.. two boys are collecting supplies for Toms gang is another example of Toms conformity to society. Huck Fink has been taught by Pap to simply “borrow” things. Tom could not stand to do this. When Tom and Huck take the candles from Miss Watson, “Tom laid five cents on the table for pay” where Huck would have simply “borrowed” them (HF 6). This shows the striking contrast of the two characters and their views of the world. Tom Sawyer also represents the cruelties and evils that characters such as Pap and the Grangerfords displayed.
In his discussion of the cruelties of the society that Huck finds himself in, Cox states that “all the other cruelties are committed for some reason for honor, money, or power..but Toms cruelty has a purity all its own.. (175). Where Huck has a general sympathy for all mankind, Tom disregards the condition of others for his own pleasure. When Huck sees the king and duke tarred and feathered he replies, “Well, it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed like I couldnt ever feel hardness against them any more in the world.. human beings can be awful cruel to one another” (HF 254). In contrast to Hucks kindness and good heartedness, when Aunt Sally asks Tom why he tried to set Jim free when he already was Tom replies, “Why, I wanted the adventure of it..” (HF 317). When Tom says this, the reader sees the evil that society has taught this young boy.
Deriving the ideas he had been taught from the fantasy books he has read, Tom persuades his friends to join “Tom Sawyers Gang.” When Tom is discussing the gang with his peers, Tom indulges in the idea that each member must swear to an oath that Tom has got from his books. And if anybody that belonged to the band told the secrets, he must have his throat cut, and then have his carcass burnt up and the ashes scattered all around, and his name blotted off of the list with blood and never mentioned again by the gang, but have a curse put on it and be forgot, forever. (HF 8) Tom goes on to tell the members what they are going to do in this gang. “We stop stages and carriages on the road, with masks on, and kill the people and take their watches and money” (HF 9). Society here has taught a young boy to punish and kill for telling secrets and robbing and killing innocent travelers simply for the adventure of it. Society is where Toms plain evilness comes from, which Huck knows and is trying to escape from.
Contrary to the majority of the interactions that Huck experiences in his adventures, he does experience a few positive ones, one being that of Mary Jane Wilks. Mark Twain presents the character of Mary Jane Wilks as one of the few noble and sympathetic human beings in Huckleberry Finn. In Nancy Walkers “Reformers and Young Maidens: Women and Virtue” published in Modern Critical Interpretations in 1986, Walker describes Mary Jane as “innocent and trusting” and goes on to express that she “defends Huck when her younger sister accuses him accurately of lying” (83). One such incident that proves Mary Janes trust is an incident with the king and duke. For Mary Jane to prove her trust to the king and duke “she hove up the bag of money and put it in the kings hands, and says, Take this six thousand dollars, and invest it for me and my sisters any way you want to, and dont give us no receipt for it” (HF 186).
Mary Jane is even trusting and caring towards Huck when she knows that he is lying to her about his identity. When Mary Jane is questioned about Hucks lies she replies, “It dont make no difference what he said.. the thing is for you to treat him kind, and not be saying things to make him remember he aint in his own country and amongst his own folks” (HF 191). Mary Janes characteristics of innocence and trust make her one of the few characters in the novel that are an exception to societys evils. In addition to being innocent and trusting, Mary Jane shows the same sympathy towards people as Huck does and contributes to Hucks moral development.
Walker later makes the point, ” The passage describing Hucks parting with Mary Jane in Chapter 28 marks the penultimate stop in the moral development that culminates in his decision to risk his soul to help Jim” (83). Huck comments on the parting between the Wilks girls and the slaves saying, I thought them poor girls and them niggers would break their hearts for grief; they cried around each other, and took on so it most made me down sick to see it. The girls said they hadnt ever dreamed of seeing the family separated or sold away from the town. I cant ever get it out of my memory, the sight of them poor miserable girls and niggers hanging around each others necks and crying; I reckon I couldnt a stood it all but would a had to bust out and tell on our gang if I hadnt knowed the sale warnt now account and the niggers would be back home in a week or two. (HF 200) The experience Huck had with Mary Jane left a deep impression on him.
