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Huck Finn Analysis

Updated on May 22, 2011


This is an analysis of the messages provided in Huckleberry Finn in relation with the question, is Huck civilized or not? The novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and the analysis, This Amazing, Troubling Book by Morrison are quoted. My analysis argues that Huck was neither civilized nor uncivilized, but instead adjusted to the circumstances he was in, accordingly

Maintaining Individuality Within a Society

Society influences peoples’ viewpoints, but it should not set them. Human beings are social creatures that long for the approval of others. The way a person is treated by society influences the tie he feels to it. Total conformity to society is negative for the individual, who needs to have independent thought and opinion. Mark Twain the author of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, provokes individuality, questioning of society and questioning what is truly moral. Toni Morrison also provides insight into the novel with her analytical piece, This Amazing, Troubling Book. Ideas presented in Twain’s book that are relevant today are; the needs for belonging, independent though, and criticism of literature.

A child who is wronged by society, is likely not to embrace it. Huckleberry Finn, the protagonist in Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, does not embrace his society. His father is abusive, and his mother is diseased. These circumstances cause Huck to have distrust, and provoke moral conflict within him. When he is placed under the care of Ms. Watson, a woman who is seen as just and civilized by society, he begins to conform. He starts to become civilized, he attends school, abides by the rules and is starting to believe in religion. When Huck’s father tears him away from civilized life, Huck once again turns to uncivilized behavior. Huck then escapes his father which is an uncivilized thing, but in the context is the right thing to do. Huck feels as if he does not belong because he is neither civilized nor uncivilized, his feelings are somewhere in the middle. Huck feels like an outsider and adjusts to different situations, in order to belong. Morrison points this out in her analysis of the book. “His deepest, uncomic feelings about his status as an outside, someone “dead” to society, are murmuring interludes of despair, soleness , isolation and unlove.”(Morrison, This Amazing, Troubling Book). Huck does not like being controlled, so he and Jim get along perfectly. Jim is a runaway slave that relies on Huck for survival. Nigger Jim is inferior in society and does not agree with society’s structure. Jim’s views slowly influence Huck, because Huck is vary impressionable. After becoming close with Jim he becomes loyal, because Jim makes him feel important. When Jim is captured Huck claims he is willing to go to hell for Jim. After he made that statement he also said, “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 warn’t”(Twain 268). Huck basically says he was brought up in a wicked environment, and that is the way he should be. He decides to be uncivilized like his father, and Jim in order to maintain a relationship with the father figure that Jim becomes.

An independent thought is good though. Twain encouraged the reader to realize that conforming to other people is not a wise choice, that can have consequence. Do not go with someone else’s ideas because they sound more righteous or glorious, this is often not the case. Tom Sawyer who is the foil of Huck has complete control of Huck. The two boys have vary different views, but Huck is submissive to Tom. Tom convinces Huck into doing things that Huck sees as pointless. An instance where Huck’s submissiveness is demonstrated is the decision on how to free Jim. Huck knows that he will go with Tom‘s plan before he even hears it. “I never said nothing, because I warn’t expecting nothing different; but I knowed mighty well that whenever he got HIS plan ready it wouldn’t have none of them objections to it. And it didn’t. He told me what it was and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and maybe get us all kill besides “(Twain 291). The word HIS is written in capitals to emphasize that Tom has complete control. Huck admires Sawyer’s plan even thou it is overly extravagant, and he immediately conforms to it. If Huck executed his initial plan, the rescue would have taken a matter of minutes instead of unnecessary days. Morrison notices Huck’s conformity to Tom and the partial betrayal of Jim in saying, “Huck’s cooperation in Jim’s dehumanization is not total. It is pierced with mumbling disquiet as the degragation becomes more outre”(Morrison, This Amazing, Troubling Book). Huck attempts to sway Tom to see things his way, but Tom has control. Huck’s ideas are not seriously considered, and Jim suffers as a consequence. It is important to have original ideas, and to stick by them.

Literature needs to be questioned, because it can not be accurately dissected. Readers derive various ideas and morals from one book. The idea of a complex novel like Adventure of Huckleberry Finn can not be clearly stated and defined. Morrison respects the complexity of the novel in stating, “And it was significant that this novel which had given so much pleasure to young readers was also complicated territory for sophisticated scholars” (Morrison, This Amazing, Troubling Book). Scholars can not interpret the novel uniformly, therefore it can not be deemed as bad or good. The book can be rated anywhere from, a terrible piece of literature to an amazing novel, it all depends on the reader. It is important to read and interpret a book before deciding to criticize it. Simply because a book contains the word nigger, does not make it bad literature, it arguably adds emphasis. Twain criticized romantic literature because he feels it is unrealistic. Twain had multiple reasons for criticizing romantic literature with satire. The critics of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have one issue, the word nigger. It is ironic how Tom criticizes Huck for not understanding a book he himself does not understand. “I didn’t see no di’monds, and I told Tom Sawyer so. He said there was loads of them there, anyway; and he said there was A-rabs there, too, and elephants and things. I said, why couldn’t we see them, then? He said if I warn’t so ignorant, but had read a book called Don Quixote, I would know without asking“ (Twain 22). Tom does not realize that he interpreted the book differently then intended, and he himself is the ignorant one. He is captivated with romantic literature and tries to translate it into reality. Huck is a realist who does not understand the unrealistic nature of romantic literature. He and Tom have different viewpoints, which is acceptable. Literature should be interpreted personally and meaning should be derived by the individual.

There is a need to belong to society, but there is also a need to have original ideas, and the capability to criticize literature. Mark Twain made evident that people need society, that is why Huck always returned. It is also of great importance to have original thoughts, instead of blindly following others. Literature needs to be interpreted on a personal basis, and people are entitled to different interpretations. An example of society oppressing individual thought, is school. Essays where a student must reference an article that strongly regurgitates the views of the teacher, prohibits the student from incorporating their own ideas. This discourages independent thought that may go against society, or the predetermined viewpoint that the student should take.


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