Introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written by the great American classic writer, Mark Twain. It was first released in the United Kingdom instead of the United States. It almost took three months to go on the shelves in the United States in February of 1885. Although its slow popularity could not fetch the desired wealth for Mark Twain, its forceful entry into the classic American fiction won the author matchless fame later. Marked with regionalism and colorful description of the Mississippi River and its adjoining areas and people, the novel shows the use of different colloquialisms used in the South at that time. The storyline introduces a young boy, Huckleberry Finn, unveiling racism and slavery during his adventures on the Mississippi River
Summary of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The novel opens with the introduction of the character with the previous novel’s hero, Tom Sawyer, setting the stage for Huck Finn, showing him how he gets hold of some money and lives with the Widow Douglas who takes care of him, but he is fed up of this urban lifestyle of manners with schooling and theological learning. Shortly, he rejoins Tom as a valuable member of his gang and does some thuggery but then Pap, his drunken father, appears from nowhere and asks for money from Huck. Soon he finds himself with his father again but a wrangle with the new judge and the old local judge over his rights and his father’s rights again land him to live with his father, Pap, making his life miserable. After long harassment and miserable life, Douglas, the Widow, again starts civilizing him but Pap hangs around, enraging Douglas who has to issue him a warning but he abducts his son.
Living in a cabin with his father has sucked Huck. Fed up, he finally makes his way after pretending himself dead by making his father believe that the pig’s blood is actually his blood. After his successful escape, he hides on Jackson’s Island and meets Jim, a slave of Miss Watson with whom he befriends to live on that island until a storm forces them to raft their way to a house where they find a dead body. When they sense that their pursuers know about the traces of Jim’s presence on the island, they leave it downriver journey to go to the free states. Finally, they reach St. Louis and meet a gang on the wreckage of a boat and share their loot with them. Soon they find themselves trapped in fog that makes them miss the Ohio River and meet a group looking for slaves. Huck feels it his responsibility to shield Jim from the onlookers by pretending that they are looking for medicines for his father suffering from smallpox which makes others shun them. They restart their journey but an accident with a steamboat breaks their raft, separating them in the river. But later reunite and when Jim confronts about the separation, Huck tells him that he was dreaming to which Jim gets deeply hurt, and Huck apologies to him.
When Huck comes to his senses, he finds himself with the Grangerfords, a nice Southern family. He becomes friends with Buck Grangerford, a boy his age. However, the family has a feud with the Shepherdsons due to the elopement of their daughter with the young man, a fact which has taken many lives, witnessing even the death of Buck in front of his eyes. Terrified of the family feud Huck ducks himself low until Jim arrives with his repaired raft and they restart their journey. During this journey they come across two men pretending themselves as con artists one among of whom claims to be the lost Dauphin and chased by robbers, calling themselves the ‘Duke’ and the ‘King’. Finding no way out from this conundrum, they take the pair with them and continue with the duke and the dauphin, enjoying their scams on the way until they reach the town of a dead man, Peter Wilks, who has left a considerable inheritance for his brothers who have gone to England.
The duo jumps to the occasion and shows themselves as Wilks’s brothers until they find themselves welcomed by their nieces when some of the people suspect them. Meanwhile, Huck takes away some gold from the duke but throws it in Wilks’s coffin. He also plans to uncover the plan of the duo when the real brothers reach the spot, causing a pandemonium in which both the con artists flee unharmed. However, the heirs find the gold, while Jim and Huck, too, take to their heels back to the raft from where they restart their journey. Soon both of them come to the worst scam of their journey when they find that the artists have sold Jim, who have bought to return him to the rightful owner for the reward, while Huck is imprisoned. To their luck, the farmer on the Phelps’ farm proves that he is Tom’s uncle whom Huck introduces himself as Tom to which he accepts and continues his search until he catches Tom coming to the house and Tom becomes Sid, his own half-brother.
With Huck, Tom plans to free Jim, who sides him despite misgivings about it, and both attempt to free Jim, while Tom is shot in the leg during the escape. Both Huck and Jim, then, take care of Tom but they end up with Phelps again. Then Tom musters up the courage to reveal everything to his uncle, while Aunt Polly also identifies them. It is, then, revealed that Jim is now a free man since Miss Watson died two months ago and freed him in her will, and Pap, Huck’s father is dead after which Aunt Sally takes Huck with her and educates him.
