About The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


When Huck contemplates his future aboard the raft in Chapter 31, readers contemplate it with him. And when Huck firmly states, "All right, then, I'll go to hell," readers realize that the decision is based on emotion, as well as Huck's normal logic and pragmatism, which he never escapes. This scene in Chapter 31, for example, is reminiscent of Chapter 16, in which Huck saves Jim by deceiving the men looking for runaway slaves by intimating that there was scarlet fever on the raft. There, he felt "bad and low because I knowed very well I had done wrong . . . ." He reasons, however, that he would have felt the same way if he had turned Jim in, and he concludes, " . . . what's the use of learning to do right when it's troublesome to do right and it ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same." In all his previous experiences, Huck retains his indifferent persona, yet, at the defining moment in Chapter 31, Twain empowers Huck with compassion, and, in doing so, establishes the philosophical possibility that both Huck and Jim can gain freedom.

At this point, readers realize that Twain has moved beyond the various pranks and farces into the realm of bitter social satire. The disquieting element in Huck Finn is not death but contradiction. The biting irony is that Huck constantly believes he is evil because he goes against society's tenets. Moreover, while technically Jim is free from the bonds of Southern slavery, he is also infinitely chained to societal constructions in the same manner that Huck, Tom, Aunt Polly, and the rest of Twain's world are enslaved.

Twain's satirical carrot of idealism is the suggestion that one could successfully break misconceived societal norms, just like Reconstruction attempted to cure the racist ills of a divided South. In this manner, the novel explores the important historical and social underbelly of a nation coping with the existence of social incongruities such as equality and racism. The recognition of this reality in the late nineteenth century, and indeed in the new millennium, makes Huck Finn a novel worthy of discussion.

Ultimately, however, it is the recognition of the heroic struggles of both Huck and Jim that makes Huck Finn a classic work of literature. The testament to human perseverance, loyalty, and faith is embodied in the work through Huck and Jim's gestures of sacrifice. This is not to say that Huck and Jim are able to fully overcome the social obstacles that are placed before them. But the fact that the two nineteenth-century characters — an orphaned boy and a runaway slave — establish a bond that overcomes the boundaries set up by society, even for a brief, fleeting moment, is testament to the heroic truth of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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