Major Character In Book Huckleberry Finn English Literature Essay

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Mark Twain is one of the most famous and influential american writer. He worked on his controversial novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1879-1880 and finally completed it in 1883. The novel ranked number five in the American Library Association's list of the most frequently challenged books of the 1990s. Thus Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn commands one of the highest positions in the canon of American literature.

The major character in the book, Huckleberry Finn has lived with the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson in the town of St.Petersburg. They have been trying to civilize him with proper dress, manners, and religious piety. He finds this life constraining and false and would rather live free and wild. Hearing that Huck has come into a large amount of money, his father kidnaps him and locks him in an old cabin across the river. To avoid his father's cruel beating, Huck elaborately stages his own death and then escapes to Jackson's Island, where he finds Jim run away, and the two decide to hide out together, and plan to connect with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois, which will lead them north into the free states, where slavery is outlawed. They miss Cairo in the fog one night and they are separated because of a steamship hitting the raft and damaging it. Huck swims ashore where he meets the feuding Grangfords and Shephsons. After witnessing a violent eruption of the feud in which many people are killed, he finds Jim, and they return to the raft.

Huck and Jim feel secure and comfortable on the Mississippi. But the idyll is interrupted shortly thereafter and evil comes into this world with the Duke and the Dauphin imposing their unsavory world upon Huck's. In one of the towns the King and the Duke impersonate the two brothers of Peter Wilks, who has been dead and left a small fortune. Their treachery tricks and despicable deeds repulse Huck to the extreme. So Huck manages to escape. However, his escape from the Duke and the King varies from his previous ones. Huck thwarts their plan to swindle Wilks and family out of their inheritance. The King and the Duke escape, but further down the river the two decide to sell Jim to Silas Phelps, who turns out to be Tom Sawyer's uncle. To look for Jim, Huck enters the house of Tom's uncle, Silas Phelps. Coincidentally, Tom, an old friend of Huck, is visiting his aunt and uncle. They meet and Tom persuades Huck to join him in an elaborate, ridiculous plan to free Jim. Huck prefers a quicker escape for Jim but caves into Tom's wishes. Only after Tom's plan has been played out, and Jim is recaptured, does Tom reveal that Miss Watson has actually freed Jim two months earlier, just before she dies.

The rapid development of the United States in terms of politics, economy, and culture in the first few decades of the nineteenth century leads to the growing acuteness of the clashes between the North and the South, which focus on slavery. At the beginning of 1830, many anti-slavery organizations are established. More and more people support the free slave policy and approve that slavery must be abolished. In the meantime, moribund southern slave plantation owners hold and raise hundreds and thousands of black slaves, who are regarded as " the livestock of two feet." and " sociable tool." Slave owners are free to curse and beat and buy and sell, even murder slaves. Nobody will think it is illegal. After the Civil War, the government issues a declaration to emancipate the black slaves. Actually, Slaves still do not get freedom, let alone economical and political rights and interests. So, how to ensure the rights of the black and make them enjoy the real equality in terms of economy and politics still remains the problem of the time and is the major concern of the then society, especially of the intellectual circle. Mark Twain, as a representative of democracy and a humanitarian, writes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that has immediate significance. It describes real life situations in a fictional story line perfectly. Twain puts the real life happening of slavery in a fun and fictional story and shows his opinions about slavery in the eyes of children.

II. Mississippi-the Symbol of Freedom and Goodness

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain implies the Mississippi River as an escape from society for the two characters: Huck and Jim. Twain is showing examples of his own life through the character Huck. The reason for saying this is that Mark Twain grows up in the Mississippi River town of Hannibal. His experience along the river plays an essential part in his later literary creation. In the novel, Huck goes through many adventures on the Mississippi River and escapes from Pap and sails down a way with an escaped slave named Jim. Throughout the story, the Mississippi River is an important symbol to the story's plot.

