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Character Analysis of Huckleberry Finn

Updated on June 19, 2017

About the Novel

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) is a famous novel by Samuel Longhorne Clemens, better known under his pen name Mark Twain.

An Iconic Novel

Even though many experts consider the novel to be one of the most iconic novels of all time, its revolutionary use of dialect, subject matter and bizarrely harrowing adventures were disdained as coarse and unsuitable for children.

The N-Word

Many libraries refused to put the volume on their shelves; despite praise by famous writers like Mary Anne Evans and Ernest Miller Hemingway.

Critism

Many people still criticise the pervasive use of “the N-word” to refer to both enslaved and free black people. Unfortunately these critics fail to see the point of the coarseness and uncomfortable language.

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Huckleberry Finn Analysis

Huckleberry Finn, a thirteen year old boy, is the protagonist and the narrator of this masterpiece of American literature. His shrewd and humorous narrative captures the attention of the readers.

Son of a Town Drunk

Mark Twain describes Huck as wild, uneducated, idle, lawless, vulgar, bad son of a town drunk. Huck's character was based on Tom Blankenship, a boy who lived near the Mississippi river.

A markerMississippi river -
Mississippi River, United States
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Huckleberry Finn Summary

Huck is an intelligent and easy going boy with a spirit of adventure. He comes from a poor background. Huck's mother has passed away and his father "Pap" Finn is an uncivilized drunkard. Huck abhors liquor. He remembers his mother while conversing with his best friend Tom Sawyer.

Life of a Vagabond

As a boy, Huck lives the life of a vagabond, sleeping on doorsteps and living off what he receives from his sympathizers. Mark Twain writes, "He was fluttering with rags", while describing his attire.

All modern American literature stems from this one book.

— Ernest Hemingway

Samuel Longhorne Clemens Wrote Under the Pen Name Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn author
Huckleberry Finn author | Source

Mark Twain grew up along River Mississippi and became a riverboat pilot. He has used that setting for the novel "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".

Huck Is Skeptical About the Society

Widow Douglas adapts Huck and sends him to school in an attempt to reform him, but her efforts go in vain. Huck's father takes him away from the widow. Huck spends most of the time alone, stealing watermelons and chickens. He is skeptical about the society and its ways. His experiences during the journey in a raft down the river Mississippi teaches him many lessons.

Raft

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Huck is one of the permanent symbolic figures of fiction, not unworthy to take a place with Ulysses, Faust, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Hamlet.

— T. S. Eliot

Huck Protects Jim, a Slave of Miss Watson

Huck protects Jim, a slave of Miss Watson, even though he knows that according to law Jim is Miss Watson's property. He protects Jim because he thinks it is "right" to do so. Readers get a glimpse of his compassionate nature in this episode.

Good-Hearted Boy

Huck has been indoctrinated to see slaves as property, and the theft of any property as an illegal and highly immoral act. But Huck’s heart urges him to help Jim, who has never shown him anything but dedicated affection.

Sinful Upbringing

Chalking his inexcusable behavior up to his father’s sinful upbringing, he ignores the dictates of American propriety, and the two head for the mouth of the Ohio River, where Jim will be free.

Huck and Jim

This part of the novel, which focuses on just the man and the boy, drifting down the river, swimming and fishing and smoking their pipes, is idyllic and wonderful.

Away from Freedom

But events conspire to complicate their lives — Jim and Huck find themselves caught up in the idiocy of various towns and characters along the Mississippi, pushed further and further away from freedom.

Jim Is Captured

No sooner do Jim and Huck finally get past these trials when Jim is captured as a runaway slave. Huck, at his wits’ end, can’t decide whether to risk breaking him out or letting his real owner know where he is. In one of the greatest scenes in literature, Huck gets on his knees and realizes that he’ll damn himself if he helps his friend.

He has an amazing epiphany: “I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to Hell!’”

Huck is superstitious. He ties a lock of his hair with a thread to keep the witches away. He believes that Jim's hairball (which was taken out of an ox's stomach) has magical powers.

I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ‘All right, then, I’ll go to Hell!’

— Huckleberry Finn

Jim's Character Is Inspired by John T. Lewis

Speaking about John T. Lewis, Mark Twain said, "the colored man (sic) … is John T. Lewis, a friend of mine. These many years-thirty-four-in fact. He was my father-in-law’s coachman forty years ago — was many years a farmer of Quarry Farm … I have not known an honester (sic) man nor a more respect-worthy one …."

