Sample Essay On Literary Analysis Of Huckleberry Finn
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Twain’s controversial and racially charged novel, Huckleberry Finn” is a good read for readers of all ages. The novel was set at a time when racial slurs impacted the blacks and the simple choice of words could impact the feeling and emotions of the individual. Twain creates and develops a plot that gives a clear picture of the many adventures that Huck and Jim encounter in the south. Based on these experiences, Twain criticizes the society and the social injustice that existed within the distrustful civilization. At the start of the novel, the reader sees that Huck is an uneducated boy with limited social graces. The society forces him to conform to the acceptable norms, but he is comfortable with his ways. On the other hand, Jim is a slave and the society does not see him as a real person. Jim is treated as the property of his white superiors, but Huck develops a friendship with him that has no boundaries of class and race. In “Huckleberry Finn” Mark Twain examines the historical events that highlights the treatment of slavery and freedom through his main character, Huck.
Much of the period before the American civil war saw literature focusing on the blacks who had escaped slavery and the social and racial injustice in the society. Nonetheless, the period after the Civil War showed a shift in the content of the literary pieces. Hezlaoui postulates Mark Twain views of slavery like all human being are different in the color of the skin which slavery promotes as black, but still these blacks have feelings because they are human beings, (Hezlaoui, p. 7). The readers see the common misrepresentation of the blacks through the eyes of majority of the white writes, but Twain skillfully shows his tolerance and acceptance of the blacks. In fact, the novel is one of the prolific pieces in the nineteenth century as its “use of dialet and regional settings made it seem authentically and distinctively American,” (Mintz, par. 1). Additionally, Twain uses his pen to speak “to the greatest contradiction in American History: the existence of slavery and the virulent racial prejudice in a country dedicated to liberty and equality,” (Mintz, par. 1).
The idea of slavery in the novel is common in the experiences of Jim and Huck. Twain is against the horror of slavery and attempts to show the boundaries that enforce slavery despite the best intentions of the individual. Additionally, Twain gives an allegory to show that slavery is unacceptable. Jim is a slave and through this character, Twain shows that slaves are human. Through Jim, Twain delves into a world where slaves expressed the complex human emotions that face in their struggles in life. Jim runs away from his owner because he refuses to be sold or to become separated from his family. But, in running away, Jim does not get the freedom that he desires. Although he tries to work towards his freedom and his family’s freedom, Jim gets caught in an adventure that shows his humane qualities.
The river offers freedom to Jim in many ways as he is able to take care of Huck as a friend – a task that was unheard of in the society. This relationship with Huck forces the readers to accept the blatant truth that slaves are not just property, but with freedom they displays qualities that makes them better than the hypocritical whites who stifle their development. Arguably, Twain attacks the issue of slavery and the harsh conditions that demean the blacks, but it is only through logical reasoning that the readers draw this conclusion. The fact is that Jim is the major representation of slavery and the adventures that he shares with Huck never address the issue of slavery. In the end, Huck chooses to free Jim because of his personal experiences with Jim and not because of the expectations or actions of the society
The novel relates the negative conditions of slavery as a complex issue. Jim is undoubtedly good in his thoughts and actions. On the one hand, he is not bound by the hypocrisy of the conventions of the society and neither is he unreliable. As a black man who the society believes is no good because of his color, Jim shows that the hypocritical and hateful behavior and attitude of the white have not changed his unassuming disposition. The whites in the society deem blacks in general as being below the standard of the white man. But, Kim, with his subhuman status, rises above the conventional thoughts that existed as a result of slavery. Twain Huck satirizes these moments as he leaves the readers to wonder about his stance against slavery and the conditions of slavery. The fact that Twain penned the novel after the period of slavery does not detract from his need to emphasize the harsh reality that slavery dehumanizes the slaves.
The repeated use of nigger in the novel draws the readers to recognize and appreciate the verbal abuse that the slaves faced even after the period that slavery ended. Still, the readers are aware that even though slavery was made illegal by the authorities, nothing stopped a number of individuals in the society from extending their hatred of the black race. The choice of the setting is fundamental to the events in the story as the nigger word continues to carry the loaded implications of undermining the black race. In essence, Twain presents Jim as the opposite of the stereotypical superstitious and consenting slave. In fact, Jim’s character appears in direct contrast to the many whites who have many flaws. Twain uses this contrast to show that although the whites were “civilized” because of their color and the nature of the beliefs of the society, they lacked the compassion of a humane individual. The reality is that Twain’s novel faced much controversy over the years as it draws the readers into a world that denies individuals of their rights because of the hypocrisy of the society.