Major Themes in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Conflict: The conflict between the life in nature and the life in the urban centers is the major theme depicted by the character of Huckleberry Finn, for he prefers to leave the Widow Douglas. When he learns that he has unknowingly stepped into the trap of his father, Pap, a violent and abusive alcoholic. After this, he suffers for it and comes to know the value of cultured life. His early upbringing, though, plays its part in his unruly and rebellious behavior toward Douglas, for she tries her best to force civilization upon Huck whose representative reading is the Bible as well as a clean lifestyle. However, this morality does not suit him and he leaves her as soon as he finds time, though, by the end, he comes to know its value in the changing American landscape.
- Honor: The conflicting concepts about honor, too, make up the major theme of the novel. It happens in the 2nd chapter when Tom announces the foundation of the gang whose ultimate objective is to win the honor. Although it does not become the centerpiece, it transpires later that robbery is not honored when both Tom and Huck meet Dauphin and King and witness their daylight robberies and plunder. However, they, too, adopt the same mode to win honor by the end. It shows the ethical framework that keeps changing with the passage of time as well as circumstances.
- Food: Food is another important theme that is not only temporal but also circumstantial. It is temporal on account of its significance at that time as Huck used to fight even with the animals to get his share and that too may not be sufficient. The kindness of the Widow Douglas feeding him and Huck becomes a symbolic act of feeding the hungry souls. Later, when they live on Jackson’s Island, food again becomes an important motif for both friends.
- Mockery of Religion: Although there is some ambiguity about the role of the Bible in the civilized upbringing of Huck that he finally accepts, generally Twain has stayed consistent in his criticism of religious beliefs throughout the novel. Huck shows Twain’s mockery when he mockingly refers the hell as having more fun than that of heaven. His escape from the Widow Douglas, too, shows his escape from the forced biblical study, while the incident of King to exhort money from the people in the name of religion is a ridicule of the use of religion by all and sundry.
- Superstition: The novel derides superstitions prevalent at that time through the rational thinking of Huck and Jim. However, though they appear quite mature, they act like children when they flee and see dangers even when Huck spills down salt that is a simple act of mistake rather than a risky behavior. Pap returns and when a snake bites Jim, it is not because of Huck’s action of touching the skin, it is rather a natural animal behavior when it sees itself at risk.
- Slavery: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn sheds light on the theme of slavery through the character of Jim and whom Huck takes with him when he is fed up with serving Miss Watson. It transpires on Huck during the journey how it is difficult to shed this blot of slavery on account of his color though Huck does his best to get his free by the end when he is caught.
- Money: The theme of money in the novel appears in the shape of having money such as the Widow Douglas who could afford nurturing Huck and having no money such as Pap, Huck’s father, and Huck himself, who could not afford to live a respectable and independent life. The role of Jim, too, revolves around money, for he cannot work independently on account of his being a slave so that he could earn his freedom.
- Education: Education is a significant theme of the novel on account of the importance associated with, for except Judge Thatcher, almost all the characters are either illiterate or not well educated to stand up in the American society. Pap is entirely illiterate and does not support education, while Aunt Polly and Widow Douglas support education but are not educated themselves.
- Racial Discrimination: Race and discrimination based on race appear when Jim flees Miss Watson and attempts to win freedom. It is also discussed by Huck, a child’s perspective who helps Jim navigate his way to the free states.
Major Characters Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Huckleberry Finn: Known as Huck in most part of the story is the narrator and also the main character of the novel. He vows to follow Tom with whom he forges a gang but disbands it soon after he starts living and leaving Widow Douglas, hating civilized life and theological learning. His sympathy toward Jim and support for him is part of his efforts to bring equality and end slavery, while his adventures with various other characters show his dynamic character running side by side with Jim to win freedom for him. Finally, he joins his family members, Tom, and others, and leaves his father who has made life hell for him. His life and adventures show the true American landscape as well as the social fabric of that time.
