyone faces and Twain believes to stand up and do what is "handiest" -- what is morally correct at the time to the individual regardless of what others may say -- is the only thing one can do.
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