The treatment of the slaves goes against Hucks very being and makes him feel sick to see it. His conscience, going against what he has been taught his whole life, tells him that this is wrong and leads him to his final decision that Jims quest for freedom is noble and worth risking himself for. The character of Jim is perhaps the most influential character in Hucks realization of his own beliefs. First viewing Jim as simply a slave, Hucks views change. In Huckleberry Finn, Huck comes to view Jim as both a representative of humanity and the true father that Pap never was, learning to accept Jim as an equal.
Jims fundamental characteristics of sympathy and kindness allow the reader to see him as a symbol of all humanity. James notes in his analysis of Jim that “on the journey down the river, Huck learns that Jim has real feelings, recognizes his humanity, and vows to not play any more tricks on him” (16). Jim, like any other man, has a family, and when he is separated from them, Huck sees that Jim is as human as he is. “He was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick; because he hadnt ever been away from home before in his life; and I do believe he cared as much for his people as white folks do theirn” (HF 170). Hucks statement here signifies that Huck is coming to the realization that Jim is an equal.
Huck goes on to account, “He was often moaning and mourning that way, nights, when he judged I was asleep, and saying, Po little Lizabeth, po little Johnny.. He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was” (HF 170-1). Jim is more to Huck than just a slave. He is a man, a companion, and a friend. In Ralph Ellisons “Viewpoints” appearing in Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1968, Ellison depicts Jim “like all men, is ambiguous, limited in circumstance but not in possibility..
Jim.. is not simply a slave, he is a symbol of humanity” (113). Jims characteristics of sympathy and kindness cause the two to become true friends. As the two continue their journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim form not only a true friendship, but also a father-son relationship. James continues his analysis of Huck and Jims relationship exploring the idea that “Jim fills a gap in Hucks life: he is the father that Pap is not; he teaches Huck about the world and how it works, and about friendship” (16).
Part of the reason that Huck takes so kindly to Jim is because he found no father figure in Pap. Jim cares for Huck and looks out for him. Id see him standing my watch on top of hisn, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey and how good he always was.. (HF 235) Another reason that Huck forms this mutual relationship with Jim is because of the fun times the two enjoy on the raft. Pap was not a man that Huck enjoyed being around for obvious reasons, but Jim was. “And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before, all the time in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight; sometimes storms, and we afloating along, talking and singing, and laughing” (HF 235).
This enjoyment that Huck shares with Jim helps build the relationship. In J.C. Furnas “The Crowded Raft: Huckleberry Finn and Its Critics” published in The American Scholar in 1985, Furnas quotes Mr. Lionel Trillings comments on Huck and Jims relationship in saying, “In Jim, Huck finds his true father.. the boy and the negro slave form a family, a primitive community..” (516).
During the times that the two were separated, they were lost without one another. When the two are reunited, Jim is ecstatic. “It was Jims voice nothing ever sounded so good before.. and Jim, he grabbed me and hugged me, he was so glad to see me” (HF 128). Huck feels the same way about Jim when he finds him on the island. “Pretty soon he gapped, and stretched himself, and hove off the blanket, and it was Miss Watsons Jim..
I was ever so glad to see Jim” (HF 46). Jim, being such a saintly character, makes him a perfect father figure for Huck, and throughout their journey, that is exactly what he becomes. Jim is also the primary reason for Hucks continuously maturing moral sense. Throughout the course of the novel, Hucks attitude towards Jim and societys institution of slavery becomes more and more clear to him; he realizes for the first time in his life that his own conscience and beliefs are stronger than those of societys. In Frances V.
Brownells “The Role of Jim in Huckleberry Finn” published in Novels for Students in 1997, Brownell makes the point that “it is when he is alone with Jim in the secure little world of the raft drifting down the Mississippi that Huck hears a voice of love that makes sense in a world of hatred..” (19). Jims love is the only love that Huck has the chance to experience in the novel. Huck realizes this and gives up every chance he has to turn Jim in. “.. and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one hes got now..” (HF 235). Jim gratefulness to Huck knows no limits.