- Jim: The runaway African American, Jim is fed up with slavery, who despite his stereotypical background, shows his wisdom and intelligence by working alongside Huck to win his freedom as well as inclusion in society. He nurses Huck after the death of his father, though, it might not have made any difference for him. Jim’s presence is Twain’s presentation of bringing equality in the American society that is not hard to come by.
- Tom Sawyer: A legendary character of Twain’s other novel, Tom and Huck are cousins who meet in this novel again and then also at the end. Tom, too, goes through some adventures but he is financially sound, having good background. His ethical adamance has forced Twain to create another character who is quite opposite to him, and yet a good boy. In this connection, Huck could be a foil of Tom, though, Tom is not only funny and humorous but also passionate like Huck, who helps Jim win his freedom by the end.
- Pap Finn: Huck’s father, Pap is an irresponsible and also highly greedy, and emotionally imbalanced person. He vents up his anger on his only son whenever he feels chagrin during his drunken state. Although Huck flees once, he again appears and subjects him to torture until he flees again. He dies by drowning in the river by the end of the novel.
- Duke and Dauphin: The duo join the other duo of Huck and Jim when they are navigating the river in their homemade raft. However, the excellence they show to the boys in taking up different garbs and innocently robbing people exposes their true colors to them soon. Finally, they leave them when their cover is blown up during their coverup of becoming Wilks’s brothers to grab his inheritance. They show the seamy side of American society.
- Widow Douglas: Despite her low education and extra care, Widow Douglas fails to satisfy her conscience that she has brought up Huck in the best possible manner. Perhaps, her too much obsession with ethics and religiosity irritates Huck who escapes twice from her attempts of cultivating a cultured taste in him.
- Judge Thatcher: The character of Judge Thatcher is significant in the course of the novel as he is the only character who genuinely appears educated. Despite them being at loggerheads with the Shepherdsons, Judge Thatcher extends refuge to Huck, the reason that he becomes somewhat significant in the course of the novel.
- Aunt Polly: The character of Aunt Polly becomes significant on account of the popularity she has won with reference to Tom Sawyer as she is his guardian, including his brother. She appears only at the end of the novel to show her relationship with Huck, too.
- The Grangerfords: The way Grangefords treat Huck when Jim and Huck cross the river on the raft makes a minor difference. However, when they come to know about the family feud, they soon leave the family for good.
- Mary Jane Wilks: The character of Mary Janes is significant in the novel in that she helps the Wilks to identify the scammer duo and wins the heart of Huck by her goodness.
Writing Style of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Written in the first-person point of view and told in Huck’s voice, the novel presents simple but southern sentence structure and specific southern diction. It means that stylistically and grammatically sentences are mostly choppy and incorrect but the simple diction of the southern regions has made it a specific document of the era and area in which it was written. Therefore, it is called full of regionalism. The use of different techniques such as dramatic irony and intertextuality has created a unique style of Mark Twain.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the adventurous life and growth of the boy, Huckleberry Finn. The falling action occurs when Aunt Polly arrives and identifies Tom and Huck both. The rising action, however, occurs when Miss Watson joins hands with the Widow Douglas to bring up Huck in the best possible way.
- Alliteration: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn shows the use of alliteration in several places. A few examples are given below,
He drank and drank, and tumbled down on his blankets by and by; but luck didn’t run my way. He didn’t go sound asleep, but was uneasy. He groaned and moaned and thrashed around this way and that for a long time. (Chapter-VI)
ii. I went off in the canoe to ask about it. Pretty soon I found a man out in the river with a skiff, setting a trot-line. (Chapter-XVI)
Both of these examples show the use of consonant sounds such as the sound of /d/ and /s/ in the first and then again /s/ in the second.
- Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the examples below,
You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. (Chapter-I)
ii. We passed another town before daylight, and I was going out again; but it was high ground, so I didn’t go. No high ground about Cairo, Jim said. I had forgot it. (Chapter-XVII)
iii. I hain’t hearn ’bout none un um, skasely, but ole King Sollermun, onless you counts dem kings dat’s in a pack er k’yards. How much do a king git?”. (Chapter-XIV)
The first example shows the reference to another book by Mark Twain, the second to a town, and the third to Bible.
- Antagonist: Pap Finn, Huck’s father, is the primary antagonist of the novel as he appears to have tried his best to obstruct all avenues for him to constrain his civilized upbringing and free life.
- Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between Huck and the external world, while the internal conflict is going on his mind about his moral duty toward Jim, his African American friend, about whether he should turn him in or help him to win his freedom.
- Characters: The novel shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The young boy, Huckleberry Finn, is a dynamic character as he shows a considerable transformation in his behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Pap, the Widow Douglas, Miss Watson, Aunt Polly, etc.
- Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when the plan to win freedom for Jim is made and then matured with the help of other characters at the house of Phelps.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the examples below,
You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. (Chapter-1)
ii. WE went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end of the widow’s garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn’t scrape our heads. (Chapter-II)
The mention of Tom in the first and of their movements in the second shows how Huck is going to follow Tom in his adventures. Both of these instances foreshadow the coming events.
- Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles as given below,
There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn’t scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I’d die if I couldn’t scratch. (Chapter-II)
ii. We’d got to find that boat now–had to have it for ourselves. So we went a-quaking and shaking down the stabboard side, and slow work it was, too–seemed a week before we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim said he didn’t believe he could go any further–so scared he hadn’t hardly any strength left, he said. But I said, come on, if we get left on this wreck we are in a fix, sure. So on we prowled again. (Chapter-XIII)
The above sentences exaggerate things the first one about his itching and the second about the strength of Jim.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
Well, we swarmed along down the river road, just carrying on like wildcats; and to make it more scary the sky was darking up, and the lightning beginning to wink and flitter, and the wind to shiver amongst the leaves. This was the most awful trouble and most dangersome I ever was in; and I was kinder stunned. (Chapter-XXIX)
ii. Betwixt the hut and the fence, on the back side, was a lean-to that joined the hut at the eaves, and was made out of plank. It was as long as the hut, but narrow–only about six foot wide. The door to it was at the south end, and was padlocked. Tom he went to the soap-kettle and searched around, and fetched back the iron thing they lift the lid with; so he took it and prized out one of the staples. (Chapter-XXVIII)
These two examples show images of color, sound, distance, and shapes.
- Metaphor: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn shows good use of various metaphors as given in the below examples,
He didn’t know what to make of my voice coming out of the tree at first. (Chapter-XVIII)
ii. He said it would fetch bad luck; and besides, he said, he might come and ha’nt us; he said a man that warn’t buried was more likely to go a-ha’nting around than one that was planted and comfortable. (Chapter-X)
These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows the man compared to an invisible voice and second a dead body to a spirit.
- Mood: The novel shows various moods; it starts with an adventurous and exciting mood and passes through suspense as well as thrill before it ends.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are childhood, cons, and lies.
- Narrator: The novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is narrated in the first-person point of view, who is Huckleberry Finn. The novel not only starts with him but also ends with him.
- Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications as given in the examples below,
It was all black, no gray; so was his long, mixed-up whiskers. There warn’t no color in his face, where his face showed; it was white; not like another man’s white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body’s flesh crawl–a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white. (Chapter-V)
ii. Then here comes the ferryboat; so I shoved for the middle of the river on a long down-stream slant; and when I judged I was out of eye-reach I laid on my oars, and looked back and see her go and smell around the wreck for Miss Hooker’s remainders. (Chapter-XIV)
These examples show as if the face and the ferry have emotions and lives of their own.
- Protagonist: Huckleberry Finn is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his entry into the world and moves forward as he grows young and goes through different adventures.
- Setting: The setting of the novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is the town of St. Petersburg, Missouri.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes as given in the below examples,
She was a big one, and she was coming in a hurry, too, looking like a black cloud with rows of glow-worms around it; but all of a sudden she bulged out, big and scary, with a long row of wide-open furnace doors shining like red-hot teeth, and her monstrous bows and guards hanging right over us. (Chapter-XVII)
ii. Pretty soon a splendid young man come galloping down the road, setting his horse easy and looking like a soldier. (Chapter-XVIII)
iii. The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo- gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that’s googling out buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed and gazed down sorrowful on them new-comers like it give him the stomach-ache in his very heart to think there could be such frauds and rascals in the world. (Chapter-XXIX)
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things; the first shows the comparison of lady with that of a furnace, the second of a person with a soldier and the third shows the duke compared to a jug.