The Mississippi River is not only the channel where Huck and Jim are floating, but it also has several kinds of symbolic significances. First of all, for Huck and Jim, the Mississippi River is the ultimate symbol of freedom. The river carries them toward freedom. For Huck, it is the way escaping from his abusive father and the restrictive "civilizing" of St.Petersburg. As Huck says: "It's lovely to live on a raft." [2] "Sometimes we'd have that whole river to ourselves for the longest time". [3] Huck's picaresque journey down the river trying to help the Negro Jim escape slavery being full of inconsequentially interspersed and apparently aimless adventures, and can be regarded as his continued fight against civilization-the civilization of nineteenth-century American society. It is obvious that Huck enjoys his time on the Mississippi river with Jim. This is the time that is truly free for both of them. Returning to the river, Huck gives lyric descriptions of the freedom, comfort and beauty of the river and the loveliness of life on a raft:

"I was powerful glad to get away from the feud, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp, we said there wasn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."[4]

Here Huck finds peace and reassurance out on the river away from the haunts of man. The mother of nature fills maternal love and cares into Huck and provides him with a sincere guidance towards his growth unconsciously. This guidance is critical to Huck's final epiphany, which helps his sound heart triumph his deformed conscience. In all, The River makes him be whoever he wants to be. The river is home and freedom. For Jim, it is the way to the free states. Once he gets enough money, he will ransom his wife from the farm; and then try to buy back the two children. Ironically, a paradise of freedom, the river also means poverty to Jim. The river is also a light for Jim, guiding him to realize the reunion of his family. For both Jim and Huck, the Mississippi river is a symbol of freedom, but also uncertainty.

The river is also a symbol of goodness. Huck and Jim are rafting down the river; they are free of society and the laws. This is not to say that they are lawless. However, the laws they obey are their own. This is an indirect contrast to being on land under the control of unjust morality and inequity concept. For Huck, both sides of the Mississippi are lined with fraud and hatred, as though the river were a dream. But in the middle of the great natural river, when one is naked of civilization and in company with an outcast more untarnished and childlike than himself-there is a peace. And very often, human society is such an ugly place that one must make a separate peace in order to maintain his moral entity intact. On the Mississippi River, Huck has many adventures and each of them is a try in which Huck seeks his dream of freedom. The river allows Huck to be his real self. Meanwhile, the river also has its own personality. It is always moving, and at times calm and relaxed. And at other times fast and dangerous and sometimes foggy and confusing, it always takes Huck and Jim to new adventures, and to new places, it is their backbone.

In taking us down the central, arterial waterway of America, Mark Twain unmistakably refers to the larger paradigm of the human journey. The river is compared to life itself, a track recording defeats and gains, errors and awakening. The river, like Holden's Manhattan streets, becomes both a moving road and the greatest character in this novel. As a teacher of the nature, it teaches Huck that truth is usually weak, trouble best avoided and evil often inevitable. It also confirms his love of beauty and peaceful security. The people who live along the river are, by and large, corrupt and hypocritical, and whenever Huck comes into contact with them he is forced to assume a false identity which represents a kind of symbolic death.

In short, Twain indicates Mississippi river as a synthesis and symbol for many things. For Huck and Jim in the novel, they escape from the society to the safe and peaceful Mississippi river, seeing it both as a refuge and a pleasure ground. It is only when he is in the company of Jim on the Mississippi that he feels secure and natural.

III. Awakening of Huck's Anti-slavery Spirit

Much of the book is concerned with Huck's inner struggle. By depicting such inner struggle, Twain blatantly shows us his opinions about the falseness and foolishness of slavery and the emphasizes the importance of following self-conscience. Huck is about thirteen years old from the low bottom of the white middle class. His abnormal experiences help to create his unique personality. His ingenuity, morality, and intelligence are consistent throughout the story. On the one hand, Huck develops his own morality; however, it is difficult for him to accept the norm of the society at that time. An example of his morality is how he does not tell on Jim when he runs away, although the society will see this as wrong; Huck accepts Jim's morality and finally decides to help him. Huck also shows his morality when he tries to return the stolen money to the girls and escape from the Duck and the King after the burial. This is another trait that keeps being shown throughout the book. On the other hand, throughout Twain's depiction, we might be a little suspicious that huck is a racist although he is actually not. Seemingly mournful, such depiction is probably correct. In this scene Aunt Sally hears of a steamboat explosion.

"Good gracious! Anybody hurt?" she asks.

"No'm" corns the answer. "Killed a nigger".

"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt." Says Aunt Sally.[5]

When referring to the "nigger" as if he is not a person at all.