Both Jim and Huck attempt to run away from the heightened social injustice in the society. They do not trust the members of the society because of the negative treatment that Jim receives as a black man and the fact that Huck faces scrutiny because he is not educated and his behavior does not fit into the acceptable standards of “white” behavior. Both characters analyze the social injustice that the society bestows. These social injustices become even clearer as Huck and Jim tries to dock their boat. Twain skillfully satirizes the social injustice in the adventures that Huck and Jim share. The reader sees the social injustice of greed, injustice, hypocrisy, and racism through the eyes of Huck and Jim as a repulsive reflection of the society. As a result, one cannot help questioning the society as a whole. In fact, Twain illustrates the “moral foundation of this time period - and really the way people completely miss the mark and lose their sense of humanity,” (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, p. 8). Jim and Huck are opposite in their nature, but they accept each other.
Twain characters offer a clear picture of the hypocrisy that existed in the society. Through Miss Watson, the society sees the themes of the lack of freedom and the conformity to socially accepted behaviors. She constantly corrects Huck’s unacceptable behavior and removes his freedom to act in a way that makes him comfortable. Huck does not understand the reasons for her desire to make him into a “perfect” white individual. Huck does not try to understand her actions as he suggests "That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it" (Twain, p. 2). Additionally, Miss Watson attempts to educate Huck about Heaven, but he does not want to go to “the good place,” (Twain, p.3) as he realizes that Miss Watson is a hypocrite who tells him to do what is right and she does what is wrong. He does not see “no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it," (Twain, p.3). Similarly, Huck sarcastically suggests that Colonel Grangerford is "a gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that's worth as much in a man as it is in a horse" (Twain, p. 104).
Nevertheless, Twain shows that this “gentleman” does not adhere to the minister’s message of brotherly love. The fight between the Grangerfords and the Shepardsons forces Huck to criticize the power of the white man to act as a single power against the enemy. Arguably, the criticism lends itself to the fact that slavery was a collective force in the society and the fight against the freedom of the black race stemmed from the mob mentality. Huck suggests "the idea of you lynching anybody! It's amusing. The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a man,” (Twain, p. 146). Additionally, Twain lashes out against the common practice of lynching in the society as he believes that “the pitifulest thing out is a mob; they don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the head of it is beneath pitifulness" (146-147). Clearly, Twain hints at the ways in which the society goes out in their numbers against any form of deviation in the society. Slavery is one of the deviations of the society and the whites go against this in their numbers.
Throughout “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the readers meet countless characters that have the best intentions and actions, but these characters don not always do what is right for Huck. In the novel, Judge Thatcher attempts to develop the moral circumstance of Pap but the Judge’s plans backfire and Pap continues to be a nuisance to Huck. Similarly, Miss Watson tries to change Huck into what the society calls a “sivilized” person, but her actions serve to stifle Huck’s freedom and he becomes miserable as a result. The Phelps try to return Jim to his owners as it is the morally correct thing to do, but the plans fail to manifest. The truth is that there are individuals in the society whose actions reflect the society that was influenced by the laws of slavery and the mentality of right and wrong. As such, these well-thinking characters succeed in robbing Huck and Jim of the opportunity to be free.
Twain shows that both Huck and Jim find that the society robs them of their freedom. They find comfort in each other despite the racial bigotry in the society. Huck is against the rules of the society and he has no reservations about helping Jim. Huck understands the feelings of racial prejudice towards the blacks in the society and he struggles with his thoughts about Jim. Eventually he decides not to turn Jim over to the authorities. As a result, the reader sees the changes in the attitudes towards slavery. Twain adds to the general idea the all men are equal and that there is more to Jim than the color of his skin.
Still, Twain shows that the total acceptance of the blacks would not come easily for the whites in the society. Huck decides to keep Jim from the authorities, but there is the clear indication that Huck is prejudiced against blacks. He calls Jim the much hated word “nigger,” but eventually Huck changes his attitude as he humbles himself to a nigger, (Twain, p. 86). Just as Huck realizes that slavery determines the views one has of the blacks, so he also realizes that Jim is a man who has feelings. He later saves Jim from the slave catchers. Twain allows the readers to draw the conclusion that slavery is evil as he does not openly state this fact. Still, he gives the readers the experiences that Jim face as the foundation for concluding that slavery impinges on one’s freedom. While the story is more than a century old, there are many vices that are common in the modern society.