The freedom that Jim eventually comes to know is all owed to Huck. Jim thanks Huck saying “Is a free man, en I couldnt ever ben free ef it hadn ben for Huck; Huck done it” (HF 98). Hucks bond with Jim, and his love for him is the cause of the moral rebellion that Huck experiences. When Huck decides to help Jim, he has come full circle from the views of society and does what his conscience tells him is right. In his analysis of Huck, Adams stresses, “When he repudiates his own conscience in this way, Huck takes a long step farther in his repudiation of Southern society, which has formed his conscience” (Adams 45). Huck is in constant struggle with himself, toiling over what he feels in his heart to be right, and what his mind tells him is right. “Well, then, says I, whats the use you learning to do right, when its troublesome to do right and aint no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same” (HF 101)? Huck truly believes that when he decides, “Im agoing to steal him” (HF 248), that what he is doing is wrong.
It bothers Huck so much that he tries to pray to God about it. In a rather ironic manner, Huck can not bring himself to do it, because he thinks he is wrong for helping Jim. “I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that niggers owner and tell where he was, but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie and He knowed it” (HF 234). This constant battle inside Huck makes the reader feel sympathy for Huck and develop him into the hero of the novel. Hucks moral growth and acceptance of Jim climax in a dramatic fashion. Hucks love for Jim becomes so strong that Huck is willing to give not only his life for him, but also his soul.
Cox discusses Hucks decision saying, “This moment, when Huck says All right, then, Ill go to hell, is characteristically the moment we fatally approve, and approve morally” (180). Hucks decision does not come easily to him, rather he battles with himself between what he feels is right, and what society has told him is right. Huck holds the letter telling of Jims whereabouts in his hand while he contemplates the fate of his best friend. Torn with himself Huck says, It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was trembling, because Id got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding by breath, and then says to myself: All right, then, Ill go to hell and tore it up.
(HF 235) Although Huck has made the right moral decision, he still believes what he is doing is wrong. Society has taught Huck that slavery is an acceptable practice, however, Hucks conscience can not agree with this. Huck condemns himself after his decision and ironically blames his father for what the reader recognizes as the morally right choice. “I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warnt” (HF 235). Hucks decision here marks the thematic highpoint of the novel. Hucks moral metamorphosis has now been completed by Jim, making him the most influential character in Hucks formation of his views of society.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain has masterfully used characterization to portray his views of society through the eyes of the central character, Huck. Huck merely tells the simple story of his trip down the mighty Mississippi with the runaway slave Jim. However, Huckleberry Finn has meant much more to its readers than Mark Twain ever could have imagined. The novel has been and remains a standard of excellence in American literature that has yet to be challenged. Marx sums up his analysis of the novel stating, “Everyone agrees that Huckleberry Finn is a masterpiece” (14). Twains works in American literature, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, helped writers in America establish an identity for a still growing nation. McKay praises the book exulting, “The publication of Twains most widely read and accomplished novel was an event incalculably important to the development of a genuinely American literature” (61).
However with all the novels praise, James notes in her discussion, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been a source of controversy since its publication in 1884” (14). Schools across the country have banned the novel for its frequent use of the word “nigger,” despite the fact that the word was one that was very much a part of the regions colloquialism. James furthers this discussion stating, “It was banned from many public libraries on its first appearance for being trash” (14). For all the novels criticism of being racist and a bad influence on young readers, Huckleberry Finn is still considered a true American classic. A simple redneck boy and a runaway slave. Huckleberry Finn is more than that.
Whether or not Mark Twain knew what he was writing when he composed this piece, he was creating not only a story, but a message. American society, as glorious as the history books say it was, had its dark elements. If nothing else, Twain has skillfully captured this theme and used it to produce a highly commendable novel. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is that novel, a story of two friends on a quest for freedom and an escape from a cruel and oppressive society. Bibliography Cited Adams, Richard P. “The Unity and Coherence of Huckleberry Finn.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1968.
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James, Pearl. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Novels for Students 1. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1997. 14-17. Leavis, F. R.
“Viewpoints.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1968. 109-11. Mailloux, Steven. “Reading Huckleberry Finn.” New Essays on Huckleberry Finn. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
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