Huck met the slave Jim on the island, and soon found that he was a run away slave. Then we see that Huck confronted his first important decision in the novel: to help Jim escape or to report him for rewards. Although finally Huck reluctantly agreed to help Jim escape to the free and safe place. Huck comforted his unbalanced conscience using the possible great adventure as a balm, because he was internally guilty of running away with a slave. At last, Huck decided not to turn Jim in, which was a impressive and sudden decision. Throughout the novel, we see that the force of society and the force of friendship have always confronted Huck, and he was swinging between them. Huck has judged Jim's slavery many times. However, he can't understand why Jim should be a slave. All the way Huck is confronted with many such challenges. It is appreciable for a young boy to break the shackles of society and follow his heart and the right thing, which the society considers wrong.

In Chapter 15, we found that the childish description of Jim has changed. Twain vividly exposes the anxiety of Jim, mature and caring, who is afraid of losing his best friend Huck in the fog. Huck is deeply moved by Jim's behaviors. Huck's conscience is so troubled that " It made me feel so mean I could almost kissed HIS foot to get him to take it back."[6] Huck begins to change his attitude: "It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither."[7] Later in the story, Huck becomes a caring friend and he is very protective toward Jim.

When the raft arrives in Cairo. Jim will become a "freeman". He expressed great gratitude toward Huck for his help, but Huck at this moment is suffering from "conscience":

I tried to make out to myself that I warn't to blame, because I didn't run Jim off from his rightful owners; but it warn't no use, conscience up and says, every time, 'But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could'a' paddled ashore and told somebody.' That was so-I couldn't get around that noway. That was where it pinched. Conscience says to me, ' What had poor Miss Watson done to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and never say one single word? What did that poor woman do to you that you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way she knew how. that's what she done.[8]

Huck tries every means to help Jim look for free state-Cairo. However, he gets hesitant and timid when he goes to the destination, because he cannot help thinking what he does violates the law and disobeys his "conscience". He has a difficult choice to make: whether to send Jim to the Nation of freedom or denounce and hand over Jim in accordance with "admonishing" of "conscience". A climax is reached when Huck saves Jim from two the slave catchers by tricking them into thinking Jim is Huck's father who is stricken by small pox. The dialogue between Huck and Jim also illustrates that Jim is more than someone's property:


" Here I is, Huck, is dey out o'sight yit? Don't talk loud."

" I was a-listenin' to all de talk, en I slips into de river en was gwyne to shove for sho' if they come aboard. Den I was gwyne to swim to de raf' agin when dey was gone. But lawsy, how you did fool'em, Huck! Dat wuz de smartes' dodge! I tell you, chile, I'spec it save' ole Jim-ole Jim ain't going to forgit you for dat, honey."[9]

He is a human being with feelings and hopes for a better future. He is not some ignorant, uncaring sub-human, but plainly the opposite. Mark Twain does not necessarily come out and say that slavery is evil. That is far beyond Huck's understanding, but Twain gives us the motivation needed to make that decision for ourselves.

It is only when Huck is in the company of Jim on the Mississippi River that he feels secure and natural. But the idyll is interrupted shortly therefore and evil comes into this world with the Duck and the Dauphin imposing their unsavory world upon Huck's. Because of the temptation of money, they sell Jim for only 40 dollars instead of 200 dollars. While Huck superstitiously thinks this deed is the punishment because of his helping runaway black slave. So he is determined to write a letter to Miss Watson to denounce Jim in order to atone for his crime.

However, Huck's great struggles with his conscience are all about Jim: should he give him up? The dilemma is whether he should obey social conventions or his personal will. The morality of St.Petersburg, which Huck defies, condemns the Negro running away from the God-determined order of society, while it tolerates or condones feuding, murder and selfishness. Huck's conscience has been formed by such morality and he never quite succeeds in freeing himself from the corrupt standards of that society. His personal moral code seems always to run counter to his duty to society. Huck chooses to be damned rather than give him up to Miss Watson. Huck's conscience overcomes the so-called duty to society.

Huck even in one triumphant moment comes over his doubts about the morality of slavery. Huck states " Alright that I'll go to hell."[10] Huck in this one simple statement defines his opinion. No matter what the consequence of his action, if it were hell, or jail or whatever, he will not betray Jim. Huck in this mental struggle comes to realize what's the right thing to do and in doing so becomes a man who is able to think for himself and make his own conscience decision.