The problems in the novel lie with the premise that the author does not “take Jim’s desire for freedom at all seriously,” (Smiley, par. 7). Arguably, the intention of Twain to present a novel that criticizes the harsh realities of slavery does not include “the respect that a man’s passion deserves,” (Smiley, par. 7). The truth is that Twain does not allow his character, Jim to cross to the free state, Illinois. Consequently, Mark Twain’s “moral failure is never even to account for their choice to go down the river rather than across it,” (Smiley, par. 7), an act that would show that Huck and Jim shared a true friendship that had no racial barriers. The truth is that Twain’s attempt at merging the two races as one shows no real attachment between the whites and the blacks. The readers see that Jim is never free. He has not right to vote, he is never the leader in the friendship, and he never questions the poor treatment that Huck metes out to him in the novel. In fact, Huck exerts his authority over his “sidekick” at every turn.
One of the most – outstanding problems in the United States is the issue of freedom and what it means to be free. The fact is that Pinsker’s review of the novel comes closest to what many African Americans think of Twains attempt at dealing with the issue of freedom in his novel. Twain retells the events of history but fails to tell the need of the black race to be free. In addition, he does not revel in the idea that Jim could have crossed the river and change his status to that of a free man. Instead, Twain gives a beautiful adventure of two youths of different racial backgrounds. One would have expected that the adventures of the two youths would lead to both of them becoming free. Huck craved the freedom to be himself, while Jim silently crave the need to be free from slavery. Both characters fall victim to a controlling society and only heighten the controversy of the poor verbal and physical abuse of the blacks.
Many schools across the United States refuse to add Twain novel to the list of educational material as there is the issue of Huck using the word “nigger” to remind Jim and the readers of the social position that Jim has in the society. Still, Huck’s attempts at allowing Jim some amount of freedom gets lost on many readers. Pinsker suggests that the novel is “trashy and vicious,” (Pinsker, par. 2) and Twain’s representation of the slavery corrupts the views of those in the modern society. Arguably, Twain tells the truth that is hard to comprehend in the pages of “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn.” The truth according to the novel is that freedom will never be allowed to blacks in the society regardless of how much effort is placed in this venture. Huck tries to treat Jim as a friend, but the adventure running from the slave catchers remind Huck of Jim’s position in the society. The harsh reality is that the society would never allow Jim to be free as he would always be hunted or treated poorly by others.
In concluding, the novel shows the adventures that Jim and Huck share as they try to find their freedom on the river. The freedom is short-lived as they must dock eventually because an individual can find freedom on the river for only a short period of time. Clearly, Twain shows that in this racially charged society the idea of freedom is merely a dream for the blacks who lived through the cruel conditions of slavery. Jim would never ne a free man as he still encounters the Southern belief that blacks are subhuman to the whites. Huck faces the prejudice of the society as his diction is a reflection of an uncivilized young man. Similar to Jim, he does not understand the changes that he must undergo in order to become accepted by the society. Nevertheless, Jim accepts his station as the submissive or inferior race to Huck who constantly treats him in the manner that befits the blacks in the society.
Clearly, the conditions of slavery impacted on the freedom and choices of the individuals in the society. But, Twain uses Jim and Huck to show that the society has a standard for everyone. These standards impact the way one views freedom. Huck is not free to act the way he chooses to act as it goes against the societal norms. His lack of education gives him the uneducated diction that Miss Watson tries to change. Jim’s color forces into a lesser position that the poor and uneducated, Huck. Still, the social strata of slavery would embrace Huck as the superior being in the friendship. Still, Twain makes the powerful statement that he wishes for all humanity to be equal.
Hezlaoui, Ibtissame (2013) Slavery in Mark Twain “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
(Dissertation, Kasdi Merbah Ouargla University, Viewed at http://bu.univ-
ouargla.dz/master/pdf/ibtissame_hezlaoui.pdf?idmemoire=264 Accessed February 25, 2015
Mintz, Steven “Rethinking Huck” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American Literature
Viewed at http://www.gilderlehrman.org Accessed February 24, 2015
Pinsker, Sanford (n.d) Huckleberry Finn and the Problem of Freedom Viewed at
February 25, 2015
Smiley, Jane Smiley, (1996) "Say it Ain’t So, Huck: Second thoughts on Mark Twain’s
'Masterpiece'" (Harper’s Magazine, January 1996) Viewed at
http://www.en.utexas.edu Accessed February 25, 2015
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Themes and Analysis Chapter 6 / Lesson 6 Viewed at
http://education-portal.com Accessed February 25, 2015
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