es on Huckleberry FinnMark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel about ayoung boy’s coming of age in the Missouri of the mid-1800’s. The main character,Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating down the MississippiRiver on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Before he does so, however, Huckspends some time in the fictional town of St. Petersburg where a number ofpeople attempt to influence him.
Before the novel begins, Huck Finn has led a life of absolutefreedom. His drunken and often missing father has never paid much attention tohim; his mother is dead and so, when the novel begins, Huck is not used tofollowing any rules. The book’s opening finds Huck living with the WidowDouglas and her sister, Miss Watson.
Both women are fairly old and are reallysomewhat incapable of raising a rebellious boy like Huck Finn. Nevertheless,they attempt to make Huck into what they believe will be a better boy.Specifically, they attempt, as Huck says, to “sivilize” him. This processincludes making Huck go to school, teaching him various religious facts, andmaking him act in a way that the women find socially acceptable.
Huck, who hasnever had to follow many rules in his life, finds the demands the women placeupon him constraining and the life with them lonely. As a result, soon after hefirst moves in with them, he runs away. He soon comes back, but, even though hebecomes somewhat comfortable with his new life as the months go by, Huck neverreally enjoys the life of manners, religion, and education that the Widow andher sister impose upon him.Huck believes he will find some freedom with Tom Sawyer.
Tom is aboy of Huck’s age who promises Huck and other boys of the town a life ofadventure. Huck is eager to join Tom Sawyer’s Gang because he feels that doingso will allow him to escape the somewhat boring life he leads with the WidowDouglas. Unfortunately, such an escape does not occur. Tom Sawyer promisesmuch–robbing stages, murdering and ransoming people, kidnaping beautiful women–but none of this comes to pass. Huck finds out too late that Tom’s adventuresare imaginary: that raiding a caravan of “A-rabs” really means terrorizingyoung children on a Sunday school picnic, that stolen “joolry” is nothing morethan turnips or rocks. Huck is disappointed that the adventures Tom promisesare not real and so, along with the other members, he resigns from the gang.Another person who tries to get Huckleberry Finn to change is Pap,Huck’s father. Pap is one of the most astonishing figures in all of Americanliterature as he is completely antisocial and wishes to undo all of thecivilizing effects that the Widow and Miss Watson have attempted to instill inHuck.
Pap is a mess: he is unshaven; his hair is uncut and hangs like vines infront of his face; his skin, Huck says, is white like a fish’s belly or like atree toad’s. Pap’s savage appearance reflects his feelings as he demands thatHuck quit school, stop reading, and avoid church. Huck is able to stay awayfrom Pap for a while, but Pap kidnaps Huck three or four months after Huckstarts to live with the Widow and takes him to a lonely cabin deep in theMissouri woods. Here, Huck enjoys, once again, the freedom that he had prior tothe beginning of the book. He can smoke, “laze around,” swear, and, in general,do what he wants to do. However, as he did with the Widow and with Tom, Huckbegins to become dissatisfied with this life. Pap is “too handy with thehickory” and Huck soon realizes that he will have to escape from the cabin if hewishes to remain alive. As a result of his concern, Huck makes it appear as ifhe is killed in the cabin while Pap is away, and leaves to go to a remote islandin the Mississippi River, Jackson’s Island.
It is after he leaves his father’s cabin that Huck joins yet anotherimportant influence in his life: Miss Watson’s slave, Jim. Prior to Huck’sleaving, Jim has been a minor character in the novel–he has been shown beingfooled by Tom Sawyer and telling Huck’s fortune. Huck finds Jim on Jackson’sIsland because the slave has run away–he has overheard a conversation that hewill soon be sold to New Orleans. Soon after joining Jim on Jackson’s Island,Huck begins to realize that Jim has more talents and intelligence than Huck hasbeen aware of. Jim knows “all kinds of signs” about the future, people’spersonalities, and weather forecasting. Huck finds this kind of informationnecessary as he and Jim drift down the Mississippi on a raft.
As important,Huck feels a comfort with Jim that he has not felt with the other majorcharacters in the novel. With Jim, Huck can enjoy the best aspects of hisearlier influences. As does the Widow, Jim allows Huck security, but Jim is notas confining as is the Widow. Like Tom Sawyer, Jim is intelligent but hisintelligence is not as intimidating or as imaginary as is Tom’s. As does Pap,Jim allows Huck freedom, but he does it in a loving, rather than an uncaring,fashion. Thus, early, in their relationship on Jackson’s Island, Huck says toJim, “This is nice.
I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.” This feelingis in marked contrast with Huck’s feelings concerning other people in the earlypart of the novel where he always is uncomfortable and wishes to leave them.At the conclusion of chapter 11 in The Adventures of HuckleberryFinn, Huck and Jim are forced to leave Jackson’s Island because Huck discoversthat people are looking for the runaway slave. Prior to leaving, Huck tells Jim,”They’re after us.” Clearly, the people are after Jim, but Huck has alreadyidentified with Jim and has begun to care for him. This stated empathy showsthat the two outcasts will have a successful and rewarding friendship as theydrift down the river as the novel continues.