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Mark Twains The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the greatest American novels ever written. The story is about Huck, a young boy who is coming of age and is escaping from his drunken father. Along the way he stumbles across Miss Watson's slave, Jim, who has run away because he overhead that he would be sold. Throughout the story, Huck is faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not to turn Jim in. Mark Twain has purposely placed these two polar opposites together in order to make a satire of the society's institution of slavery. Along the journey, Twain implies his values through Huck on slavery, the two-facedness of society, and represents ideas with the Mississippi River.
In his own words, Mark Twain stated, "a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision. And the conscience suffer defeat!" Huck has both a "sound heart" and a "deformed conscience," and the heart overcomes his conscience. His sound heart can be seen when he returns to Jackson Island after disguising himself as a girl. Huck rushes to Jim and says, "Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain't a minute to lose. They're after us!" (62). The townspeople are really looking for Jim, but Huck tells Jim that they are after "us.
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Moreover, Huck decides to write to Miss Watson in order to tell her that Jim is with him and he will be returned to her. Huck feels guilty that he is helping Miss Watson's property escape. When he finishes his letter, he tears it up and states, "All right then, I'll go to hell" (214). Huck does not turn Jim in, but instead follows his heart and goes against society's teachings. He sees that going to "hell" will be better than going to the "heaven" that society wishes to go too. Also, Huck realizes that he should follow his gut instead of society's principles. From this moment on, Huck has left the civilized world and will never renter it. In the end, Jim is set free when Ms. Watson dies and frees him in her will. The themes shown in the end is that of friendship, loyalty, and the acceptance of Jim as a man. Huck thinks he has sacrificed his soul to free Jim, and Jim sacrifices his freedom and life for Huck's friend. Also, in the end Jim is a free man and a man that is a friend and equal to Huck.
Also, Twain makes Huck lie on countless occasions. When Huck must go to shore to check their progress, he runs into slave catchers. He had planned to turn Jim in because he was stricken with shame for helping a runaway slave. When he hears that Jim will do anything to steal his wife and children he heads out to turn Jim in. When the slave catchers ask who else is on board, he lies and states, "Because it's pap that's there, and maybe you'd help me tow the raft ashore where the light is. He's sick-and so is mam and Mary Ann" (90). Huck lies in order to hide Jim from the slave catchers. Huck realizes that Jim is his friend and is the only person that he is comfortable with. He begins to see that lying can be beneficial to him. Even though it is unaccepted by society, he follows his heart and uses it to benefit himself and Jim. He sees that depending on the purpose, lying can be good or bad.
Twain also writes the story in two different setting, on the river and on land. The river means freedom, while the land means civilization and restrictions. The river takes Jim to freedom, and it takes Huck away from his father and civilization. As the novel progresses, the river vs. shore symbolism is diluted because Huck brings trouble onto the river. As the story progress the river becomes more and more dangerous and is the scene for short-term escapes. Ironically, the land is where Jim and Huck find freedom.
Lastly, Mark Twain created this brilliant novel to show how negative slavery was and how much one boy could do. He shows a boy struggling to decide if he should do or not do what society tells him. Also, Twain makes Huck commit acts that society considers wrong to show that one should live how he or she wishes too. One should make his or her own opinion. Mark Twain not only wrote America's greatest novel, but also criticized the society within it. He views humanity as cowardly, merciless, and savage. He cannot change the society, but writes this novel to show them what they really are.