His last decision to remain loyal to Jim is a devastating comment on the shore civilization. Huck's resolute action of tearing the letter and decision of setting Jim free serve as a milestone of his growth, which manifests his courage of shouldering responsibility and thus implies his full maturity. Huck wants to find out for himself, what is right and wrong through the conscience struggles within him. He sees Jim's compassionate nature and good-will and realizes that slavery is immoral and is in fact the opposite. We see that Huck is brave enough to overcome the moral struggle in his mind to help his friend and disregard the law of the society. It is a triumph of a good heart over the deformed conscience, a triumph of compassion, decency, goodness, friendship, the triumph of these qualities over prejudice, ignorance, hypocrisy, cruelty, first of all, the triumph of freedom over slavery. Through this, Twain is trying to show us that if an innocent child can understand the absurdity of slavery then there is hope for the whole country to realize the problem and resolve it.

IV. The influence of Jim on Huck's Anti-slavery Spirit

In the analysis of Huck, we cannot omitted the importance of Jim. Jim shows love and goodwill as a father to Huck. Without such provision for Huck, Huck cannot succeed in his mental or spiritual transition and realization. Jim has not been given all the freedom enjoyed by the whites but he helps Huck unselfishly without hesitance. Although he cannot get equal rights from society, Jim offers his help and warmth with the ignorance of his unfortunate. So Jim represents love and symbolizes true goodwill. Jim proves to be a great man. He would rather give up his freedom in order to save Tom, but he himself is doomed to be sold and bought. His miserable life is a mirror of all the black people. The image of Jim reveals the devils of slavery and shows the necessity and emergency of abolishing slavery. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim acts a father to Huck, providing him both material and mental welfare, and finally precipitating Huck's moral advancement..

At first, Jim gave Huck food to eat and place to stay, by providing him fresh fish and meals. Then, we see that not only can he take care of this young boy, but can also protects, although such protection is not obvious in the beginning. He first passively helped Huck escaped from the people in society by preparing him the raft on the river. Then when the fake King and Duke threatened Huck on the river, Jim fearlessly, not passively, stood out and protected Huck. Since Jim, as a slave, should not and could not have the capacity to protected other people, Jim's brave action gained Huck trust and respect.

Beside physical care, Jim provided Huck with mental care. One of the events in the book that caused Huck to decide to help Jim is when Jim said "always call me honey, and pet me". [11] This has been a great change to Huck, who has grown up in only abuse, loneliness, and scolding. In addition, the relationship between them is another mental satisfaction for Huck.

Moreover, Jim is act as father is represented in his unconscious or subconscious effort to help Huck gain moral enhancement and strength. When Huck asked Jim about the rash on the raft, Jim looked at the trash, and looked at Huck, and looked at the trash again. Then he said:

"What do dey stan' for? I'se gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no' mo' what become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up en fine you back agin, all safe en soun', de tears come, en I could a got down on my knees en kiss yo' foot, I's so thankful. En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is TRASH; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."[11.5]

Jim's behavior showed his concern for the young boy. It may be the first time for Huck to feel the sense of friendship, responsibility, and maturity. Then huck quickly accept both this man as his true friend and his moral values. It is Jim's these words " You's de only fren'ole Jim's got now". [12] that makes Jim decided not to turn Jim in. It is the memory of Jim's friendship that keeps Huck acts rightly, when Huck remembers their friendship and " couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind". [13] He then decided to " go to hell". [14]

Providing Huck with material and spiritual satisfaction and moral enhancement, Jim acted as Huck's father.Because of this, Jim has risen from an oppressed and insignificant black slave to a "man" and hero. In some sense, instead of Huck, Jim could be the real main character of the book. Without the setting of the character Jim, The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin would be a great adventure story for children, but couldn't be what it is now, an astonishing book about anti-slavery.

V. Conclusion

To conclude, Huckleberry Finn can be said to be autobiographical; it attacks slavery for its cruelty and racial discrimination through the two main characters: Huck Finn and Jim. Huck Finn, a white boy, through whose inner struggle, Twain expresses what he believes to be the foolishness of slavery. Jim is a black slave, whose friendship with Huck causes Huck to made his mind to help Jim escaped. However, the novel is by no means an attempt to call for the abolition of slavery from mercy, but from a political and revolutionary fight. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is regarded as the greatest novel of American literature. "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". [15]

In My Mark Twain, Howells once says that no man more perfectly senses and more entirely abhors slavery and no one ever pours such scorn on the second-hand Walter Scotticized pseudo-chivalry of the southern ideal. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his anti-slavery spirit is revealed fully. As a literary forerunner, Mark Twain makes immortal contribution to the development of American literature and to arousing people's awareness of the great necessity and urgency to abolish the then slavery system.