Huck Is Uneducated, but Shrewd

Even though Huck is uneducated, he is shrewd. He smartly figures out the captain's opinion about Hornback and uses it to his advantage. Unlike his creative and mischievous friend Tom Sawyer, Huck is logical and straightforward in his approach. When their group meets to discuss regarding ways to free Jim, Huck proposes to steal the keys from Uncle Silas, unlock Jim and to escape using a raft. Tom rejects the plan saying that it is too simple. Readers get a glimpse of Huck's intelligence in the episode where he escapes from his father by faking his own death.

Huckleberry Finn Movie

Huckleberry Finn is an endearing character who will be etched in the memory of the readers for a long time.

Mark Twain

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Mark Twain on "Huck Finn"

It will be recalled that not long ago the Omaha public library barred out Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" on the ground that its influence upon the youthful mind was pernicious. The Omaha World-Herald sent him a telegram, which called forth the following characteristic letter:

York Beach, Me., Aug. 23. -- Dear Sir: Your telegram has arrived, but as I have already said all I want to say concerning Huck Finn's new adventures, there is no need to say it over again. I am making this remark by mail instead of telegram in order to secure speed; your courtesy requires this promptness of me. Lately it has twice taken a telegraphic dispatch four hours and a quarter to reach me here from Boston, a distance for forty or fifty miles; therefore, if I should answer you by that vehicle I estimate that it would be upward of eight days on the wire, whereas I can get it to you by mail in two.

I am tearfully afraid this noise is doing much harm. It has started a number of hitherto spotless people to reading Huck Finn, out of a natural human curiosity to learn what this is all about -- people who had not heard of him before; people whose morals will go to wreck and ruin now.

The publishers are glad, but it makes me want to borrow a handkerchief and cry. I should be sorry to think it was the publishers themselves that got up this entire little flutter to enable them to unload a book that was taking too much room in their cellars, but you never can tell what a publisher will do. I have been one myself.

MARK TWAIN.

(Taken from The New York Times, September 6, 1902).

How could Huck, after building a friendship with Jim for the duration of the book, after deepening his connection and realizing how much more there is to the man than the category “slave,” just turn around and forget him like that? How can he fall back so easily into old habits, as if he hadn’t grown at all from start to finish?

— Maria Konnikova

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Celebrating the Spirit of Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn's world revolved around fishing, rafting and the great outdoors. Small towns all over the USA have celebrated the spirit of this fictional character for decades.

On June 4 2017, the Ashaway Sportsman’s Club presented their 69th annual Huck Finn Day, beginning at 10:00, at Crandall Field, located on Main Street in Ashaway.

The daylong event was free and open to the public. Set against a backdrop of music and rolling fields, a huge variety of carnival games were spread out amongst miniature golf, dung throwing, sack races, a water balloon toss and tug-of-war.

The most popular event of the day, the fishing derby, awardes prizes to those in each group who caught the biggest fish from the sprawling pond on the grounds. Bamboo cane poles and worms were provided.

People brought blamkets to spread out on the ground and enjoyed free hot dogs, hamburgers and beverages while they took in the sights and sounds.

For children under the age of twelve, there was the Huck Finn look-alike contest. Tattered over-alls, a straw hat and any other Huck-inspired garb determined which boy and girl took home the winner’s certificate.

Halfway through writing the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain put it away and told a friend that he liked what he had written so far, “only tolerably well, as far as I have got, and may possibly pigeonhole or burn it.”

After some years, he finished the manuscript in one long burst of inspiration. One hundred and thirty-three years later, rural country towns much like those Huck found his adventures in, still celebrate the spirit of youth and nature that Twain created in his work.

Huckleberry Finn Movie

Popular Works of Mark Twain

Title
Year
Life on the Mississippi
1883
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
1865
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
1885
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
1889
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
1876
The Innocents Abroad
1869

Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and dusky, sliding along down! A kind of cold shiver went through me, and then I struck out for her. She was very deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much chance for anybody being alive in her. I pulled all around her and hollered a little, but there wasn't any answer; all dead still. I felt a little bit heavy-hearted about the gang, but not much, for I reckoned if they could stand it I could.

— Huckleberry Finn

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